Magnum Favored in Grade III, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap; 36 Stakes Winners Entered in Monday's Six Lone Star Million Stakes

(May 27, 2006) - Santa Anita Handicap runner-up Magnum and the top four finishers from last month's Grade III Texas Mile top a competitive field of 10 older horses for Monday's Grade III, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap. The 1 1/16-mile event, which lured five graded stakes winners, will serves as a climax for a six-race stakes bonanza that comprises Texas' richest annual day of horse racing - the eighth Lone Star Million at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Also on the special 11-race Memorial Day program is the Grade III, $200,000 WinStar Distaff Handicap, a one-mile turf test that lured Grade I stakes winner Sweet Talker, defending champ Katdogawn and eight other fillies and mares.

All told, 55 horses, including 36 stakes winners, were entered Saturday for Monday's six stakes events. Together, they've won 259 races and almost $12 million, or an average of $218,000 a horse.

A dozen graded stakes winners will compete Monday, but amazingly, Magnum, the 8-5 morning line favorite for the Lone Star Park Handicap isn't one of them. Magnum's lofty reputation comes from runner-up efforts in the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap and Grade II, $500,000 Oaklawn Park Handicap. In Santa Anita's Big 'Cap, the 5-year-old Argentine-bred was beaten only three-quarters of a length by Lava Man, who tops the latest NTRA Thoroughbred Poll.

Southern California-based trainer Darrell Vienna, who has successfully raided Lone Star stakes on three occasions, believes Magnum is the type of horse that could end up in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic this fall. "I do believe he is that good, but he really would need to earn his way because of the cost of supplementing him," Vienna said. "Tentatively what we're considering is the Lone Star Park Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic. Each one of those is a steppingstone, though. If we slip on one of the stones we could change course."

Monday's race won't be easy. Trainer Bob Baffert, who has won 12 Lone Star Park stakes since the racetrack opened in 1997, will attempt to complete the rare "Texas Two-Step" with Texas Mile champ Preachinatthebar. Dixie Dot Com, in 2001, is the only horse to sweep both of Lone Star's marquee races for older horses.

"All systems go!" said Baffert, who saddled Congaree to win the 2002 Lone Star Park Handicap. In the April 29 Texas Mile, Preachinatthebar, a 5-year-old son of Silver Charm, held off late charges from Stockholder and Texcess, who, along with fourth and sixth place finishers Nakayama Run and Peruvian star Dominguin, he'll meet again Monday.

Here's the complete field from the rail out for the 10th running of the Lone Star Park Handicap (with jockey, trainer, assigned weight and morning line odds): Magnum (Patrick Valenzuela, Darrell Vienna, 117, 9-5); Real Dandy (Quincy Hamilton, Steve Asmussen, 116, 20-1); Texcess (Aaron Gryder, Mike Mitchell, 116, 7-2); Watchem Smokey (Kerwin Clark, Brandon Marks, 115, 12-1); Wishingitwas (Cliff Berry, Bart Evans, 113, 30-1); Cosmonaut (Julien Leparoux, Patrick Biancone, 116, 8-1); Preachinatthebar (Jon Court, Bob Baffert, 121, 3-1); Dominguin (Ramon Dominguez, Dante Zanelli Jr., 114, 30-1); Nakayama Kun (Rafael Mojica Jr., Akiko Gothard, 116, 30-1); and Stockholder (Luis Quinonez, Steve Asmussen, 116, 10-1).

The Lone Star Park Handicap will be run as the 10th race at approximately 5:47 p.m. CT on an 11-race program.

Baffert and Vienna aren't the only trainers that have enjoyed past success at Lone Star. Graham Motion returns to the sight of his biggest win, the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf (Better Talk Now). He'll saddle 4-year-old filly Sweet Talker, the 9-5 early choice for the WinStar Distaff, which goes as the ninth race at 5:19 p.m. CT. Last year's upset Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup winner at Keeneland was successful in her 2006 debut, winning last month's $60,000 Dahlia Stakes at Laurel Park, an easy start to a campaign that could establish her as one of the nation's premier turf distaffers.

Sweet Talker, purchased by Courtland Farms last November for $1.15 million, has dazzled on turf, winning six of eight starts, including three in a row. "I think she's just a very honest, hard-trying filly," Motion said. "My feelings are very good about coming back to Lone Star. I have very good memories of it."

Among the challengers for Sweet Talker is two-time Grade II stakes winner Katdogawn, who won the race last year by 1 ½ lengths over a course rated "yielding." That won't be the case this year as temperatures are expected to be in the 90s with no rain in the forecast.

