The $400,000 Risen Star (G2) is the second leg of Fair Grounds Race Course’s road to Kentucky Derby 2018 and the first prep to offer 50 Derby qualifying points to the winner. To be run at a mile and a sixteenth, the race has drawn a field of 10.
Four 3-year-olds have returned from the Lecomte (G3) including the top three finishers. Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer sent Instilled Regard to New Orleans after he got the worst of the rough finish in the Los Alamitos Futurity while being squeezed between Solomini and McKinzie. That California contest has been a key race on the Derby trail as proven by Instilled Regard’s impressive 3 ¾ length win in the Lecomte. That victory launched the son of Arch high onto many Derby lists including Derby Day Racing’s Top 10 where he currently sits in the third position. Jockey Javier Castellano gave the $ 1.05 million Ocala 2-year-old purchase a perfect trip in his first time aboard. (#5) Instilled Regard [ML 8-5] looms as the one to beat.
Principe Guilherme entered the Lecomte off two open length victories to start his career. The less experienced Steve Asmussen trainee was sent off as the 1.20-1 favorite even though he was breaking from post position 10 in a field of thirteen. The son of Tapit did not have the best of trips while getting bumped and racing a bit wide throughout the race. Still, he rallied gamely to get second. No doubt that he gained valuable experience from that effort. (#9) Principe Guillherme [ML 7-2] has the talent to come out on top.
The third-place finisher in the Lecomte was Snapper Sinclair, who also comes from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. With two turf wins under his belt the son of City Zip was given an opportunity on the Derby trail. After contending the pace throughout the race, the Bloom Racing colt was beaten by the very talented first two while topping the next horse by three-lengths. (#4) Snapper Sinclair [ML 8-1] gets another chance to pick up some Derby points.
Ebben comes into the Risen Star with a lengthy resume. The bargain $25,000 yearling purchase has two wins from seven starts. The Steve Margolis trainee has tried stakes company four times already with his best finish being a fourth place in the Iroquois for 2-year-olds. In the Lecomte, he ran evenly but was never in contention. (#10) Ebben [ML 30-1] seems over matched in graded stakes company.
The Risen Star has three horses coming into the race off of an allowance victory. Noble Indy is the latest from the Todd Pletcher barn who is making his Derby trail debut after an allowance win. Audible won the Holy Bull and Vino Rosso was a fast closing third in the Sam F. Davis. Now it is the turn of this son of Take Charge Indy, who won both of his starts at Gulfstream Park while racing on or near the lead. In his allowance victory around two-turns, he showed determination by defeating the talented Mississippi after a head to head stretch run. (#2) Noble Indy [ML 5-1] should handle the step-up into graded stakes company.
Trainer Michael Stidham sends Supreme Aura onto the Derby trail after winning his first two starts. This son of Candy Ride debuted at Delaware Park in August and then took a January allowance at Fair Grounds. Both of those races were six-furlong sprints and were won while coming from off the pace. Stidham put two strong six-panel workouts into his charge to try and prepare him for the jump to graded stakes company and the two-turns. For (#6) Supreme Aura [ML 8-1] this spot may just be too much to ask too soon.
Bravazo most recently won an allowance at Oaklawn Park for the Hall of Fame Derby winning duo of D. Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens. This Calumet Farms home-bred son of Awesome Again is twice stakes placed in the Breeders Futurity (G2) and then the Street Sense. His allowance win may have been his best run after overcoming a bad start and a wide trip. With his connections and resume, (#7) Bravazo [ML 8-1] has a chance to pick up some Derby points.
The rest of the field are taking a shot in the Risen Star with just a maiden victory to their credit beginning with High North. This son of Midnight Lute got his first win at Keeneland in October in his third career star while going two turns. Trainer Brad Cox wheeled him right back in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) to get fourth after rallying from the back of the pack. His preparation includes a recent bullet work going five furlongs at the Fair Grounds. (#1) High North [ML 15-1] has chosen an ambitious spot for 2018 debut.
Givemeaminit has had seven starts of which four came in graded stakes company, but he didn’t get his first win until the end of January in a state-bred maiden sprint at the Fair Grounds. The Dallas Stewart runner picked up two Derby points when he finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and missed all the money in the Hopeful (G1) by just a neck. (#3) Givemeaminit [ML 15-1] has some talent but seems up against it.
The second entry from Lukas and Calumet, Kentucky Club, is the field’s longshot. The son of Oxbow struggled in maiden special weight company for five starts but was able to get that first win when dropped into a $30,000 maiden claimer. The win should help his confidence; however, (#8) Kentucky Club [ML 30-1] SCRATCHED seems to have little chance.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
The rematch of Instilled Regard and Principe Guilherme alone is intriguing but throw in the likes of Noble Indy and Snapper Sinclair and it gives the Risen Star one of the best fields on the Derby trail thus far. There is a lot more on the line now because the 50-20-10-5 point breakdown basically makes this a ‘win and you’re in’ affair.
All four of these runners like to stay fairly close to early pace. Principe Guilherme ran on the lead in his first two starts and then was forced to try and rally after the wide trip in the Lecomte. It will be interesting to see what strategy Geroux and Asmussen employ from the 10-hole with the speed of Noble Indy and Snapper Sinclair inside of him.
While this scenario plays out, Castellano will be staking with Instilled Regard, which seems to give them a big strategic advantage. With his talent, experience, and probable good set-up, Instilled Regard is the likeliest of winners.
On the wagering side, I will look at an exacta key box using Instilled Regard with Principe Guilherme and Nobly Indy [exacta box 5 with 2,9]. No big prices there, but it seems a likely outcome.
Photo of Instilled Regard courtesy of Hodges Photography