Run Down in the Risen Star, Track Phantom Aims to Hold Off Eleven in the Louisiana Derby

Contact: Kevin Kilroy
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  • Tarifa, Intricate Rematch in Fair Grounds Oaks
  • 100-50-25-15-10 qualifying Derby and Oaks Points are on the line at Fair Grounds on Saturday, March 23

New Orleans, La (March 19, 2024) – A half-length shy of adding the Risen Star to his Gun Runner and Lecomte wins, L and N Racing, Clark Brewster, Jerry Caroom, and Breeze Easy’s Track Phantom headlines twelve males on the hunt for a share of the 200 Kentucky Derby qualifying points up for grabs in Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. 

The first prep race to offer 100-50-25-15-10 points towards a spot in the $5 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve, post time is 5:42 p.m (all times Central) for the 1 3/16 miles stamina test. With eight stakes worth $2.7 million carded for Saturday’s “Louisiana Derby Day,” the 111th running of the Louisiana Derby is the finale of the 12-race program, which begins at noon. The $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks presented by Fasig-Tipton (G2) goes as race 11 (5:08 p.m.) and will award Kentucky Oaks qualifying points (100-50-25-15-10) to the top five in that 3-year-old filly event. 

Track Phantom had everything his own way in the Risen Star (G2). Breaking to the lead and moving comfortably through slow fractions, the son of Quality Road trained by Steve Asmussen was passed in the final stages by Sierra Leone, finishing a half-length shy of sweeping the local preps to date. 

“I strongly believe with the 3-year-olds that your last race is generally not good enough for your next one,” Asmussen said. “And that’s the way it ought to be.”

The Risen Star is the only chink in Track Phantom’s two-turn armor as the colt has won his other three attempts, including dominant victories in both the Gun Runner and the Lecomte (G3). Having racked up 55 points towards the “Run for the Roses,” Track Phantom currently ranks tied for fourth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard.

“He’s a wonderful horse,” Asmussen said. “I’m very fortunate to have him for the 3-year-old series here (at Fair Grounds). He has run extremely well in the three previous (Derby preps). Hopefully we can get back to the winner’s circle with him on Saturday. Obviously, we like his chances.”

Drawing the far outside post, the 3-1 morning line favorite will be guided once again by Joel Rosario.

Among his top competitors is stablemate Hall of Fame. Owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg, Gandharvi and Brooke Smith, the Gun Runner colt dazzled in his 10 1/4-length maiden-breaking score on the Lecomte undercard, but he fell flat down the homestretch over the sloppy track to finish seventh in the Risen Star. 

“No excuses on the going,” Asmussen said. “We like who he is, like how he came out of it, like how he’s trained back, and feel very fortunate to have this good of a 3-year-old at this time of the year in this significant of a race.”

Ricardo Santana Jr. returns to the irons and will break Hall of Fame from gate 2.

Second-choice in the morning line at 5-1 is Albaugh Family Stables’ Catching Freedom. A debut-winner at Churchill Downs in October, the son of Constitution trained by Brad Cox took the Smarty Jones by over two lengths in his first effort going two turns. Finishing third in the Risen Star under jockey Luis Saez to bring his points total to 25, Catching Freedom will have Flavien Prat aboard as he breaks from post 5 in the Louisiana Derby.

“He’s always been the kind of horse that’s a little funny when he gets off the rail, he kind of wants to lean in a little bit,” Cox said. “He’s still a little green, he’s still learning. He’s always been a fairly average work horse, but in his last two he’s been a little bit more into it, finishing up a little better, and his gallop outs have been better. I’m optimistic he can take a step forward, and he’s had a good five weeks since the Risen Star. We’ve liked what we’ve seen since.”

Cutting the corner turning for home last out in the Rebel (G2), Tony Holmes’ Common Defense rallied up the rail to finish second behind Timberlake. One of two entered by Ken McPeek, along with Tilted Shamrock Stables’ Real Men Violin, Common Defense ranks tenth in the Road to the Kentucky Derby Point Standings with 27. The dark bay Karakontie colt will be reunited with his Rebel pilot, Brian Hernandez Jr. 

Real Men Violin exits an 8th-place finish in the Risen Star, his first start since running second in November’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), and will break from just inside his stablemate in post 9 with Corey Lanerie holding the reins.