The complete field for the 10th running of the WinStar Distaff: Sweet Talker (Ramon Dominguez, Graham Motion, 120, 9-5); My Misty Princess (Luis Quinonez, Steve Asmussen, 116, 20-1); Katdogawn (Aaron Gryder, Wally Dollase, 119, 7-2); Paz Ciudadana (Quincy Hamilton, Steve Asmussen, 117, 12-1); Lock and Key (Patrick Valenzuela, Ben Cecil, 116, 4-1); Stretching (Ted Gondron, Michael Stidham, 114, 30-1); Joint Aspiration (Julien Leparoux, Patrick Biancone, 115, 6-1); Caviar Emptor (Cliff Berry, Randy Oberlander, 115, 20-1); Stela (Jamie Theriot, Cole Norman, 115, 30-1); and Peaceful Love (Jon Court, Jeff Mullins, 115, 8-1).

Eighteen horses will have been flown to Dallas-Fort Worth from Southern California or Kentucky to face the Southwest's brightest stars in the Lone Star Million. Six arrived from Kentucky on Friday afternoon and another six flew in from California on Saturday morning. Patrick Biancone, the French-born trainer who has a horse entered in each stakes race, will ship his contingent on a private charter plane scheduled to arrive Monday morning just hours before the first live race.

Julien Leparoux, the nation's leading rider in races won with 218 through Friday, will ride all of Biancone's horses. Patrick Valenzuela and Ramon Dominguez, fourth and fifth, respectively, on the national earnings list, also have mounts, along with Jon Court, the Southern California-based rider who has won six stakes events in the last 1 ½ seasons at Lone Star.

Biancone and Leparoux, who team with Grade III stakes winner Cosmonaut in the Lone Star Park Handicap and Joint Aspiration in the WinStar Distaff, are particularly live in two other Lone Star Million stakes.

Grade III Crown Royal American Turf winner Stream Cat will be challenged in the $150,000 Pin Oak Stud USA Stakes by Desert Wheat and Wait in Line, runner-ups in the Grand Prairie Turf Challenge and Grade III Walmac Lone Star Derby, respectively. The 1 1/16-mile turf event for 3-year-olds also lured the Steve Asmussen-trained More Than Regal, who will try turf for the first time after finishing fourth in the Grade II Lane's End Stakes earlier this year. Two years ago, Asmussen, the three-time national win leader, won a record four Lone Star Million stakes races.

Australian-bred Man Of Illusion, winner of the Grade III Aegon Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, heads the $100,000 Beck Auto Group Turf Sprint Handicap at five furlongs on turf. His seven challengers include eight-time Southwest stakes winner That Tat, recent Santa Anita winner Crystal Castle and defending race champ Oncearoundtwice.

Elsewhere, G G's Dolly, first or second in 10 of her 11 starts and recent winner of the $50,000 Prairie Rose Stakes in Iowa for trainer Kelly Von Hemel, will face nine fillies and mares in the $100,000 Valid Expectations Stakes at six furlongs. She'll have to face swift two-time Lone Star stakes winner True Tails; recent Sunland Park stakes champ Red Lifesaver; and Trolley's Last, a half-sister to Unbridled's Song who will try dirt for the first time.

Von Hemel's brother Donnie will start Martha Washington Stakes heroine Brownie Points, most recently third in the Grade II Fantasy Stakes, in the $100,000 Stonerside Stakes. Also in the seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies is Beholden from the barn of Eoin Harty, who won the race last year with R Fast Lady.

Monday's first live race at Lone Star is 1:35 p.m. CT, and grandstand gates will open at 11:30 a.m. A sleek Lone Star Park golf umbrella will be given away to customers with a paid admission while supplies last.

At 1 p.m., Lone Star will honor America on Memorial Day with a flyover by four World War II-era T-6 planes, the singing of the national anthem and "God Bless America" by Nikki Hale and a color guard presentation from members of the Dyess Air Force Base.

Other on-track Lone Star Million activities include live music between races by Steve Tenpenny in the outdoor Courtyard of Champions from 12-4 p.m. Also, the Family Fun Park near the top of the stretch will be open with bounce houses and a petting zoo for children to enjoy.

Those who can't make it to Lone Star on Memorial Day can advance wager on the entire Lone Star Million program all day Sunday. All Lone Star Million races will be televised live on HRTV (Channel 404 on the DISH Network).

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