The "Kentucky Derby Championship Series,” comprised of 16 prep races kicks off this weekend with a split division Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds Race Course.
Coming off the 19-race “Prep Season,” the qualifying points start to grow in value. Points to the top four finishers of the Risen Star on Saturday will be distributed on a 50-20-10-5 basis .
The 1 1/8-mile race drew 23 horses, 11 will run in the first division (Race 12) and a field of 12 competitors seeking valuable Derby points will run in the second division (Race 13). Post time for Race 12 is 6:38 ET and the second division is scheduled for 7:12 ET as the final race on the 13-race Fair Grounds card.
The race has yet to produce a Kentucky Derby winner, however two of its race winners have later emerged as Breeders’ Cup Classic winners. Gun Runner (2016), who retired in 2018 after his Pegasus win and Mucho Macho Man (2011) both won Classics. Last year’s Risen Star winner War of Will went on to win the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the Triple Crown series.
Race 12 – Fair Grounds, Post Time: 6:38 p.m. ET
In the first division, Silver State (4-1) had all kinds of problems at the start and was caught six wide in the local prep where he finished second behind Enforceable (7-2), the morning line favorite. The favorite got the perfect setup in the Lecomte, and it will likely not be as easy. Mr. Monomoy (6-1) ran well for third that day and has a decent workout on his morning tab coming into the race, and looks to be on the improve. Todd Pletcher sends out a son of Quality Road in Farmington Road (8-1) who draws Castellano in the irons and has a chance to move forward.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Silver State; 2 – Mr. Monomoy; 3 – Farmington Road; and 4 - Enforceable
Here’s a look at the entries for the Risen Star second division (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
Race 13 – Fair Grounds, Post Time: 7:12 p.m. ET
1 – Modernist (Mott, Alvarado, 8-1). Son of Uncle Mo broke his maiden at Aqueduct in his third career start and draws the rail in this 12-horse field. Has a good chance to improve in here against a field that’s not exactly swelling with talent. His breeding suggests the 9-furlongs won’t be an issue. Could surprise a price.
2 – Truculent (Sisterson, Carroll, 20-1). Broke his maiden over the surface for Calumet and steps into deeper waters in a Grade 2 affair. His speed doesn’t quite add up to being a contender with this group, so we’ll take a hard pass on the son of Raison d’Etat.
3 – Mr. Big News (Calhoun, Albarado, 20-1). Has improved in each of his four career races and the son of Giant’s Causeway can likely run all day long. Broke his maiden last out for Calhoun. His jockey has been ice cold at the meet, but this colt could be just what the doctor ordered. Considering.
4 – Fame to Famous (Mc Allen, Hernandez, 20-1). Son of Tapit is on his third trainer and has run all five of his career races on turf. He switches over to dirt at an interesting time, jumping right into the deep end of the pool against this group. Pass.
5 – Liam’s Lucky Charm (Nicks, Zayas 9-2). Son of Khozan has not missed the board in six races and is the second choice on the morning line. Comes in off a win in a 7-furlong sprint at Tampa in a non-graded stake race. Has the talent to compete and should be around in deep stretch. Dangerous.
6 – Excession (Asmussen, Santana, Jr., 20-1). Santana, Jr. returns in the saddle on the son of Union Rags, the former Belmont Stakes winner. Came up empty in the local prep, the Lecomte after contending through the early stages of the race. Great connections, but just seems a cut below the top horses in here.
7 – Major Fed (Foley, Leparoux, 10-1). Lightly raced son of Ghostzapper steps right out of an impressive maiden win into graded stakes company. Leparoux gets the nod in the irons on a horse who should like it as the distances get longer. No reason for him not to improve.
8 – Anneau d’Or (Wright, Rosario, 9-5). Morning line favorite is all of that based on his last two performances. He just missed in November at Santa Anita in the Juvenile and came back to finish a strong second against highly regarded West Coaster Thousand Words. Is the horse to beat and looks to be the class of the race.
9 – Lynn’s Map (Casse, Lanerie, 10-1). Son of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map. Casse looks to go back-to-back in the Risen Star after last year’s win with War of Will. Had a rough go of it at Oaklawn and returns to the Fair Grounds and Lanerie to try and right the ship. Has a win over the surface, but likely will be sniffing the superfecta.
10 – Finnick the Fierce (Hernandez, Leon, 10-1). Son of Dialed In takes off the blinkers to try and return to form. Struggled in the local prep finishing seven lengths behind the winner. Finished second ahead of the highly regarded Tiz the Law at Churchill late last Fall in the slop at 87-1. He’s going to be a big price again from this outside post.
11 – Mailman Money (Calhoun, Saez, 8-1). Undefeated in his first two races, he steps up in class for solid connections. Son of Goldencents’ running style fits rather nicely in a race with some decent speed. Could be picking up the pieces late if all goes his way.
12 – Ny Traffic (Joseph, Jr., Castellano, 10-1). Ran away from his competition last out at Gulfstream and Castellano makes a rare Fair Grounds appearance to ride him for the second time. Joseph, Jr. is winning at a 31 percent clip after winning last out. Can he win outside of the confines of Gulfstream?
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Anneau d’Or; 2 – Modernist; 3 – Liam’s Lucky Charm; 4- Major Fed
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.