Occupying three of the inside four post positions, the trio of Louisiana Derby entrants trained by Todd Pletcher are led by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables’ Pilgrim (G2) winner Agate Road. The Quality Road colt exits a second-place finish to No More Time in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs where he earned 10 qualifying points. His previous four races were on the turf, including a solid late-kicking fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), defeated by only 2 1/2 lengths. Aboard for each of Agate Road’s grass starts, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will leg up on the Pletcher trainee, made 8-1 in the morning line.

Pletcher leads all trainers with five Louisiana Derby victories, including saddling last year’s gate-to-wire winner Kingsbarns. Along with Agate Road, he entered Centennial Farms last-out local maiden winner Antiquarian and Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables’ Triple Espresso, who will make his dirt debut in the Louisiana Derby. 

Another accomplished sophomore entered in the Louisiana Derby is Ribble Farms, Michael Eiserman, Earl Silver, Kenneth Fishbein, and Daniel Fishbein’s Honor Marie. The winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club returned to the races to finish fifth in the Risen Star for trainer Whit Beckman. 

“He’ll like the (Louisiana Derby) distance,” Beckman said. “This horse to me is a true mile-and-a-quarter horse.”

Jockey Ben Curtis has been named to ride the Honor Code colt, replacing Rafael Bejarano. 

Here’s the complete field for the Risen Star from the rail out (with jockey, trainer, and morning line): 1. Triple Espresso (Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher, 20-1); 2. Hall of Fame (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, 8-1); 3. Antiquarian (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 12-1); 4. Agate Road (Irad Ortiz Jr., Todd Pletcher, 8-1); 5. Catching Freedom (Flavien Prat, Brad Cox, 4-1); 6. Awesome Ruta (Mitchell Murrill, Joey Foster, 30-1); 7. Honor Marie (Ben Curtis, Whit Beckman, 8-1); 8. Next Level (Jose Riquelme, Keith Desormeaux, 30-1); 9. Real Men Violin (Corey Lanerie, Ken McPeek, 20-1); 10. Common Defense (Brian Hernandez Jr., Ken McPeek, 6-1); 11. Tuscan Gold (Tyler Gaffalione, Chad Brown, 8-1); 12. Track Phantom (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen, 3-1).

Louisiana Derby/Fair Grounds Oaks Coverage on CNBC

Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) and $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) will be shown as part of NBC Sports’ Road to the Kentucky Derby coverage and will air in a one-hour broadcast window on CNBC from 5-6 p.m. 

The broadcast will also include the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) from Turfway Park.

NBC Sports’ coverage from Fair Grounds & Turfway Park will also be shown on Peacock.

Wagering Menu Loaded for Louisiana Derby Day

The robust wagering menu at Fair Grounds on Louisiana Derby Day includes three Pick Fours (races 2-5, 5-8 and 9-12), three Pick Fives with a 15% takeout (1-5, 4-8 and 8-12) and a $1 no jackpot Pick Six (also a 15% takeout – races 7-12). The “All Stakes Late Pick Five” will further entice horseplayers with a $500,000 guaranteed pool. The field sizes for the Late Pick 5 are 14-10-13-8-12.

Fair Grounds, Turfway Team Up for Bayou Bluegrass Pick Five

The Bayou Bluegrass Pick Five is a two-track, $1 Pick 5 featuring all stakes races from Fair Grounds and Turfway Park. The sequence will begin at Fair Grounds in Race 9 for the $500,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) presented by Relyne GI by Hagyard at 4:04 p.m. The second leg will switch to Turfway Park for the $300,000 Bourbonette Oaks with a scheduled post time of 4:43 p.m. Then, the third leg will go back to Fair Grounds and feature the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) presented by Fasig-Tipton at 5:12 p.m. The Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway will be the penultimate leg of the bet at 5:25 p.m. and it will close at Fair Grounds for the Louisiana Derby (G2) at 5:46 p.m.  

Tarifa, Intricate Rematch in Fair Grounds Oaks

●        Four of top five finishers from Rachel Alexandra return with coveted Kentucky Oaks Points on the line

Off a professional victory In the Rachel Alexandra (G2) in what was her stakes debut, the Godolphin homebred Tarifa returns as Mike Diliberto’s 8-5 morning line favorite over seven rivals for Saturday’s $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) presented by Fasig-Tipton. Run at 1 1/16 miles, the race will offer 3-year-old fillies 100-50-25-15-10 points on the Road to the Longines Kentucky Oaks.

