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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Wanna see the Plate favourite?

WANNA RUNNER confirmed his status as a strong favourite for the June 25 Queen's Plate at Woodbine when the gelding romped in a weak edition of the Walmac Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park on Saturday evening, earning a 98 Beyer Speed Figure.
The following is the track's release from the race

(courtesy Lone Star Park)

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas (Saturday, May 13, 2006) - The Bob Baffert-trained Wanna Runner was much the best in Saturday's Grade III, $300,000 Walmac Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas and easily defeated longshot Wait in Line by 5 ¼ lengths under a hand ride - the largest margin of victory in the race's 10-year history.

"He looked like Barbaro coming down the stretch," quipped Baffert.

Next for the Ontario, Canada-bred will be the $1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine on June 25 - the first leg of Canada's Triple Crown. "The Lone Star Derby is going to be my springboard to the Canadian classics from now on," Baffert said.

Wanna Runner, ridden by Victor Espinoza and carrying 122 pounds, covered 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:43.71 and paid $3, $2.60 and $2.10 as the odds-on 1-2 favorite in the field of six 3-year-olds. Wait in Line, at odds of 46.70-1, returned $19.60 and $5.40. Admiral's Arch, the 4-1 third wagering choice, was another four lengths back in third and paid $2.40.

The win was the fourth in eight starts for Wanna Runner, who previously won the $600,000 WinStar Derby by 4 ¾ lengths. The $185,000 winner's share of the purse boosted the El Corredor gelding's career earnings to $566,950 for owner Mike Pegram.

"We were tempted to run in the Preakness and I told Mike [Pegram] if Barbaro hadn't run a race like that, if it had been a race like last year's, we'd take a chance," Baffert said. "But that horse is pretty special and this horse here needed time to develop.

"I always thought he was a nice horse but he's getting better. We didn't really push him for the [Kentucky] Derby. I ran him back at Golden Gate and I ran him back way too soon and that set us back. I know what it takes to win the [Kentucky] Derby and we maybe could've taken him, but it's too hard on a horse. Mike didn't have any fever with him. I'll take him back to California to freshen up.

"He ran third to Brother Derek but he's doing much better now than he was then. Mike has always wanted to go to the Queen's Plate and he's a gelding so we're not trying to make a stallion here. We're just having fun with him. It's fun to go to different tracks."

"We can't wait for him to come home," Wanna Runner's Canadian breeder Yvonne Schwabe said via telephone. "He's the best runner we've ever had down in the states."

This was the second Walmac Lone Star Derby winner for Baffert. He took the inaugural running in 1997 with eventual $1.1 million-earner Anet. Overall, it was Baffert's 12th career stakes win at Lone Star and second this season. He plans to return May 29 with Grade III Texas Mile champ Preachinatthebar for the Grade III, $400,000 Lone Star Park Handicap, another Pegram-owned horse.

"This place has been good to me since the day it opened," Pegram said.

Wanna Runner contested the early pace established by Rain On Monday -- :23.33 for the first quarter mile and :47.14 for a half-mile - from the inside after breaking from post position No. 1. He edged clear at the top of the stretch and drew away under Espinoza's urging.

Wait in Line, a last minute addition to the field by trainer Chris Hartman at entry time on Thursday, sat just off the pacesetters and was no match for the winner. "Not bad for a guy who wasn't even going to run," Hartman said. "It beats sitting in the barn, that's for sure. I wasn't even going to run. It looked like it was too tough. [Wanna Runner] beat us 18 lengths in El Paso." Wait in Line became the longest shot in Lone Star Derby history to finish among the top three.

Admiral's Arch was rated just behind the leaders in fourth but came up empty in the stretch.

"Apparently the winner had a little more horse and just cut loose at the top of the stretch," said Admiral Arch's rider Shaun Bridgmohan. "I thought I was in the perfect spot. There were three across the track and I was just biding my time."

The field was completed by Mr. Pursuit, Rain On Monday and Red Raymond, the 7-2 second betting choice. "He never got into the race," said Red Raymond's trainer Bob Holthus.


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