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The Risen Star Stakes (G2), the first 50-point prep race on the Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby (G1), kicks off the second series of prep races that all but guarantees the winner a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday of May.
A field of 13 make up the entry box, making this the season’s largest prep so far. The 1 1/8-mile Risen Star will go off as race 13 of the Saturday card and has a local post time of 6:18 PM.
Leading the field is the Steve Asmussen-trained Midnight Bourbon, who won the Lecomte Stakes (G3) last time out over this track. The front-running colt has faced some of the toughest competition in his crop so far and has never finished outside the top 3 in 5 starts. Joe Talamo will be aboard once again, breaking from post 5
One intriguing entry is Senor Buscador, an impressive victory of both starts including the Remington Park Springboard Mile by nearly 6 lengths. The stretch-running colt gets Luis Quinonez to ride, breaking from post 5.
The full field from the rail out: Starrininmydreams, Proxy, Beep Beep, Carillo, Senor Buscador, Midnight Bourbon, O Besos, Sermononthemount, Defeater, Santa Cruiser, Mandaloun, Keepmeinmind, and Rightandjust.
#5 Senor Buscador – He has some question marks from a class standpoint, but both victories were ultra-impressive. His turn of foot is definitely eye-catching, but can he circle a field of better horses than what he faced at Remington? At the very least, he should love stretching out in distance and the long Fair Grounds stretch could benefit the Todd Fincher trainee’s late-running style.
“I’ve never been (to Fair Grounds), it’s a big race, there’s Kentucky Derby points on the line, and I’m really looking forward to it,” Fincher said. “I think the distance is absolutely in his favor. My wish list would be 2 preps (total) and hopefully qualify for the Kentucky Derby.”
#6 Midnight Bourbon – It’s always tough to beat Asmussen at this track, and while getting a similar trip to his Lecome win seems unlikely, this horse doesn’t have to have the lead to win. He was solid as a 2-year-old and seems to continue developing with each race.
“I think the 1 1/8 miles is right in his wheelhouse and we’re excited about running him in this series because of the distance of these preps,” Asmussen said. “He’s an efficient mover with a high cruising speed and horses like that can be very effective at the Fair Grounds. We were very pleased with how he started off the year and this is the next step.”
#2 Proxy – He stepped up nicely last time out in the Lecomte, finishing second by 1 length while holding off Mandaloun . The added distance should be something that he enjoys and he’s never finished worse than second in 4 starts, so the Mike Stidham trainee must be respected.
“He’s still a work in progress, but I like having a 3-year-old that I think has something left that we haven’t seen yet,” Stidham said. “He’s still figuring it out, both mentally and physically, but in his works and in his races, he seems to be getting a little better, and I think that’s where he is right now. Now that we’re getting into these longer races, it starts to separate them a little bit, and I think that’s really going to help my horse, and I’m not sure that’s the case for everybody.”
#11 Mandaloun – He was a bit disappointing last time out, finishing third in the Lecomte as the 4/5 favorite despite having the entire stretch to catch Midnight Bourbon and Proxy. However, it’s hard to give up on a Brad Cox trainee, even one that must improve to have a shot. Cox adds blinkers for the first time.
“I feel like (working with blinkers since the Lecomte) has shown some progression and he can take that next step forward with them and have more focus late,” Cox said. “He was right there in the Lecomte and he was wide. The two horses that finished in front of us had a little more seasoning and I think he got a lot out of that race.”
#1 Starrininmydreams – After 2 impressive wins at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old, it’s nice to see trainer Dallas Stewart getting this one going as a 3-year-old. He’ll need to develop from a speed figure standpoint to have a chance, but there’s reason to believe he’ll move forward. Hitting the board at a big price is a Dallas Stewart specialty.
#13 Rightandjust – It’ll be interesting to see how he runs after winning a seemingly loaded allowance race on the Lecomte undercard. This post could hurt his chances a bit because he led every step of his last 2 starts, but he seems to have a good amount of talent and could hit the board here with some luck.
#4 Carillo – This is an interesting entry for trainer Tom Amoss, who’s running this horse out of his barn for the first time after Carillo broke his maiden at Aqueduct on debut going 1 mile. He attracted Amoss’ go-to rider James Graham, a good sign. Let’s keep an eye on this one’s price.
“He trains like he ran and shows a great deal of stamina in the mornings and in his workouts,” said Amoss, who received the colt after he was privately purchased at auction following the passing of Paul Pompa Jr., his breeder and former owner. “He shows a very good turn of foot at the end. The horse is pretty straightforward since I’ve gotten him. He needs to show he can make the transition from one to two turns, but he’s not the only horse like that at this time of year. All things point to that being something he’s going to successfully do, but he hasn’t done it at this point.”
#9 Defeater – It’s hard to know what to expect with this horse off just a 6-furlong maiden special weight. This major stretch out will likely be tough and Amoss put his go-to rider on Carillo.
#10 Santa Cruiser – Hopefully, he can get out of the gate a bit better after losing all chance last time out when he broke slowly and got shuffled to the back instead of taking the early lead. With a better trip, he’ll have a chance, but he still has a lot of proving to do in this spot.
#7 O Besos – This colt has won 2 straight races impressively; however, those were btoh sprints. Like Defeater, stretching out will be tough and makes him questionable here.
#3 Beep Beep – He has a lot of proving to do after getting smoked in an allowance last time out over this track. He must bounce back in a big way if he hopes to have any chance of making an impact in this spot.
#8 Sermononthemount – It’s a big jump in class from Delta Downs to Fair Grounds, which he put on display 2 races back when sixth in the Sugar Bowl Stakes over this surface. He later returned to win an allowance at Delta Downs, but he’s back to face even tougher company this time.
#12 Keepmeinmind – He will scratch in favor of the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park on February 20.
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