As Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame infielder Ernie Banks might have said about Saturday’s Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, let’s race two.
For the first time in a quarter-century, the Risen Star will be run in two divisions as 23 horses passed the entry box for the race over the weekend. Fair Grounds’ decision to split the race while offering the advertised purse of $400,000 for each division means that both will offer Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 50-20-10-5 to the top four finishers. Essentially, the two winners will virtually be assured of a position in the starting gate for the May 2 Kentucky Derby (G1).
With the top three finishers from last month’s Lecomte (G3) as well as the top two from an allowance contested on the same Jan. 18 program, the first division of the Risen Star arguably attracted the deeper field. The increase in distance of this year’s Risen Star from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/8 miles is also sure to work to the benefit of Lecomte winner Enforceable, the seven-start veteran who appears to be hitting his best stride with maturity and distance.
“We couldn’t be any happier with him,” said David Carroll, assistant to trainer Mark Casse. “He’s a horse who trains himself. He loves going out in the mornings and doing his work. He does it very professionally every morning and well within himself. It was a nice and easy breeze Saturday morning and a nice gallop out. He has so much foundation that he doesn’t need a whole lot of training at this point.”
Silver State was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Enforceable is what was his two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte, with Mr. Monomoy, a half-brother to champion filly Monomoy Girl, a neck behind in third. Also back from the Lecomte are also-rans Scabbard and Shashashakemeup.
Enforceable earned a 94 Brisnet speed rating winning the Lecomte, but earning a 95 for winning an allowance at the same distance earlier in the card was Blackberry Wine, who regained the lead from Digital in the final furlong to post one-length victory, his second in three tries on the dirt. In addition to Digital, trainer Bret Calhoun also saddles Ready to Roll, a 7 1/2-length maiden scorer at Oaklawn three weeks ago.
Shipping in from Florida for this Risen Star division are Moon Over Miami for Bill Mott, Farmington Road for Todd Pletcher, and Perfect Revenge for Saffie Joseph Jr. Moon Over Miami beat Farmington Road by five lengths in an Aqueduct maiden on Dec. 7, but disappointed when unplaced in a Gulfstream allowance last month. Farmington Road subseuqently graduated at Tampa Bay Downs, while Perfect Revenge figures to be a big price after finishing a distant second in a starter allowance last out.
The first Risen Star division is Race 12 on the 13-race Louisiana Derby Preview Day card. The cheduled post time of 5:38 p.m. (CST) falls right before sunset, while the second division serves as the nightcap.