2023 RISEN STAR/RACHEL ALEXANDRA Key Facts
· This is the 51st running of the $400,000 Risen Star (G2) for 3-year-olds at a distance of 1 1/8 miles on the main track. It was extended from 1 1/16 to 1 1/8 miles three years ago. It is followed in the sequence of Fair Grounds’ Kentucky Derby preps by the $1 million Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 25 at 1 3/16ths miles. The Kentucky Derby is always the first Saturday in May at 1 ¼ miles.
· The Risen Star is scheduled as the 13th and final race on Saturday, February 18, 2023. First post is noon CT. Risen Star post is 6:14 p.m. CT.
· The Risen Star marks the next stage in the Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve, with 50-20-15-10-5 points awarded to the top five finishers. Longines Kentucky Oaks points will be awarded in the same manor for the 3-year-old fillies in the Rachel Alexandra, which is race 12 on the card (5:41 p.m. CT). A win on Saturday would nearly assure a spot in the Kentucky Derby/Oaks starting gate. The Louisiana Derby and Fair Grounds Oaks on March 25 are worth 100-40-30-20-10.
· Since The Road to the Kentucky Derby points system began in 2013, the Risen Star is tied with the Louisiana Derby for producing the most Kentucky Derby starters – 33.
· Trainer Steve Asmussen has won the Risen Star three times, including last year with Epicenter, who would go on to win the Louisiana Derby (G2) en route to a second place finish behind 80-1 upsetter Rich Strike in Kentucky Derby 148. Epicenter would later win both the Jim Dandy (G2), Travers (G1) and he was recently named 3-year-old Eclipse Award champion. Asmussen also won in 2016 with Gun Runner, one of the top earning Thoroughbreds of all-time who has recently made a splash as a stallion, and in 2008 with Pyro. He starts Harlocap, a recent transfer from Bob Baffert (Kentucky Derby ineligible trainer), Silver Heist (third in the Lecomte undercard allowance route behind Determinedly & Tapit’s Conquest) and Private Creed, a two-time stakes winner on turf who has never run on dirt, in Saturday’s edition. Entering Monday, he is three wins away from 10,000 in his career. Already the winningest trainer in the history of Thoroughbred racing, he will be the first ever to reach that mark.
· Tyler Gaffalione, who rides Private Creed, teamed up with trainer Mark Casse to win the 2019 Lecomte and Risen Star with War of Will, who would later win the Preakness (G1). He is the perennial leading rider at Churchill Downs. Casse starts Determinedly, who won the two-turn allowance on the Lecomte undercard over fellow Risen Star rivals Tapit’s Conquest and Silver Heist.
· Trainer Brad Cox won the 2021 Risen Star with Mandaloun, and after crossing the finish line 2nd, he was the adjudicated winner of the Kentucky Derby 147 when Medina Spirit was disqualified. He also won the 2020 edition of the Risen Star with Mr. Monomoy. Cox won the Lecomte last month with Instant Coffee, who will not participate in the Risen Star. With 32 Kentucky Derby points already in the bank, Cox has indicated that Instant Coffee would be likely be pointed to the Louisiana Derby. He sends out three runners in Saturday’s Risen Star – Angel of Empire, Tapit’s Conquest and the 3-1 morning line favorite Victory Formation, who is undefeated in three starts. Entering Monday, Cox is six shy of the 2,000-win milestone for his career.
· Trainer Keith Desormeaux, who was born in Maurice, LA, and jockey James Graham upset the 2013 Risen Star with 135-1 shot I’ve Struck a Nerve. Desormeaux saddles Single Ruler and Graham rides Crupi in this year’s renewal.
· To speak to the strength of Saturday’s Risen Star – six of the 14 horses entered were offered in Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool 4 this weekend (closed Sunday) – Determinedly (124-1), Angel of Empire (112-1), Tapit’s Conquest (63-1), Curly Jack (49-1), Two Phil’s (95-1) and Victory Formation (23-1). Banishing (27-1) and First Defender (91-1), who are entered in the two-turn allowance on the Risen Star undercard, are also among the 39 individual horses offered up in Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool 4. Brad Cox leads all trainers with 10 horses in pool 4 and Steve Asmussen is next with six.
· Hoosier Philly is the 6-5 morning line favorite in the Rachel Alexandra. She is perfect from three starts, winning each of those races in dominant fashion. Her most recent win came in the Golden Rod (G2) at Churchill Downs on November 26, and Saturday will mark her 3-year-old debut. She has fired three bullet workouts (fastest of the morning) in advance of her Hoosier Philly was purchased for $510,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. She is the only filly offered in Kentucky Derby Future Wager 4, and she closed as the 11-1 second choice behind the undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Forte (8-1). In order to make the Kentucky Derby starting gate, she would need to earn points against the boys. Theoretically, if she were to win the Rachel Alexandra, she would have more than enough points to qualify for a spot in the Kentucky Oaks. Trainer Tom Amoss could then run her in the Louisiana Derby against the boys and give her a chance to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, while not losing the opportunity to run in the Oaks. Amoss won the 2019 Rachel Alexandra with eventual Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress. He also won the race in 2016 with 74-1 longshot Venus Valentine. Amoss, a New Orleans native and LSU graduate, has been quoted as saying that Hoosier Philly is the most promising horse he has ever trained. He also has 8-1 shot Curly Jack entered in the Risen Star.
· Brad Cox has won the Rachel Alexandra twice – in 2022 with Turnerloose and 2018 with Monomoy Girl (see below). Florent Geroux rode both of those winners, and he also scored in the 2015 edition with I’m a Chatterbox. They have 8-5 second choice Chop Chop in Saturday’s race. She will add blinkers off a narrow defeat as the 4-5 favorite behind her stablemate The Alys Look in the Silverbulletday.
· Todd Pletcher won the 2013 Rachel Alexandra with Unlimited Budget. John Velazquez won the race in 2007 with Appealing Zophie. They team up Saturday with the New York-bred Miracle.
· Nine of the last 26 winners of the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) also participated in the Rachel Alexandra, including recent winners Monomoy Girl (2018) and Serengeti Empress.
2019 – Serengeti Empress, won both
2018 – Monomoy Girl, won both
2015 – Lovely Maria, 2nd in the Rachel, won the Kentucky Oaks
2014 – Untapable, won both
2012 – Believe You Can, 4th in the Rachel, won the Kentucky Oaks
2008 – Proud Spell, 2nd in the Rachel, won the Kentucky Oaks
2005 – Summerly, won both
1999 – Silverbulletday won both
1997 – Blushing K.D., won both