Fair Grounds runs the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on Saturday as the Derby trail swings back to New Orleans.
In addition, the point value for these races increases. In the previous round of preps, which finished on Monday with the Southwest at Oaklawn, points were awarded on a 10-4-2-1 scale. In this next round, starting with the Risen Star, points are awarded on a 50-20-10-5 scale. This basically ensures a berth in the gate for the winner and likely the runner-up as well.
Previously in Louisiana – LeComte Stakes (won by Guest Suite)
Guest Suite won the LeComte in January but is the co-third choice on the morning line for this race. Let’s take look:
1 – Girvin (6-1) – Joe Sharp enters this horse, who broke his maiden on debut in December with an 87 Beyer sprinting and ran second on turf going a mile on February 4th. He’s by Tale of Ekati, who won the Wood Memorial but was more of a miler and is half to Cocked and Loaded, a pure (but very good) sprinter. He figures to be a part of the pace, if not the outright pace-setter and if he runs back to his figure from the debut, he’ll be tough. However, a fast-paced 8.5 furlongs on dirt is a lot different than a slow-paced flat mile on turf.
2 – Untrapped (10-1) – I thought he had a pretty good trip in the LeComte when second, though he did have to wait for room a bit at the top of the stretch. Still, he is out of a Giant’s Causeway dam and the LeComte was his first time stretching out. Plus he figures to get a good trip from the inside here today.
3 – Local Hero (4-1) – He was very impressive in breaking his maiden on January 26th, setting a very fast pace and drowning an overmatched field in wire to wire fashion. The figure was basically confirmed by the second, fourth, and sixth place finishers too. He sold for $500,000 at the 2-year old sale, so he was cut out to be pretty good, but he’ll have to deal with Girvin early on and hold off the rest in his stakes debut. He might be really good, but I also think you’re supposed to make him prove it first.
4 – Arklow (15-1) – I thought he could have been a little closer last time. He was bumped by an angling-out Untrapped at the top of the lane and then hemmed in for much of the stretch run. It wasn’t a bad performance, but I find others a bit more interesting.
5 – Shareholder Value (15-1) – He was the horse we keyed off of in the LeComte and was a little disappointing. He sat back, got some pace, and just didn’t have the late punch necessary. We’ll be looking elsewhere today.
6 – Guest Suite (6-1) – The knock on his LeComte was the low 82 Beyer figure, which was, to be fair, earned with a good trip behind a fast pace. Still, his prior races were good, we love his trainer Neil Howard developing a horse over a series of races, and he might get some pace today at a pretty fair price.
7 – US Officer (20-1) – He has three wins but against much weaker and his career best Beyer (after seven starts) is just 71. He would be a major surprise, and 20-1 is probably half the price he should be.
8 – Cool Arrow (15-1) – He scratched out of the Southwest to run here, but ends up in a spot with some other good front-runners to his inside. One of those, Girvin, is also trained, like Cool Arrow, by Joe Sharp, so they’re both not going to the lead. Girvin is much faster on pace figures, so I’m guessing they are going to have Cool Arrow stalk from the outside. His only race that puts him in the mix was the Springboard Mile where he set a very slow pace. We’ll look elsewhere.
9 – Mo Town (7-2) – The Remsen winner shows up here after previously pointing for next week’s Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, but was reportedly doing so well they called the audible to run him here. He’s fast enough and the distance won’t be a problem. He has three straight bullet workouts (granted best of seven, four and six and it’s more important how he works than how fast he works) at Payson Park. Here’s one problem – the form of the Remsen has not held up well so far on the Derby trail:
No Dozing (2nd in Remsen) was 6th beaten 10 at 7-2 in the Sam F. Davis.
Takaful (3rd in Remsen) stopped to a walk in the Jerome at even-money.
Win With Pride (4th in Remsen) was 4th beaten 12.5 at 4-1 in the Jerome.
You’re to Blame (5th in Remsen) did come back to win, but won an allowance race at Parx with a lowly 68 Beyer for Chad Brown.
Tale of Slience (6th in Remsen) was 7th beaten 6.75 lengths in a Gulfstream allowance (though he later ran second behind impressive Pletcher runner Malagasy on February 12th).
Trainer Tony Dutrow is a good layoff trainer, but I don’t want to take him at 7-2 (or shorter) having beaten just the Remsen and a weak muddy-track maiden field. If he wins, so be it, and we won’t be surprised, but I think there are better bets.
10 – Takeoff (10-1) – He ran ok in the LeComte and was best among the pace horses at the finish of that race. Still, he’s going to have to be used early and chase a solid pace in this race too, and his previous win was earned walking on a slow pace in a December 26th maiden race.
11 – Sorry Erik (30-1) – Keith Desourmeaux ships this one in from Santa Anita where he just won an allowance race, albeit a slow one, earning a 71 Beyer, in his first race off a claim from Doug O’Neill. He would be a big surprise.
12 – Horse Fly (30-1) – This D Wayne Lukas longshot broke his maiden at Oaklawn on February 4th and is another one that seems overmatched.
13 – It’s Your Nickel (30-1) – Ken McPeek runs this one here off a neck-defeat in a January 27th allowance race in which he was placed first via DQ. He stalked an overmatched (45-1) pace rival and was caught late before getting put up. That was his first start since August, so he has a right to improve, but he’ll have to do so in a big way from a bad post.
14 – So Conflated (10-1) – Doug O’Neill’s California Derby winner will reportedly scratch and run in the Gotham at Aqueduct on March 4th after drawing the 14 post here.
The Pace – With Girvin and Local Hero going, and Takeoff and Sorry Erik likely to be used from outside posts, the pace should be strong and the field should hopefully be strung out enough to limit poor trips when they turn into the lane. It’s not inconceivable that one of those first two horses just forgets to come back, and of these two, I prefer Local Hero.
Analysis – We’re going to let Mo Town beat us at a short price off the layoff and with the questionable Remsen form behind him. If Guest Suite was 6-1, I would say that is value. I think he’s more likely to be 4-1. Our key horse is going to be Untrapped, who should keep improving as the distances get longer and with racing (this will be his fourth career start).
Win – 2
Exacta – 2, 6 / 2, 3, 4, 6 (6 combos)
Trifecta – 2, 6 / 2, 3, 6 / 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 (20 combos)