June 21, 2024

Loaded Risen Star includes undefeated Victory Formation

Victory Formation led throughout in the Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn Park (Photo by Coady Photography)

An already outstanding Fair Grounds winter meet for trainer Brad Cox could get sweeter on Saturday following the $400,000 Risen Star (G2), the nightcap on a marathon 13-race card.

Through the Feb. 12 program, Cox had won with 23 of his 54 starters at the stand, a tremendous 43% clip. That percentage will decrease regardless of the outcome of the Risen Star, but only because the overloaded Cox stable will send out three starters in the 1 1/8-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep.

The speedy Victory Formation tops the Cox-trained trio, but drew wide in post 13, though he will have a long run into the first turn. A son of Belmont (G1) winner Tapwrit, Victory Formation led at every call when taking the one-mile Smarty Jones S. on Jan. 1 at Oaklawn, defeating stablemate Angel of Empire by three lengths.

“I think he should be able to break well and get a good position,” Cox said. “I’m not too worried about the outside post. He’s very quick from the gate and broke really sharp in all three of his starts.”

Completing the Cox triumvirate is Tapit’s Conquest, an unlucky head second in a Jan. 21 allowance at Fair Grounds to Determinedly, who is also expected to flash early speed.

Steve Asmussen, who won the Risen Star last year with eventual Derby runner-up and division champion Epicenter, will also take three shots at this year’s renewal. Private Creed, who drew widest in post 14, will test his dirt ability after compiling a 5-2-1-2 stakes record on the grass. A rallying third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) two back, the son of Jimmy Creed lost a stretch duel by a head in last month’s Texas Turf Mile at Sam Houston.

Silver Heist, third behind Determinedly and Tapit’s Conquest in the aforementioned Lecomte Day allowance, also goes, while a new addition to the Asmussen stable, Harlocap, makes his debut for the barn after a wire-to-wire maiden win at Santa Anita on Jan. 22 for Bob Baffert.

Street Sense (G3) winner Two Phil’s, second best to the Cox-trained Instant Coffee in the Lecomte (G3), will look to improve on that performance, while Iroquois (G3) winner Curly Jack, runner-up to Instant Coffee in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) when last seen in November, lines up for Tom Amoss.

The remainder of the field will be longer prices, though some might get a look for the lower rungs of the exotics. Sun Thunder finished a distant fourth in the Southwest (G3) last time behind runaway winner Arabian Knight, while Single Ruler notably improved to win a Lecomte Day maiden while sporting blinkers for the first time. Crupi is a Todd Pletcher-trained son of Curlin who has placed in five prior maiden appearances.

The Risen Star, a victory in which virtually secures the winner a spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) field, will offer qualifying points of 50-20-15-10-5 to the respective top five finishers.