Derby Trail Preview: Risen Star (G2)

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The Derby Trail continues in New Orleans on Saturday as Fair Grounds runs a stakes-laden card that is headed by the G2 Risen Star Stakes and Instilled Regard, winner of the Lecomte last month for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Derby Points – This race is an 85 point race, with 50 to the winner. Thus, the winner is almost guaranteed a spot in the Derby starting gate. (Monday’s Southwest Stakes only offers 20 points to the winner, but there are three preps left at Oaklawn, including the Southwest. There are just two left – this Risen Star and next month’s Louisiana Derby – left at Fair Grounds.)

Here is our look at last month’s Lecomte, which features several of these horses. Let’s take a look at the field for the Risen Star.

#1 High North (15-1) – Brad Cox sends out this son of Midnight Lute for his first start since the Thanksgiving-weekend Kentucky Jockey Club. We liked his debut race at Saratoga, where he was wide off a gold rail, and then got wired by Withers winner Avery Island in his second start. After breaking his maiden, he was 4th in the KJC after having some trouble on the first turn behind a horse that had tossed his rider. He mostly had a good trip thereafter but was probably farther back than intended. It is, however, a concern that both Enticed and Tiz Mischief, who ran 1-2 in there, have come back to disappoint in the Holy Bull and Sam Davis over the last two weeks, but High North will be a big price for a good trainer and we’re using underneath.

#2 Noble Indy (5-1) – This Todd Pletcher runner was fractious behind the gate in his Gulfstream debut before blowing out a very weak field in his debut. He then out-grinded Mississippi (who ran 2nd in a GP allowance last week, matching his figure) in an allowance race on January 11th. He should be part of the pace, but we can’t say we’ve loved either one of his races and he will not be a huge price.

#3 Givemeaminit (15-1) – We’ve always liked this Dallas Stewart-trained Louisiana-bred but it should be noted that his best figures are all in his one-turn races and his two-turn races leave him a cut below the best of his generation.

#4 Snapper Sinclair (8-1) – He stretched out for his first dirt route last month in the Lecomte and ran very well, pressing a pretty fast pace and holding well to be third. He’ll have to deal with Noble Indy today and hold off the stalkers and closers, as well as deal with a little extra distance. We definitely liked his last race but we want to see him do it one more time.

#5 Instilled Regard (8-5) – The gift we provided our office Christmas gift exchange was a $25 Kentucky Derby Future Wager in pool two that ran last week. We ended up going with a $25 bet on Instilled Regard at 17-1. If he runs back to either of his last two races, he is going to be awfully tough to beat and he has the tactical speed to make his own trip. He was pretty impressive

#6 Supreme Aura (8-1) – He’s 2-2 but both were at six furlongs. His dam was 0-2 sprinting and the second dam was 0-2 with one sprint and one route. The lone sibling is a low-level horse that is 0-4. However, he is by Candy Ride and the dam is by Mr. Greeley so the 8.5 furlong distance should be within his scope. He’s an interesting underneath use. Trainer Michael Stidham is 11-85 ($0.87 ROI) going sprint-to-route on dirt (DRF Formulator).

#7 Bravazo (8-1) – He took a huge step forward in his Oaklawn allowance race on January 13th for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. His last race of the year, the Kentucky Jockey Club, was not a good performance, but his Street Sense, his penultimate race of 2017, was better than it looks as he pressed a fast pace that fell apart. We liked his allowance at Oaklawn in which he was squeezed at the start and then ran down a loose-on-the-lead Ezmosh, earning an 89 Beyer. He was the only horse to make up any ground, though Ezmosh may have been best as he was cutting out a strong pace. Either way, it was a breakthrough race for Bravazo and he will be an interesting price alternative to the favorite.

#8 Kentucky Club (30-1) – He got a fast pace to close into and a sloppy track to glide over in an 8-length win at Oaklawn on January 27th. Even that race, however, was slow, earning a 75 Beyer and he is an outsider here.

#9 Principe Guilherme (7-2) – He was the 6-5 favorite over Instilled Regard in the Lecomte last month and after running on the lead in his first two starts, got bumped a bit at the start and found himself in sixth at the first call last time while tracking wide. He put in a good run but it wasn’t enough, but certainly his race was strong in his first try against winners. What does that mean for today? He drew poorly again and is going to have to stalk wide and out-kick Instilled Regard. He can do it, and it’s only his fourth career start, but at a short price, we’re looking elsewhere on top.

#10 Ebben (30-1) – He was sixth in the Lecomte after a Churchill allowance win in November but is going to have to take a big step forward here.

The Pace – The pace should be fair but not blazing. Noble Indy and Snapper Sinclair will be up on the lead with Principe Guilherme likely pressing with Supreme Aura.

The Pick – Instilled Regard was very impressive in the Lecomte but we’re going to take a small shot against him with Bravazo, provided we get at least 7-1. In multis, those will be our two “A” horses. High North will be a horse we use underneath in vertical wagers and the top choice that we are against is Noble Indy. Good luck!

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