The Risen Star Taking Shape with Seven Early Probables
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kevin Kilroy
New Orleans, La (Jan. 28, 2024) – Louisiana Derby Preview Day is Saturday, Feb. 17, and headlining the six-stakes program will be the $400,000 Risen Star (G2). The first prep race on the calendar to offer 50-25-15-10-5 points to the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) presented by Woodford Reserve, the 1 1/18 miles affair is already shaping up to be a thriller that could foreshadow what’s to come on the first Saturday in May.
Here are seven early probables for the 52nd running of the Risen Star.
Trainer Whit Beckman has Honor Marie pointing to the Risen Star. Stabled at Fair Grounds since his first-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), the Honor Code colt returned to the work tab on New Year’s Eve and has put in a steady series of drills, including a 59.60 five-furlong bullet in company with stablemate Drip on Sunday, Jan. 21 with Jareth Loveberry sitting quietly in the irons. Honor Marie has earned 10 points towards a start in Kentucky Derby 150.
The place-finisher to Honor Marie in the Kentucky Jockey Club, Real Men Violin is on the grounds with trainer Ken McPeek, preparing for a next start in the Risen Star. The chestnut colt by Mendelssohn put in his first morning drill since that race on Jan. 6 and has breezed three times since, most recently going four furlongs in :49.60 on Friday, Jan. 26, fifth fastest of 26 on the day. Real Men Violin earned 5 points in the Kentucky Jockey Club.
Real Men Violin broke his maiden going one mile at Churchill Downs on Oct. 29, besting likely Risen Star foe, Track Phantom by 1/2 length. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Track Phantom has won his next three races after that defeat, including the Lecomte (G3) and Gun Runner. In three tries, the son of Quality Road is undefeated going two turns. Track Phantom is tied with Fierceness atop the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 30 points.
“It’s easy to compare where he’s at with where we were with Epicenter two years ago,” Asmussen said. “Epicenter won the Gun Runner and was second in the Lecomte, but physically he was developing at the right time. I’ve always felt that in the 3-year-old series at Fair Grounds, your last race isn’t good enough for the next one and that’s how it should be. I appreciate the timing between races and the progression of the distances. It’s ideal. We came up a half a length short of our goal of winning the (Kentucky) Derby with Epicenter and now Track Phantom is on the same road. I think the Lecomte was as easy on him as you could have wanted it to be, with him still getting something out of it.”
Smarty Jones-winner Catching Freedom has returned to his stall at Fair Grounds and is also being targeted for the Risen Star by Brad Cox. In his second breeze since earning 10 points toward the Kentucky Derby, on Sunday, Jan. 28 the son of Constitution was clocked going four furlongs in :49.60 (37 of 82). Cox won last year’s edition, saddling Angel of Empire to victory ahead of the colt’s 3rd place finish in Kentucky Derby 149.
Another likely entry in February’s Derby prep is Snead, place-finisher in the Gun Runner and trained by Brendan Walsh. With one published work since the Dec. 23 effort, the son of Nyquist drilled four furlongs in :50.20 on Saturday, Jan. 20 (83rd fastest of 139 on the day).
Second last out in the Remsen (G2), Sierra Leone is pointing to the 1 1/18th mile stake on Feb. 17. With only two races under his belt, the Gun Runner colt has posted six works at Payson Park Training Center for trainer Chad Brown since the Remsen. Sierra Leone broke his maiden on debut going one mile at Aqueduct in November.
Both Sierra Leone and Snead have 5 Derby points.
Asmussen has the Risen Star circled for the Gun Runner colt Hall of Fame. Breaking his maiden last out going 1 1/16 miles on the “Road to the Derby Day” undercard, the $1.4 million purchase beat the field by over ten lengths. His final time of 1:44.27 for was nearly a half-second faster than Track Phantom’s clocking (1:44.73) in the Lecomte.
“Hall of Fame is as advertised,” Asmussen said. “As a $1.4 million yearling, he’s impeccably bred and a beautiful individual with a tremendous amount of talent. I do expect him to run back in the Risen Star also. He was ridden much more aggressively (breaking his maiden last out) because he’s playing a little catch up on a horse like Track Phantom, but the ability is there.”
Also headlining the Louisiana Derby Preview Day is the $300,000 Rachel Alexandra (G2) presented by Fasig-Tipton. The prep race for the $1.5 million Longines Kentucky Oaks will offer 50-20-15-10-5 qualifying points to the top five finishers. Entries will be drawn for the Feb. 17 card on Saturday, Feb 10.
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 www.fgno.com.