Wanna Runner Favored For Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Walmac Lone Star Derby

(May 11, 2006) - The Bob Baffert-trained Wanna Runner, winner of last month's $600,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park, drew the inside rail and was installed as the 7-5 morning line favorite for Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Walmac Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas. The 1 1/16-mile event lured a field of six that also features Red Raymond, who hoped to run in the Kentucky Derby but lacked the necessary graded earnings to make the field after finishing behind Bob Holthus stablemate Lawyer Ron in three Oaklawn Park stakes.

Baffert and owner Mike Pegram are looking to replicate the success they had at Lone Star Park last month when they won the season's first graded stakes race, the Grade III Texas Mile, with Preachinatthebar. A regular participant on Lone Star's big days since winning the inaugural Texas Mile and Lone Star Derby in 1997, Baffert would earn his 12th local stakes victory if the Ontario-bred Wanna Runner is as good as the trainer believes.

"He could have run in the Preakness but we're pointing to the Queen's Plate [on June 25]," Baffert said, referring to the $1 million race that is the first leg of Canada's Triple Crown. "I like him a lot. I think he's improving and he has a lot of talent. Mike and I thought we'd take the 'dirt road derby' trail to the Queen's Plate"

Victor Espinoza, third on the national earnings list with $5 million, has the mount on Wanna Runner.

Even without drawing into the Kentucky Derby last week, Red Raymond's reputation was enhanced by the result. That's because Steppenwolfer, a colt that Red Raymond outfinished in the Grade III Rebel Stakes in March, went on to run third in the Run for the Roses. "We brought him to Kentucky and he's trained very well," Holthus said. "He's had two good works at Churchill Downs and we were pleased." Red Raymond is 7-2 on the morning line.

Steve Asmussen, the all-time leader with 47 Lone Star stakes wins, will run two horses in the Lone Star Derby, just as he did in the Kentucky Derby. Admiral's Arch, a Florida-bred son of High Yield, has been pointing to this race since an impressive win in the $100,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup at Oaklawn in April. Rain On Monday, a recent acquisition, was second in the Citgo Stakes for Texas-bred sprinters at Sam Houston last month. "He's a talented horse and after looking at him and being around him I'm hoping he's better going longer," Asmussen said of the full brother to $417,965-earner Boots On Sunday.

The Lone Star Derby field is rounded out by Mr. Pursuit, third in the Northern Spur, and Wait In Line, second in the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park and third in last month's Grand Prairie Turf Challenge at Lone Star.

Here's the complete field for Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Lone Star Derby, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, from the rail out (with jockeys, trainers and morning line odds): Wanna Runner (Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert, 7-5), Rain On Monday (Roman Chapa, Steve Asmussen, 10-1), Admiral's Arch (Shaun Bridgmohan, Asmussen, 5-2), Red Raymond (Luis Quinonez, Bob Holthus, 7-2), Wait In Line (Alfredo Juarez Jr., Chris Hartman, 15-1) and Mr. Pursuit (Jamie Theriot, Joe Petalino, 6-1). All horses will carry 122 pounds.

The Lone Star Derby will be run as the eighth race at 4:51 p.m. CT on an 11-race program that also includes two gender-restricted divisions of the $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes. The first live race is 1:35 p.m. CT.

By Jim Mulvihill

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