Friday, February 16, 2018

Handicapper's Corner: Risen Star Stakes (G2)

Is the Risen Star Stakes a Big Easy for Instilled Regard?

By: Nick Costa, Trackside with Trackman

This weekend our travels on the Derby Trail revisits the Big Easy for the Risen Star Stakes. The Grade 2 contest for three-year-olds trying to earn a berth in the Kentucky Derby on May 5th, is contested at a mile and a sixteenth at the Fair Grounds Racetrack.

The Risen Star, with a purse of $400,00 kicks off the first race on the Kentucky Derby prep schedule featuring higher point values with 50, 20, 10, and 5 points awarded to the top four finishers. 

Last month, the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes launched the Louisiana path to Louisville and offered points on a scale of 10-4-2-1. Next month, the Fair Grounds offers it third and final prep in the series, the Louisiana Derby. The Grade 1 affair, run at a mile and one-eighth, will double in points, giving 100-40-20-10 to the first four horses under the finish line.

The 2018 edition of Risen Star drew a field of 10 runners, including the top three finishers from January’s contest. The trio is highlighted by the Jerry Hollendorfer trained, Instilled Regard, who ships back to bayou country after having returned home to California following his win in the Lecomte. Principe Guilherme and Snapper Sinclair, the second and third-place finishers respectively, both hail from the Steve Asmussen barn.

The ‘Coach,’ 82-year old Wayne Lukas, a 4-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer, is once again looking to make some noise on the Derby road. He sends out a pair in Bravazo and Kentucky Club. Both horses enter the Risen Star off a victory in their last start. Lukas is a two-time winner of the Risen Star.

Of course, what would a Derby prep be without a runner from trainer Todd Pletcher? The former Lukas disciple will saddle undefeated, Noble Indy, who won by daylight in his seven-furlong maiden debut in December, before taking an allowance race in his first two-turn start last month.

A second undefeated horse with only two starts that is looking to accumulate points is Supreme Aura. The colt will be saddled by Michael Stidham who is among the leading trainers at the meet.

Post time is scheduled for 5:03 pm, local time.

PP - HORSE/Jockey/Trainer
1 - HIGH NORTH/Lanerie/Cox--When last seen in November, this colt beat more than half the field in the Kentucky Jockey Club after overcoming a ton of early trouble to close from far back and finish fourth. Works have been steady and solid, yet despite going out for a trainer who has a very high winning percentage, this horse probably needs the comeback race.

2 - NOBLE INDY/Velazquez/Pletcher—One of many Derby hopefuls from the ‘Todd Squad.’ After dispatching maiden and allowance fields impressively at Gulfstream, this race seems like the next logical spot to see if this talented colt is ready for graded stakes. Take note: The recent winner of the Holy Bull was also a Win-Star owned/Pletcher trained runner that was trying graded stakes for the first time.

3 - GIVEMEAMINIT/Bridgmohan/Stewart--Had graded stakes experience at two, with his best finish being a third-place in the seven-furlong Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. He was still a maiden until late last month when he romped over state-breds. Appears to produce his best form when going shorter.

4 - SNAPPER SINCLAIR/Beschizza/Asmussen-- He went back to the dirt for the Lecomte and certainly outran is 28-1 odds in finishing third. This colt had the lead for a short time before being caught and passed at the head of the stretch by the top two finishers. The performance was a big-time improvement, so maybe things are beginning to come together for him.

5 - INSTILLED REGARD/Castellano/Hollendorfer--The Lecomte winner was much the best while drawing away late to win with authority. Prior to that, he put in a strong effort in the Los Al Futurity, losing by less than a length after getting bumped and knocked around in the stretch run, before being placed second via dq. When you consider the results this colt has produced, it’s apparent he has talent. Should be difficult to deny once again.

6 – SUPREME AURA/Bravo/Stidham--Undefeated after two races and both wins came rather handily. Has won over the track and his trainer is having an excellent meet. Can he simultaneously step up and stretch out successfully? That’s always a tough task for young horses to accomplish. At the very least, his latest Bris speed figure fits in the mix.

7 – BRAVAZO/Stevens/Lukas—Last month, after nearly a two-month break, he won his three-year-old debut after coming out best in a stretch duel at Oaklawn Park. As a juvenile, he was graded stakes placed when finishing second in the Breeders Futurity. The winner of that affair most recently was runner-up in the Holy Bull Stakes, so this colt is not without merit. Difficult task lies ahead here, but he’s progressing in the right direction.

8 – KENTUCKY CLUB/Graham/Lukas--After six starts, this colt finally broke into the win ledger. Was it the drop to maiden claiming company, or the sloppy going? Maybe a little of both. His last effort produced his best Bris speed figure, but that number pales in comparison to that of his rivals. Can’t see him having any impact here.

9 – PRINCIPE GUILHERME/Geroux/Asmussen--Was visually impressive winning his first two starts by a combined 17-lengths. Overcame trouble in the Lecomte to get up for second. Didn’t break well from post 12, got bumped pretty hard thereafter and was forced to take the scenic route. Was rated for the first time while stepping up sharply in class. All that in just his third career start. Drew wide again, so hopefully, he can get a smoother trip. If he does, look out. 

10- EBBEN/Saez/Margolis--Another returnee from the Lecomte, where he finished mid-pack following a wide trip from a far outside post. He could suffer a similar fate here again. He did record an amazing four-furlong drill (:47 1/5) last week, ‘best of 108 horses’ that worked at the distance. However, that alone won’t get it done. Appears outclassed.

Analysis: This race comes down to Instilled Regard and Principe Guilherme for the win. The former easily put away a Lecomte field that featured a few stakes winners, with a powerful finish resulting in an authoritative victory. There are no stake winning rivals in this group. Instilled Regard continues to progress with each start, and his two preps have shown why he is currently among the top Kentucky Derby contenders. He has the class and talent to get it done.

The latter runner crushed the opposition in his first two starts before heading into what was the toughest and deepest field he faced. Despite finishing second, Principe Guilherme came through his ordeal with flying colors. He gained valuable experience and is a much-improved horse because of it. If he receives a better trip in this spot, he is a legitimate threat to turn the tables on the Lecomte winner.

Wager: Since both horses are expected to be well supported and the top two betting choices, there won’t be any value in backing either in the win pool. However, I will put both horses in the top two slots in superfectas with five others in the third and fourth positions.
I will also box my top two choices in an exacta.
With $100 Thorofan dollars, I’ll construct my wagers this way. 
$1.00 Superfecta - 5,9/5,9/1,2,4,6,7/1,2,4,6,7 = $40 cost
$30.00 Exacta Box – 5,9 = $60 cost
Good luck, and as always, enjoy the race.

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