War Story needed to find a way to get out of second place.
The last two times the Northern Afleet gelding went head-to-head with the Ken and Sarah Ramsey-owned International Star — at the Jan. 17 Lecomte Stakes and Feb. 21 Risen Star Stakes — he squandered early leads and finished second.
Tom Amoss, War Story’s trainer, sought out ways to gain an advantage over the only horse to defeat the gelding in his four career starts, and found multiple graded stakes winning jockey Joe Talamo. Amoss thought Talamo could be the right solution to help War Story get over his recent struggles with breaking out slowly.
Because of International Star’s two comeback victories, he enters Saturday’s $750,000, Grade II Louisiana Derby as a 3-1 favorite, while War Story comes in second at 4-1, along with the Wayne Lukas-trained Mr. Z in the nine-horse field.
“It was an honor and a privilege when Tom asked me to ride War Story,” Talamo said. “I think he’s definitely a (Kentucky) Derby-caliber horse and my goal is to just help him run the best race he can run.”
International Star enters Saturday’s race trying to accomplish a feat that hasn’t been achieved since 2009.
Already possessing victories in the Lecomte and the Risen Star, International Star can wrap up a sweep of all three graded stakes at the Fair Grounds with a Louisiana Derby victory, which hasn’t been accomplished since the Larry Jones-trained Friesan Fire.
While the son of Fusaichi Pegasus comes in as the most accomplished horse in the field, he will start in the nine-post for Saturday’s race, which is far away from the rail that he has become synonymous for riding to his four career victories.
“We did better than last draw. We have a good enough horse; we’ll be fine,” said International Star’s trainer, Mike Maker.
Talamo and Amoss, both New Orleans natives, have both suffered heart-breaking losses in the Louisiana Derby and hope they can assist each other in winning their “dream race.”
One of Amoss’ stipulations when signing Talamo to ride War Story was that he needed to agree to ride him for a least two races, which would suggest that Amoss plans on taking them both to the Kentucky Derby.
Having already earned enough points to qualify, Amoss said a trip to the Kentucky Derby would be dependent on War Story’s performance in Saturday’s race.
“We don’t have any intent on going (to the Kentucky Derby) unless we do well Saturday,” Amoss said.
The 14-race card is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.