Risen Star (G2) — Race 13 (7:18 p.m. ET)
Taking a big step forward from age two to three when wiring the opposition in last month’s Lecomte (G3), Midnight Bourbon will try and do it again while stretching out an extra half-furlong in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star S. (G2) at Fair Grounds over 1 1/8 miles.
The Risen Star, which caps a marathon, stakes-laden program of 13 races, is the first 2021 Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep that will award Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers, with the winner virtually assured a spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs on May 1.
Although he earned minor shares in two stakes appearances as a juvenile, Midnight Bourbon found two full turns to his liking in the Lecomte, his first race in three months. The son of Tiznow soon took control of a relatively paceless affair, set steady fractions, and held off bids from Proxy and 4-5 favorite Mandaloun, both of whom had a recency edge on the Steve Asmussen trainee.
“He’s an efficient mover with a high cruising speed and horses like that can be very effective at the Fair Grounds,” Asmussen said.
Speed could again be key in the Risen Star as a wet track is possible with inclement weather forecast late in the week. The Godolphin homebred Proxy figures to rate close as is his custom, while Mandaloun will add blinkers after suffering his first loss in three starts in the Lecomte. Also returning from the Lecomte is Santa Cruiser, who lagged at the tail of the field before finishing a modest fourth.
Senor Buscador, a resounding winner of both starts at Remington Park late last year, is a horse that many will have their eyes on. The Mineshaft colt erased a 12-length deficit with a magnificently-sustained rally in the Dec. 18 Springboard Mile, which he conquered by 5 3/4 lengths though he forfeited Derby qualifying points by racing on Lasix. The Risen Star marks his first race without the diuretic administered on race day.
“I think the distance is absolutely in his favor, trainer Todd Fincher said. “He has more speed than you’ve seen but he just does his own thing,” Fincher said.
Keepmeinmind, who placed in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last fall prior to a maiden-breaking victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), was entered in the Risen Star but might remain at his Oaklawn Park base for the Southwest (G3), which will be run two days after the Risen Star.
HTML clipboard “We are concerned with the weather in Arkansas, and we’re also concerned with a short field as well,” trainer Robertino Diodoro said. “The rumor is it could be a five or six-horse field. That’s good for a speed horse, but with his running style, I’m not doing backflips over that, to be honest. We’re going to make a decision by Wednesday.”
The Risen Star lineup also includes a number of promising sophomores stepping from the allowance and maiden ranks. Starrininmydreams was 2-for-2 at Churchill Downs last fall, while O Besos stretches out after back-to-back sprint victories at Fair Grounds. Their respective sires, Super Saver and Orb, were both Derby winners.
Claimed from a maiden win for $50,000 two back, Rightandjust upset an allowance on the Lecomte undercard by three lengths in wire-to-wire fashion, but his ability to get early position will be tested as he drew the widest post in the Risen Star, which would be 13 if everyone starts.
A pair of Union Rags colts are jumping into the scrum after recent debut wins. Carillo won by 2 3/4 lengths going a mile at Aqueduct on Jan. 8 for Chad Brown, but is now stabled with Tom Amoss. Defeater, who also resides in the Amoss shedrow, prevailed by 2 1/4 lengths going six furlongs at Fair Grounds on Jan. 2, but is cross-entered in a 1 1/16-mile allowance earlier on Saturday’s card.