NEW ORLEANS, LA – Martin and Pam Wygod homebred Modernist sprung the 12/1 upset with a hard-fought effort in Saturday’s second division of the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) at Fair Grounds.

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Breaking from the rail under Junior Alvarado at 12/1 odds, Modernist shot forward and raced inside of Ny Traffic, who was hell-bent on getting the lead from post 12. Racing heads apart, the two led the field of 11 through opening fractions of :24.38, :48.57, and 1:12.62.

Emerging onto the front stretch under a drive, the top pair were quickly joined by Mailman Money and Major Fed, and the race was on. Modernist shook clear near the 1/8 pole and kept trucking his way to the wire, crossing a length ahead of Major Fed.

Trained by Bill Mott, Modernist completed the 1 1/8-mile event over the fast main track in a final time of 1:51.28.

Credit: Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

“I took advantage of being drawn on the rail,” Alvarado said. “He put me in a good spot early on, and when I asked for more, he gave it to me. I’ve always been high on him. I think he’s still learning how to be a race horse, but he has so much talent and I’m really proud of him.”

Major Fed necked out Ny Traffic for second, while Mailman Money was 1 1/4 lengths behind in fourth. Mr. Big News was a head and a nose over Lynn’s Map and Finnick the Fierce, respectively, with Excessive just behind them in eighth.

Anneau d’Or, the even-money favorite, raced within range of the pacesetters early but came up empty as he straightened for home and faded to ninth. Liam’s Lucky Charm and Fame to Famous completed the order of finish. Truculent was scratched.

The Risen Star is part of the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Modernist earned 50 points for the win, with Major Fed receiving 20 for second, Ny Traffic 10 for third, and Mailman Money 5 for fourth.

Modernist’s win followed his maiden-breaking effort while going 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct on January 25. The 3-year-old son of Uncle Mo now sports a record of 4-2-0-1 with $288,800 earned.

“He won at a mile and 1/8 in New York and has progressed really well in this early part of his 3-year-old year,” Mott said. “He’s become more mature and has been more professional about everything. I couldn’t be more delighted with how he acted in the paddock and post parade. I told Junior to take advantage of the one hole. The horse handled everything really well.”

Though this was Modernist’s first start outside the state of New York, Mott said that he intends to return to New Orleans for his next appearance.

“I think the plan is going to the Louisiana Derby (G2),” Mott said. “He is very similar to Country House (who won the 2019 Kentucky Derby [G1]) and I want to follow the same path as I did. This horse is a little more mature than Country House was at this point last year, so it’s exciting.”

Modernist returned $27.60 to win, $14.20 to place, and $8 to show. Major Fed brought back $9.80 to place and $6.40 to show, while Ny Traffic paid $8 to show.