Risen Star Thoughts
Entries are out for Saturday’s Grade III Risen Star Stakes and it’s a great race in both of the most important ways—quality and (even though it’s not really a word) betability. The race has attracted a large and competitive field which includes several legitimate Kentucky Derby prospects. As of Tuesday evening, the forecast is calling for 71 degrees with little chance of precipitation. What more could you want?
Check out my plan for Saturday: wake up early, play 18 holes at City Park, head to the track for lunch in the Clubhouse, go up to the press box to blog about the Risen Star and five other stakes races while gambling my butt off, cash my winning tickets, go home to change, attend the Members Preview for two new exhibitions at the New Orleans Museum of Art where soul singer Brother Tyrone will perform, then head down to the French Quarter to catch Krewe de Vieux, the first parade of Carnival season that I really care to see. These are the types of days when you tend to think, despite its many troubles, why would I ever want to live anywhere but the beautiful City of New Orleans?
Anyway, I won’t have my final picks for Saturday until later in the week, but here are some initial horse-by-horse thoughts on the excellent Risen Star field:
MAP OF THE WORLD—If the race is in your backyard then I can understand giving him a shot. After all, anyone can get third, which would be worth $22k and a grade-stakes placing. But it’s difficult to imagine him competing for the win when he hasn’t been able to get past an entry-level allowance.
INDYGO MOUNTAIN—Trainer Bret Calhoun said on the record before the Lecomte that his colt was not 100-percent after missing an allowance race and a scheduled workout due to a hoof issue. We’re willing to give him another chance Saturday, especially after his nice five-furlong work in 1 minute.
NOWHERE TO HIDE—Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito told the press he scratched this one out of last weekend’s Holy Bull at Gulfstream because he didn’t like the idea of breaking from post No. 9. Am I missing something? Is that really such a disadvantage? And is it even a big deal if your ultimate goal is the race that’s still three months away? I’m not complaining, as it will be great to see Zito at Fair Grounds adding extra luster to an already compelling field. I just can’t help but wonder if there were other reasons why he skipped the Holy Bull. His works have been right on schedule, though, so maybe I’m just paranoid.
IT HAPPENED AGAIN—He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93 with a final time of 1:25 4/5 over a fast track at Delta? The place horse that evening was Valid Stripes, who also ran in the Sugar Bowl against It Happened Again. Did they both improve by leaps and bounds between those starts? The Triple Sec was a nice win, but hard to believe it was the best last race in this field (Friesan Fire also got a 93 for the Lecomte). But hey, if that number inspires more people to put their money in that direction, that is OK by us.
UNO MAS—Didn’t get as much pace to run at last time as he did when he defeated Friesan Fire in the allowance. I liked that race a lot and give him a big chance to rebound in here.
FRIESAN FIRE—Did everything right last time and perhaps could have won by more but Saez was only showing him the stick in the final furlong. Jones wanted him to relax more in that race and he did. I’m sure Jones is well aware that he could probably get in the Derby gate even if he didn’t earn another dollar, which makes us wonder if he’ll be cranked for this effort. The easy work in 1:04 2/5 on Monday is practically a jog for this colt.
GIANT OAK—How many times have you seen a deep closer come barreling down the center of this long stretch to win a stakes race here? This is the right place for this colt to make his 3-year-old debut and I love that one of my all-time favorite riders, Edgar Prado, is here to find his Derby mount. This colt has been training here all season in anticipation of the major Derby preps that start today. It’s not like Block has other horses here. He brought just this one for this race and I suspect he’ll be staying for the Louisiana Derby, too.
DUMAR—He earned his way into the field and he will be on most of my tickets.
CODE OF HONOUR—He beat winners for the first time at Delta in 1:28, which helps to explain how It Happened Again got a 93 going the same distance in the time he did. However, it also goes to show that both of those exiting the Triple Sec are probably overmatched.
SOUL WARRIOR—The least likely winner of Asmussen’s trio, but still a serious threat, like being the third-best player on the Celtics.
SUMMER’S EMPIRE—I’m more impressed by the big allowance win than state-bred stakes score. Nonetheless, he looks a cut below the top contenders. Still, I wouldn’t count him out for third.
FLYING PEGASUS—Hasn’t raced since a strong second in a Grade II in September, but Nicks has a track record of bringing horses back from layoffs. The break was due to surgery for an injured hind ankle. Nicks had told DRF he wanted to go in the Southwest at Oaklawn, because the one-mile distance and shorter stretch would play to this speedy sort. As tough as it is to win a graded stakes we are inclined to go with colts who have been pointing to this race and aren’t coming back from injury.
AU MOON—Ran a better race than I expected in the Lecomte, being an inexperienced colt taking a big leap from maiden special weight to Grade III. I like his chances to move forward again and think he’s a compelling outsider who could be in the 15-1 or even 20-1 range.