The Derby trail winds down to Louisiana this weekend and the $400,000 Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. It is the first race of the Championship Series on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and the top four finishers will earn 50-20-10-5 points, respectively.
A full field of 14 will get after the 1 1/16-mile journey around the New Orleans oval looking to solidify a starting gate on the First Saturday in May in Louisville.
The headliner is 9-Mo Town (7-2), the Remsen winner at Aqueduct on Cigar Mile day last November, who will make his 2017 debut in the Risen Star. The race also includes the Lecomte winner 6-Guest Suite (6-1) who won the local prep for this race last month.
Here’s a look at the entries for the Risen Star (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Girvin (Sharp, Hernandez Jr., 6-1). This son of Tale of Ekati will return to the dirt after a second-place effort in a non-graded turf race at the Fair Grounds. Lightly raced colt has the talented Brian Hernandez aboard and could be sitting on a big effort with the turf-to-dirt angle.
2 – Untrapped (Asmussen, Santana Jr., 10-1). At those odds, he’s one to take a good, hard look at. The son of Trappe Shot was second best in the Lecomte behind the No. 6 horse and he was still making up ground late in the stretch on a muddy track. Ignore at your own peril.
3 – Local Hero (Asmussen, Geroux, 4-1). The second Asmussen starter in the race is a Hard Spun colt out of a Saint Liam mare. He certainly has the pedigree to go longer and broke his maiden at the distance in January after two straight second-place finishes. He won his last outing by seven lengths even after breaking badly at the start. Dangerous.
4 – Arklow (Cox, Bridgmohan, 15-1). Don’t discount his fourth-place finish in the Lecomte, as he was less than two lengths behind the winner in the stampede to the finish. He’s still a maiden however, and he needs to start winning to move forward on the Derby trail. His trainer Cox is red-hot winning at a 26 percent clip at FG heading into the weekend.
5 – Shareholder Value (Amoss, Murrill, 15-1). Finished right behind Arklow in the Lecomte and also has a hot trainer in Amoss who is winning 32 percent of the time on the dirt. Was bumped early on in the last and could bounce back to his winning effort two back. Contender.
6 – Guest Suite (Howard, Albarado, 6-1). Won the local prep for Neil Howard and also has a win at Churchill on his resume. The son of Quality Road out of a Ghostzapper mare has the right tools for the distance and posted a bullet work on Feb. 14. Will be the favorite for the Louisiana Derby if he keeps moving forward with a win here. Hard to knock.
7 – U S Officer (Pish, Valdivia, 20-1). This longshot son of U S Ranger ships in from Remington Park and has to take a big step forward with this group. Appears to be in deep waters in here.
8 – Cool Arrow (Sharp, Saez, 15-1). Into Mischief colt has three wins and two seconds in six career starts. Struggled at Churchill, and his wins came at Remington and Laurel. Not getting too excited about the Arrow.
9 – Mo Town (Dutrow, Velazquez, 7-2). Morning line favorite comes off the layoff to get right into the Derby trail action. Has delivered three straight bullet works at Payson Park, so appears he is ready to roll in his ‘17 debut. The question here is whether or not he needs a race off the layoff or he continues where he left off at the Big A. Willing to try and beat him.
10 – Takeoff (Casse, Leparoux, 10-1). Will need a better trip than he received in the Lecomte where he was wide most of the way. Sports two solid works on his morning tab and that wide trip is a decent excuse for his last effort. Worth a shot at double digit odds.
11 – Sorry Erik (Desormeaux, Desormeaux, 30-1). The Desormeaux brothers team up again on the Derby trail with a horse claimed away from Doug O’Neill at Santa Anita and won immediately off the claim in a $75K optional claimer. Mario Gutierrez rode him in his first seven races before Flavien Prat won aboard him in his first race for Desormeaux.
12 – Horsefly (Lukas, Mena, 30-1). Longshot entry who finally broke his maiden in his sixth try last time out. Ships in from Oaklawn and favors a sloppy track. Should be able to run all day with his pedigree, but he just isn’t that fast.
13 – It’s Your Nickel (McPeek, Graham, 30-1). He’s 30-1 for a reason. His lone win came on the turf at Saratoga last August. Son of Dialed In has some work to do.
14 – So Conflated (O’Neill, Gutierrez, 10-1). Intriguing son of Eskendereya won the $100K Cal Derby at Golden Gate on the Tapeta last out. The late closing move in each of his races is intriguing and should be part of any exotic play underneath. Some hesitation to move him up more than third or fourth due to the wide post.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Shareholder Value; 2 – Mo Town; 3 – Guest Suite; 4 – So Conflated
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.