NEW ORLEANS, LA – Calumet Farm’s homebred Bravazo spent almost the entire race within a foot of the leader before extending his nose in the final jumps to take Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds.
Dismissed by most bettors at odds of 21/1, Bravazo broke sharply from post 7 under Miguel Mena and quickly contested the pace to the outside of Snapper Sinclair through the first turn. Bravazo remained tightly to the leader’s right hip through tepid opening fractions of :24.15, :47.96, and 1:12.85 while Noble Indy and the favored Instilled Regard stalked close behind. Emerging from the far turn, the front-running duo began to distance themselves while pushing each other hard with every step. Bravazo seemed to slightly drift out late, but the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt still prevailed by a nose at the wire in a final time of 1:42.95 for the 1 1/16-mile main track event.
“It’s very exciting and I’m very thankful to Mr. Lukas because they gave me the chance on such a nice horse,” Mena said. “The horse came out sharp and he was on the bridle nice. I was confident and had a lot of horse. The horse on the inside was hard to beat. I didn’t know if I had it, but thankfully, I did. I have a nice horse.”
For trainer Steve Asmussen, seeing Snapper Sinclair come so close and just miss out was tough, but the conditioner also acknowledged the positive changes that the horse had made since his prior start in the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes, where he finished third, a neck behind touted stablemate Principe Guilherme.
“Snapper Sinclair ran hard,” Asmussen said. “It’s disappointing to lose a photo in such a serious race, but you end up being very proud of the horse’s effort.”
The connections for Noble Indy, making his first start against graded company, might have wished for a better start to the race. After acting rambunctious both in the paddock and in the gate, he was bumped after the break before settling bit off the pace into the far turn. Alongside Instilled Regard, Noble Indy chased after the leaders down the stretch in vain but managed to beat Instilled Regard across the line by a neck under jockey John Velazquez.
“That’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to teach him,” Velazquez said. “I wanted to give him a good schooling and see how he reacted. In the end, he ran good, just a little green, that’s it.”
High North took fifth, with Ebben nosing out Principe Guilherme for sixth. Givemeaminit and Supreme Aura completed the order of finish, while Kentucky Club was scratched.
The Risen Star is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Bravazo earned 50 points for the win, with Snapper Sinclair receiving 20 for second, Noble Indy 10 for third, and Instilled Regard 5 for fourth.
“Those two horses (Bravazo and Snapper Sinclair) never came back to me at all,” said Javier Castellano, the jockey aboard Instilled Regard. “I had the same trip as I did last time. He relaxed behind horses and I looked for that kick, but he never gave it to me today. He felt good and healthy, but unfortunately, today wasn’t the day.”
Bravazo’s victory was his second straight of 2018 after winning an optional claiming event at Oaklawn Park on January 13. The 3-year-old son of Awesome Again improved his record to 7-3-1-1 with career earnings of $426,528. According to Lukas, fans at Fair Grounds should expect to see Bravazo return for the Grade 1 Louisiana Derby on March 24.
“I didn’t know it was that close,” Lukas said by phone from his base in Hot Springs, AR. “(Mena) was getting into him pretty good and he drifted out. That cost us a little bit. He’s a fighter. He’s tough. He’s got real good tactical speed. He’s a horse that carries his weight well and can withstand training up to the Derby.”
Following Bravazo’s Risen Star victory, expect to see Mena – currently the Fair Grounds leading rider – reunited with the horse in his next start.
“We’ll get him back here with me, and if everything checks out and goes right, then I’m going to lock up Miguel Mena,” Lukas said. “I’ll pack him and the horse in Styrofoam and keep them under lock and key until the next race.”
Bravazo returned $44 to win, $15.40 to place, and $7.80 to show. Snapper Sinclair brought back $26.60 to place and $9.80 to show, while Noble Indy paid $4.20 to show.