Magnum Fires in Grade III, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap

(May 29, 2006) - Magnum cemented himself as one of the top older horses in North America with a convincing 1 ¼-length victory over Texcess in Monday's Grade III, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap. The 1 1/16-mile race for older horses capped Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie's eighth annual Lone Star Million - a six-race stakes bonanza on Memorial Day that also featured a victory by Grade I stakes-winning female Sweet Talker in the Grade III, $200,000 WinStar Distaff Handicap.

Argentine-born and California-based Magnum stopped the teletimer in 1:42.88, a swift time considering the course was labeled "muddy" due to an unexpected early afternoon downpour. Texcess, also California-based and a troubled third in last month's Texas Mile, dictated the early pace and fought hard to the wire, finishing 4 ¼ lengths ahead of the late-running Real Dandy in third.

Magnum, ridden by Pat Valenzuela and carrying 117 pounds, paid $4.40, $2.80 and $2.80 as the 6-5 betting choice in the field of 10 three-year-olds and up. Texcess, who became a millionaire ($1,056,735) with his runner-up effort, returned $5 and $4. Real Dandy, who jumped his earnings to $891,135, paid $8.60.

The field was completed by Cosmonaut, Nakayama Kun, Dominguin, Stockholder, Texas Mile champ Preachinatthebar, Watchem Smokey and Wishingitwas.

Magnum settled nicely behind the leading group of Texcess, Watchem Smokey and Stockholder, who clicked off fractions of :23.13 for a quarter mile and :46.34 for the half. Valenzuela ranged his mount into contention four-wide on the turn for home and slipped a head in front of Texcess at the top of the lane.

"I knew I had a lot of horse in hand and at the three-eighths pole so I did ask him to pick it up a little bit," Valenzuela said. "Through the stretch he didn't want to change leads, but he did the last part and getting to the wire he just continued to accelerate."

The win was the fifth in 17 lifetime starts for Magnum, who began his career in his native Argentina. The triumph was worth $240,000 to trainer Darrell Vienna and owners Herrick Racing LLC, who won the 2002 Beck Auto Group Turf Sprint at Lone Star with Nuclear Debate. Magnum has now earned $618,414, including $573,600 in four starts this year.

In March, Magnum finished just three-quarters of a length behind Lava Man in the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap. He also was a runner-up in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap to Buzzard's Bay seven weeks ago. Lava Man is the nation's top-ranked horse in the latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association Thoroughbred Poll.

"He's just a really nice horse to be around," Vienna said of his charge. "I have to talk a little bit about Patrick today because his performance was extraordinary. I think it even outshadowed Magnum's. He just rode a picture-perfect race. I was hoping he could get outside. He did and he did it so smoothly.

"He's a horse that's developing. I don't think we've seen the top end of him now. He's going to be catching some tougher fields we've got planned for him and this was a step along the way."

Next on Magnum's agenda will be the Grade I, $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup in July and the Grade I, $1 million Pacific Classic in August.

In the WinStar Distaff, trainer Gram Motion, who prevailed with Better Talk Now in the 2004 John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf at Lone Star Park, returned to the scene of his biggest career win and produced similar results. Sweet Talker, Motion's winner of the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland last fall, inched clear in the stretch and held off a strong finish by Joint Aspiration to win by a head.

Sweet Talker, piloted by Ramon Dominguez and tacking 120 pounds, ran one mile on a "yielding" turf course in 1:38.66 and paid $4.60, $3 and $2.80 as the 7-5 choice in the field of 10 fillies and mares. Joint Aspiration returned $5.60 and $4.40. Stretching, a 50-1 longshot, rallied for third and paid $8.80.

The win was the ninth in 15 starts for Sweet Talker, who improved her record on turf to seven wins in nine starts. The $120,000 winner's share of the purse jumped her bankroll to $838,723 for Courtland Farms, who purchased her for $1.15 million in November.

"This filly is so consistent," Motion said. "I couldn't believe how cool Ramon looked when he came to the eighth pole. He looked like he had a lot of horse. She is really tenacious. She just gamed her way through the gap and what more can you say? I'm starting to like Texas. We really hope this a steppingstone to bigger things later in the year. I thought they way she won today was pretty impressive."

About a quarter of an inch of rain unexpectedly fell on Lone Star Park for a half-hour just after the running of the second race around 2 p.m. CT. Director of Track Maintenance George McDermott immediately had the main track sealed before the third and the racetrack was labeled "sloppy" with the turf course deemed "yielding." The main track was listed as "muddy" for the Lone Star Park Handicap.

This was the sixth time since 1999 that the turf course was labeled something other than "firm" on Lone Star Million Day due to rain. Credit the Lone Star Park marketing department for good handicapping because Lone Star Park umbrellas were given away Monday to patrons with a paid admission while supplies lasted. Attendance on Monday was 12,508.

In other Lone Star Million races, trainer Patrick Biancone flew in six horses from Kentucky on Monday morning - one for each stakes races - and prevailed in the $150,000 Pin Oak Stud USA Stakes with Stream Cat, winner of the Grade III Crown Royal American Turf on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs. Regular rider Julien Leparoux, the national win leader, was aboard to the 1 ½-length victory over Wait in Line. Stream Cat ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:46.88 and earned $90,000 for owners Fab Oak Stable, John Goldthorpe and former Duke basketball star Bobby Hurley. Overall, the 3-year-old son of Black Minnaloushe has won four of seven starts and $313,828. Next could be a start in the $1 million Colonial Turf Cup on June 24 at Colonial Downs.

Trainer Steve Asmussen, won his record 10th Lone Star Million stakes race when Red Lifesaver powered home in the stretch to nail front-running True Tails on the wire of the $100,000 Valid Expectations Stakes for fillies and mares. The 5-year-old mare, who prevailed by a neck under jockey Luis Quinonez, ran six furlongs in 1:11.85 and paid $16.40, $6.80 and $4.20. It was her eighth win in 31 starts and the $60,000 winner's share of the purse jumped her earnings to $324,562. Asmussen's other starter in the race, Born to Dance, was pulled up on the turn for home after sustaining an injury to her left front ankle, according to jockey Jon Court. G G's Dolly, the 6-5 favorite, finished ninth and jockey Perry Compton said that she didn't handle the off going.

Quinonez also guided Brownie Points to victory in the $100,000 Stonerside Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies. The Pin Oak Stud homebred rallied along the inside to narrowly defeat Sweet Idea by a head. Third in the Grade II Fantasy Stakes last time out, Brownie Points was clocked in 1:24.49 and paid $5, $3.60 and $2.80 as the 3-2 choice. Her record improved to four wins and $175,350 in nine starts, all under the tutelage of trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel.

Sweepingly was a surprise winner of the $100,000 Beck Auto Group Turf Sprint Handicap at odds of 22-1. The 7-year-old gelding defeated the Biancone-trained Man of Illusion, a Grade III winner who was sent postward as the odds-on 2-5 favorite, by a half-length. Sweepingly covered five furlongs on turf in :57.83 and paid $47.80, $12.40 and $5.20 en route to his fourth straight victory and eighth overall in 25 career starts. The $60,000 winner's share increased the Florida-bred's earnings to $180,201. Alfredo Juarez Jr. rode the horse, a $10,000 claim in late 2004, for owner Dave Pleasant (a farrier in New Mexico) and trainer Chris Hartman.

After a three-day break in the action, live racing will return to Lone Star Park on Friday night with a 10-race program that begins at 6:35 p.m. CT. Lone Star Park's Post Time Pavilion will be open for simulcast wagering Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as is the case seven days a week on a year-round basis.

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