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The Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby continues Saturday with the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. As the stakes get higher, the fields get better, and that will certainly be the case in New Orleans on Saturday, as a quality field of ten 3-year-olds are set to do battle in the season’s first 50-point race.
The Grade 3 LeComte Stakes winner, Instilled Regard, returns looking for two wins in a row. The morning line favorite shipped to New Orleans earlier in the week, and by all indications, he’s sitting on another big race. The son of Arch has flourished since stretching out in distance and really seemed to enjoy the long Fair Grounds stretch. Drawing the five hole seems perfect for this race. He should secure a nice stalking position once again, and jockey Javier Castellano returns for the mount.
Principe Guilherme was the LeComte runner-up and will likely be the second choice in this race. After a pair of wire-to-wire dominating victories against lessor company, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt ran well to finish second against much tougher company while also getting an education. That should lead to an improved effort in this race and could also lead to him being a bit more forwardly-placed.
The dangerous “new shooter” to the race will be the Todd Pletcher-trained Noble Indy. This is the time of year where Pletcher 3-year-olds really shine, something we already witnessed when Audible won the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes and Vino Rosso finishing a solid third in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes. Noble Indy is coming off of a nice Gulfstream Park allowance win, Pletcher believes that the timing is perfect.
“We were just looking for a logical prep timing-wise,” Pletcher said by phone from his South Florida base. “He’s been doing really well and came out of his last race well. There are essentially options every weekend, but we feel like this is a good spot for him. He’s shown a tremendous amount of talent, not only in the mornings, but in both of his races. He’s a horse with a pedigree that suggests he’ll handle longer distances. Right now, he’s at that stage of development in his career where it’s time to step up into the graded stakes ranks and see where he fits in the big picture. We think he’s a horse that belongs on the Derby Trail, and we’re hoping he handles each step up in class, and so far, he has.”
The Risen Star will go off at 5:03 PM CST as race 9 on a card featuring 12 races, including three other graded stakes events. The field from the rail out for the Risen Star: High North, Noble Indy, Givemeaminit, Snapper Sinclair, Instilled Regard, Supreme Aura, Bravazo, Kentucky Club, Principe Guilherme, and Ebben.
#5 Instilled Regard – He continues to impress and get better with each race and has stamped himself as a top-notch Kentucky Derby prospect. He dusted his foes with ease in the LeComte in his last start over this track and should be set up to do more of the same here. The Grade 1 Los Alamitos Derby has become a “key race” on this year’s Derby Trail: three starters have come back to win, and it’s important to note that Solomini probably would have made it four starters to come back and win if he would have been able to start in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis last weekend. Instilled Regard has the talent and class to get the job done here, and his connections continue to be very high on him.
#9 Principe Guilherme – He gained valuable stakes experience in the LeComte, finishing second to the talented Instilled Regard. He started his career with crushing victories against lessor company, but he probably learned more from his runner-up effort last time out. Unfortunately, he draws outside once again, which isn’t a positive, but expect him to be a bit more forwardly placed in this spot. Asmussen wasn’t necessarily critical of the LeComte ride, but he did suggest that he thought the horse would be closer to the pace. This time around, expect Instilled Regard to be the one having to run Principe Guilherme down.
#2 Noble Indy – He looks like the typical Pletcher trainee that’s progressing towards a big-time effort. He won his maiden on debut at Gulfstream Park with ease, then returned to take home an allowance race in his next start over a nice colt named Mississippi. If he follows the typical Pletcher trend, then he’ll be primed to pull off the upset here. Based on the Thorograph numbers, he is the play in the race, as the figure from his last race was very high. He’s a really strong alternative if you don’t have interest in the two favorites.
#7 Bravazo – He finished second in the Grade 2 Breeders’ Futurity as a 2-year-old, but that was the highlight of his season, as he’s since struggled in other stakes races. However, his debut 3-year-old race at Oaklawn Park was fantastic, as he made a huge move around the turn to win a tough allowance event. Jockey Gary Stevens suggested that Bravazo “became a man” that day, and he may very well be right. Winning this race will require yet another step up, but he’s plenty good enough to make some noise if he can repeat his last effort.
#1 High North – He entered his last race as a “wise-guy” horse, but then he had all kinds of traffic trouble because of a fallen foe in front of him. He still went on to finish fourth, but he might have been better without the trouble. His training suggests that he’s ready for a solid effort, and trainer Brad Cox is having another successful meet at Fair Grounds. Looks to be an intriguing prospect.
#4 Snapper Sinclair – He tried dirt last time out in the LeComte and finished a game third, which certainly suggests that it’s worth another try in this spot. He might not be overly talented, but he seems to be a hard-trying type that foes will have to work hard to beat. The early speed shown in the LeComte will always make him semi-dangerous, but once again today it looks like he will have plenty of company up front. Still, he could hang around for a piece of it.
#3 Givemeaminit – It was nice to see this classy horse finally break his maiden in his last start after knocking heads with top flight-talent his entire 2-year-old year. A solid run in this spot would not be a surprise, but he needs to continue to improve. Trainer Dallas Stewart has had major success in these Fair Grounds races in the past, which is a positive. He’ll likely play a factor here in some way, but he may not be good enough to actually win.
#6 Supreme Aura – He’s the up-and-coming horse in the group with a perfect two-for-two record in his young career. Last time out, he impressively won at Fair Grounds in an allowance event, but this will be a major class test. This is surely to be the wise guy horse in the race, but with all the star power on the top end here, it could lead to Supreme Aura being a playable price. Last weekend, Flameaway was listed as a “Party Crasher” and won the Sam F. Davis at great odds. We’ll see if this colt is ready for this kind of class.
#10 Ebben – He struggled to a sixth-place finish in his last start in the LeComte, and he’ll give it another go in a much tougher spot. He has to improve or it will be more of the same.
#8 Kentucky Club – He improved dramatically in his last start, dominating maiden claiming company by 8 lengths. He gets thrown into the deep end of the pool here, though, as this class jump is about as steep as it gets.
Be sure to check the Risen Star Stakes page for more details on the race, undercard entries, news, past winners, and more!
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