By Gene Kershner
It’s been a busy Mardi Gras week in New Orleans and it also just happens to be a big racing weekend at the Fair Grounds, with a number of big stakes races, headlined by the Grade 2 $300,000 Risen Star Stakes. The big prep race for the Fair Grounds’ meet signature race, the Louisiana Derby, will be raced at 1 1/16-miles around the bayou oval.
A field of 11 sophomores will look to add coveted graded stakes earnings to their ledger in an attempt to attain a gate in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. Super trainer Todd Pletcher sends impressive allowance winner and likely post time favorite El Padrino to look for his first graded victory. He won going away against a very good Take Charge Indy at Gulfstream last month and has the talented Javier Castellano in the irons.
Let’s take a look at the field for the Risen Star (Morning Line odds, trainer and jockey in parentheses):
1 – Mr. Bowling (4-1, Jones, Albarado): The Lecomte winner in January has over $115K of graded earnings and sits just outside the bubble, but can make a big impact with a win on Saturday. He is part of a coupled entry with Mark Valeski for trainer Larry Jones, who is winning at a 27 percent clip at the Fair Grounds meeting. He’s undefeated at the distance in two tries and should be in the mix in the stretch. He and two other horses will carry the highweight of 120 pounds.
1A – Mark Valeski (4-1, Jones, Napravnik): The second half of Jones’ coupled entry who is stretching out for the first time after competing in three straight sprint races. Meet leading rider Rosie Napravnik gets the call on this promising colt. His sire, Proud Citizen finished second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness after winning the Lexington.
2 – Adena’s Chance (30-1, Dorochenko, Eramia): He has never won in six tries at Fair Grounds and looks to be overmatched in here while stretching out from his last sprint race.
2B – Hero of Order (30-1, Dorochenko, Graham): The speed in the race that will most likely go to the front like his daddy, Sharp Humor liked to do. Lots working against him against his competitors and unless he steals it on the front end, shouldn’t be a factor other than setting the pace.
3 – Afford (8-1, Geier, S Bridgmohan): Street Sense colt won a $50K allowance here at the Fair Grounds earlier in the month. Sports a solid work going into that race, but has not been on the work tab since. Horse for the course could catch a piece of the exotics.
4 – Optimizer (6-1, Lukas, Marquez): This colt had a promising start with solid races at Saratoga last summer and at Keeneland in the fall. His last three efforts have been subpar and with just over $78K in graded earnings, needs to add to that total for a chance to be in play in Louisville in May. Ships in from the Lukas based barn in Oaklawn where he has two excellent workouts since his sixth place finish in the Smarty Jones.
5 – Z Dager (5-1, Asmussen, Sellers): Finished second for Zayat Stables behind Mr. Bowling by a head in the Lecomte. He has won in the slop, two back for Steve Asmussen, who is always dangerous in a graded stake.
6 – Ted’s Folly (20-1, Brown, Zimmerman): Had a six-race win skein busted in the Lecomte, where he finished a disappointing ninth. The Remington Park shipper gets a new rider and a second trip over the track for owner Steve Martin.
7 – El Padrino (2-1, Pletcher, Castellano): Stellar connections, but comes off his top effort, which is always dangerous to count on a repeat. Faced graded company in the Remsen in November at Aqueduct finishing third. He carded a solid work on Feb. 13 and ships in from Gulfstream looking for a big effort. Will certainly take a ton of money at the windows, the question is will he burn that money?
8 – Shared Property (6-1, Amoss, Goncalves): The Scat Daddy colt has been working lights out and finished only a 1/2-length behind the top two finishers in the Lecomte. Conditioner Amoss has been on fire at the Fair Grounds, winning at a 25 percent rate.
9 – Tizanexpense (10-1, Maker, Mena): Steps up into graded company for the first time. Have a lot of positives in his pedigree and reviewing his work tab. Needs to run race of his life to win this one, but not out of the question.
Post Time outlook: 1 – Mark Valeski; 2 – Shared Property; 3 – El Padrino; and 4 – Mr. Bowling
Good luck this weekend and let’s go cash some tickets!