With a post time of 5:08 p.m., the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) presented by Fasig-Tipton is scheduled as the 11th of 12 races and is one of eight stakes on Saturday’s “Louisiana Derby Day” card. With $3 million in purses up for grabs, the program also features the Louisiana Derby (G2), a 100-50-25-15-10 points race on the Road to the 150th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve. First post is noon. 

Taking the blinkers off for her third career start on January 20 at Fair Grounds, Tarifa stalked the early pace before scoring a narrow, first-level allowance win for trainer Brad Cox. Stepped up to the Rachel Alexandra, the daughter of Bernardini ran a similar race against tougher competition, posting a 2 ¾ length score over Intricate, the Golden Rod (G2) winner at Churchill Downs who was making her sophomore debut.

“I’m very happy with the way she’s training,” Cox said. “She’s a little eager. Aggressive at times. Overall I like what we’ve seen from her. Her last move was solo, no company, handled it really well. She broke off smoothly and finished up great.”

Reunited with jockey Flavien Prat, Tarifa will break from post five.

Brad Cox, who won the Fair Grounds Oaks in back-to-back years with Bonny South in 2020 and Travel Column in 2021, also has Full of Run Racing and Madaket Stable’s Alpine Princess entered for 2024 edition. The gate-to-wire winner of the Untapable, the daughter of Classic Empire pressed the pace in the Rachel Alexandra before fading to fourth. With regular rider Florent Geroux in tow at 8-1 in the morning line, she will break from post three.

Off 11 weeks following her Golden Rod score, Bradley Thoroughbreds, Laura Leigh Stables, Scott Estes and Cambron Equine’s Intricate rated at the rail near the back of the pack in the Rachel Alexandra. Hung six-wide off the turn for home, she drifted in slightly while chasing Tarifa home. The daughter of Gun Runner is trained by Brendan Walsh and she will once again be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, who has been aboard for every start. The duo teamed up to win last year’s Kentucky Oaks with Pretty Mischievous. Installed as the 2-1 second choice in the morning line, Intricate will leave from post six.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has won the Fair Grounds Oaks four times, most recently with Echo Zulu in 2022. He scored the Fair Grounds Oaks/Kentucky Oaks double with Summerly in 2005 and again with Untapable in 2012. Asmussen’s other winner of this race was Lady Tak in 2003. This year he saddles an upstart in Courtlandt Farm’s Our Pretty Woman, who is perfect from two starts, winning both a maiden special weight and first-level allowance at Fair Grounds by open lengths.

“It’s a big step up but she’s never done anything wrong,” Asmussen said. “She’s never asked for a favor in her life and she’s not about to start. She is very straightforward and trains wonderfully. She hit the ground running last time. She was lightly raced, we used some of her early, we wanted to get out of there and get a spot with her. She handled it and continued on well to the wire.”

With Joel Rosario aboard, the 4-1 morning line shot has been assigned post seven.

Here is the complete field for the Fair Grounds Oaks from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): 1. V V’s Dream, winner of the Pocohontas (G3) and second in the Alcibiades as a 2-year-old (Brian Hernandez, Jr., Ken McPeek, 8-1); 2. Midsummer March, winner of a maiden special weight race last out at Oaklawn (Rey Gutierrez, Ken McPeek, 12-1 ML); 3. Alpine Princess (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 8-1); 4. Lucy Got Game; winner of a maiden special weight race at Delta Downs last out (Edgar Morales, Tom Amoss, 20-1); 5. Tarifa (Flavien Prat, Brad Cox, 8-5) 6. Intricate (Tyler Gaffalione, Brendan Walsh, 2-1); 7. Out Pretty Woman (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen, 4-1); 8. Accommodate Eva; a two-time Louisiana-bred restricted stakes winner (Corey Lanerie, Dallas Stewart, 20-1)


About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 16 off-track betting parlors throughout Southeast Louisiana. The 152nd Thoroughbred Racing Season–highlighted by the 111th running of the Louisiana Derby–will run from Nov. 17, 2023 through March 24, 2024. More information is available online at

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