New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - Intense Holiday, the 5-1 fourth pick, came from off the pace in a 14-horse field to win Saturday's $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.
The Risen Star is the final local prep for the 101st running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 29. Intense Holiday picked up 50 points toward starting in the Kentucky Derby on May 3.
Ridden by Mike Smith for the first time, Intense Holiday was racing seventh behind pacesetter Albano and outside 2-1 favorite Vicar's in Trouble. Albano, sent off at 13-1, still had the lead coming into the stretch as Vicar's in Trouble and Intense Holiday rallied from the outside.
Intense Holiday and Albano shook loose from Vicar's in Trouble down the stretch and the two battled to the wire. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Intense Holiday was able to stick his nose out for the win over Albano with Vicar's in Trouble holding on for third.
"In the very beginning he kind of slipped leaving there which turned out to be a good thing," the Hall of Fame jockey said. "He was a little too keen early, so when I finally talked him out of it he just completely let go and I was like, 'uh, no, not that much.'
"There's a lot of room to improve there and a lot of room to grow. What I really liked at the end was galloping out. He took one breath and came back so we did not get to the bottom of him (today)."
Rounding out the order of finish were 4-1 second choice Hoppertunity, Gold Hawk, Commanding Curve, Rise Up, Flat Gone, Son of a Preacher, Quick Indian, Vigorish, Emmett Park, Interchange and Xtra Luck. Bond Holder was an early scratch after suffering injuries during a flight from California.
The time for the Risen Star was 1:43.86 on a fast track.
Intense Holiday, owned by Starlight Racing, notched his first stakes win and pocketed $240,000. The colt posted his second career victory in seven starts and has earned $351,900.
The colt was coming off a third behind Cairo Prince in Gulfstream Park's Holy Bull last month. As a 2-year-old he was fifth in the Champagne with a pair of fourth-place finishes in the Nashua and Remsen Stakes.
Intense Holiday paid $12.00, $6.00 and $4.00. Albano returned $12.20 and $6.80, and Vicar's in Trouble paid $3.40 to show.