The Road to the Kentucky Derby makes its next stop Saturday with the Grade 2 $400,000 Risen Star Stakes. An overflow field of 14, with two also eligible, was drawn for the 1 1/16 mile route over the dirt at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, La. The race marks the first of 16 races in the Kentucky Derby Championship series in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points system. The top four finishers will pick up points for entry in the May 3 Kentucky Derby. (For an analysis of Saturday's other points race, the Fountain of Youth, click here ).
The Kentucky Derby points system replaced the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner of Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season that concluded February 17, the top four finishers in 18 pre-determined races were awarded points of 10-4-2-1, respectively. In the first leg of phase two, the Championship Series, the top four finishers in 8 pre-determined races are awarded points of 50-20-10-5, respectively. In the second leg of the Championship Series, the top four finishers in the 8 pre-determined races receive points of 100-40-20-10, respectively.
Trainer Mike Maker’s LeComte Stakes (G3) winner Vicar’s In Trouble headlines the field in Saturday’s Risen Star. Vicar’s in Trouble has won by open lengths in both of his career victories with a nearly seven-length win in the LeComte and a 13-length win when breaking his maiden. Making only his fourth career start for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, this son of Into Mischief will have to overcome his poor post position 14. Although his two wins have come when on the lead early, assistant trainer Joe Sharp has said that Vicar’s in Trouble does not have to have the lead right away although he expects the colt to go after it as soon as he can. Vicar’s in Trouble retains jockey Rosie Napravnik, who’s been aboard for every one of his starts.
Rise Up will make his 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Risen Star. The Rockport Harbor colt has not raced since winning the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) Nov. 23 when he beat the likes of Casiguapo by six lengths. Prior to that victory, he won the ungraded Jean Lafitte Stakes by 6 ½ lengths. The Tom Amoss runner has four wins and a place finish in six career starts. Like Vicar’s in Trouble, he too prefers the lead and should have no problem getting to it when he breaks from post two under jockey Gerard Melancon.
Two horses worth noting in this crowded field are Bob Baffert’s Hoppertunity and Todd Pletcher’s Intense Holiday. These top trainers usually boast the favorite in the field, but this time they’re flying under the radar.
Baffert’s Hoppertunity, unraced at age two, just broke his maiden Jan. 30. In these early Kentucky Derby prep races, Baffert has a way of getting his maiden winners on the board, so consider this one in the exotics.
Intense Holiday has only a maiden win under his belt in six career starts. However, four of those starts came in Grade 1 (Champagne) and Grade 2 (Nashua, Remsen, and Holy Bull) races and he’s never finished worse than fifth. He’s been beaten by some of the best three-year-olds this crop has to offer including Cairo Prince and Honor Code. This Harlan’s Holiday colt could be waiting just off the pace of the early speed and be in like to pick up more than show money. Jockey Mike Smith inherits the mount from Joel Rosario who will be at Gulfstream Park to ride Top Billing in the Fountain of Youth.
Doug O’Neil’s Front Runner (G1) winner Bond Holder was scratched Wednesday after injuring himself on the flight over from California.
The field from the rail out is: Albano, Rise Up, Flat Gone, Vigorish, Gold Hawk, Interchange, Hoppertunity, Intense Holiday, Son of a Preacher, Quick Indian, Xtra Luck, Commanding Curve, and Vicar’s in Trouble. Emmett Park and Teniente Coronel are on the Also Eligible list in the overflow field. The race is the 11th on Fair Ground’s Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 6:25 EST. The race can be seen on HRTV and TVG. Click here  for free race PPs courtesy of Brisnet.
Photo: Courtesy FairGroundsRaceCourse.com