The Winner Of The Risen Star Is…

The chase for Kentucky Derby points will take on a different perspective after Saturday’s running of the Risen Star Stakes at Fairgrounds.

It’s the first race with a 50-point top prize on the Road To The Kentucky Derby.

Previous preps have put their top finishers in a contending position for a berth, but taking the Risen Star will give the Winner more than enough points to assure him of a spot in the field for the Run for the Roses on May 6th.

That kind of reward, plus a $400,000 purse, clarifies why a field of 14 hopefuls are going to give it a go in New Orleans.

1. QUIET AS MIDNIGHT [ML 50-1] Jockey: Emanuel Nieves. Trainer: Bernard Chatters. He has yet to race beyond seven furlongs so he’s stretching out here. The rail helps but with a lone Win in a $20,000 Maiden Claimer. The big question about him is WHY?

2. SINGLE RULER [ML 30-1] Jockey: Jose Riquelme. Trainer: Keith Desormeaux.  It took him five tries to break his Maiden and he finally broke through last time out. Has some late kick but will need to take a HUGE step forward to advance from a Maiden Winner to a Grade 2 Stakes Winner.

3. SHAQ DIESEL [ML 30-1] Jockey: Adam Beschizza. Trainer: Renaldo Richards.  Has plenty of experience with seven career starts which includes three Wins. Yet with two coming in Starter races and the other in a Maiden Claimer, he lacks the class to be considered a main threat here.

4. DETERMINEDLY [ML 8-1] Jockey: Reylu Gutierrez. Trainer: Mark Casse.  Chased the Winner in the Gun Runner Stakes before dropping back to 3rd at the wire. Rebounded with a nice Allowance Win, but the added distance here at 1 1/8 miles may not suit him.

5. HARLOCAP [ML 8-1] Jockey: John Velazquez. Trainer: Steve Asmussen. Has moved from the Baffert  barn to Asmussen’s in order to chase Kentucky Derby points here. He broke through with a sharp Maiden Win last time out at Santa Anita and if he can duplicate or improve on that effort, he can be a threat here.

6. ANGEL OF EMPIRE [ML 8-1]  Jockey: Luis Saez. Trainer: Brad Cox. One of three starters from trainer Brad Cox. He was 2nd by three lengths in the Smarty Jones to stablemate VICTORY FORMATION-who led throughout and will be one of the favorites here. A fast pace could certainly help his chances and a jockey switch to Saez is a big plus.

7. SUN THUNDER [ML 15-1]  Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. Trainer: Ken McPeek. Was an impressive Maiden Winner but then failed to threaten in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He did face a tough customer there in ARABIAN KNIGHT. He might relish the added ground in this contest. Deserves at least a second look here.

8. TAPIT’S CONQUEST [ML 6-1] Jockey: Florent Geroux. Trainer: Brad Cox. Rallied nicely along the rail while finishing 2nd to DETERMINEDLY in his first try against non-maidens. He figures to benefit from that experience and a fast workout for this race seems to indicate he could take a step forward with this opportunity.

9. CURLY JACK [ML 8-1] Jockey: Edgar Morales. Trainer: Tom Amoss.  Closed out a promising 2-year-old season with a good 2nd place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He’s been training in solid fashion for his 3-year-old debut here, but one wonders if nine furlongs might be a couple poles too long for his first start in nearly three months.

10. TWO PHIL’S [ML 8-1] Jockey: Jareth Loveberry. Trainer: Larry Rivelli.  Took his 2-year-old finale in resounding fashion by Winning the Grade 3 STREET SENSE STAKES by 5 1/4 lengths. Started the new year by finishing 2nd to a top Kentucky Derby prospect- INSTANT COFFEE in and since then put in a quick bullet work for this race. He has the credentials to be a main player.

11. SILVER HEIST [ML 12-1] Jockey: Corey Lanerie. Trainer: Steve Asmussen.  He was 3rd behind DETERMINEDLY and TAPIT’S CONQUEST in the previously mentioned Allowance race, finishing only a length behind. He also put in a bullet work for this and has the look of an improving 3-year-old for a very successful jockey/trainer combination.

12. CRUPI [ML 15-1] Jockey: James Graham. Trainer: Todd Pletcher.  He’s a Maiden after five career starts but this CURLIN colt is not awful. Trained by Pletcher, he seems to just go through the motions at the start and then rallies belatedly to hit the board. Seemed hopelessly beaten last time, then missed by a head to an  intriguing Maiden Winner in SLIP MAHONEY. He has the right connections and if the price is right… merits inclusion in the exotics.

13. VICTORY FORMATION [ML 3-1] Jockey: Flavien Prat. Trainer: Brad Cox.  He’s undefeated in three starts and was a decisive Winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes on the front end. Draws a tough post here, but with his speed, he can move inside on the turn and work out a good trip. Seemingly the one to beat in this field.

14. PRIVATE CREED [ML 12-1] Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. Trainer: Steve Asmussen.  He’s only raced on turf and while he has some ability, drawing post 14 makes a difficult challenge an even more formidable task. This is a strong field and he’s no Rocky Balboa.

The Risen Star Stakes is the final race on a card of 13 at Fairgrounds with a scheduled Post Time of 7:15.

Best of luck with all your plays on Saturday.

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