Risen Star Stakes draws strong cast
NEW ORLEANS – The Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star highlights a six-stakes card dubbed “Louisiana Derby Preview Day” on Saturday at Fair Grounds.
The 1 1/16-mile Risen Star is the first of seven races between Feb. 20 and March 20 that each offer 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points distributed 50 -20 - 10 -5 to the race’s first four finishers. On the face of things, this appears to be one of the best editions of the Risen Star in memory.
Thirteen horses were entered, but Laoban isn’t shipping from California. Expected to start, though, are four of the 23 individual betting interests from Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager: Airoforce, Gun Runner, Mo Tom, and Tom’s Ready.
Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready finished one-two here last month in the Lecomte Stakes. Airoforce and Gun Runner make their first start coming in first and fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last November at Churchill. The weather forecast this week is beautiful, which means Airoforce will race for the first time on a fast track after making three starts on dirt and winning the Kentucky Jockey Club over sloppy going.
The card’s second Grade 2 is the $200,000 Rachel Alexandra for 3-year-old fillies, a race won the last two years by horses who would go on to be Eclipse Award finalists: Untapable, who was champion 3-year-old filly in 2014, and I’m a Chatterbox last year.
This year’s race drew nine entrants headed by the Steve Asmussen-trained Stageplay, who beat Rachel Alexandra rival Midnight On Oconee by 1 1/4 lengths last month in the Silverbulletday Stakes. Forever Darling is in from California, while Asmussen has a talented second entrant in Royal Obsession. The promising debut winner Shaken could be scratched in favor of an allowance race, though trainer Mike Stidham said Wednesday he was leaning toward running.
Chocolate Ride is the star of the Grade 3, $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap, in which he’s the 123-pound highweight. Just emerging from obscurity at this time last year, Chocolate Ride won the 2014 Fair Grounds Handicap on the way to a victory in the biggest turf stakes of the Fair Grounds meet, the Mervin Muniz Memorial. Departing and Roman Approval look like the most serious threats.
International Star won all three 3-year-old dirt-route stakes last season at Fair Grounds and ran his local record to 4 for 4 when he beat Eagle last month in the Louisiana Stakes. The two renew their rivalry Saturday in the Grade 3, $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap, a 1 1/16 -mile dirt race that drew only three other entrants. Eagle gets a favorable shift in weights Saturday, getting one pound from International Star after giving him six pounds under the allowance conditions in the Louisiana.
The two other stakes, the Duncan Kenner and the Daisy Devine, both boast fields superior to their $60,000 purses. Cinco Charlie, Clearly Now, and Shotgun Kowboy headline the Kenner, a six-furlong dirt sprint, while the Daisy Devine includes the talented female turf-route horses Street of Gold, Mizz Money, and Cash Control.
Santa Anita: Buena Vista
ARCADIA, Calif. – Her Emmynency is the only probable starter in Saturday’s $200,000 Buena Vista Stakes at Santa Anita with a Grade 1 win in her last start, the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland last October.
Since then, Her Emmynency has switched trainers – going from Mike Stidham to Kristin Mulhall – and battled a throat infection that kept her sidelined briefly last fall.
The Grade 2 Buena Vista Stakes is run at a mile for fillies and mares on turf, ideal conditions for Her Emmynency. With her race record, she will attract plenty of attention from bettors – and rival jockeys.
That could pose a problem. Mulhall said on Wednesday that Her Emmynency is not in peak fitness for the Buena Vista and expressed concern that the filly might be too eager for her own good early in the race.
“She’s not dead fit yet,” Mulhall said. “It depends on the pace and if she relaxes.”
Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, Her Emmynency has won 4 of 7 starts and earned $540,250. She made four starts at 3 in 2015, a season delayed after a severe bout with colic in the autumn of 2014.
Mulhall has spent recent months getting to know Her Emmynency’s habits.
“She’s very high-strung and a good-feeling filly,” Mulhall said. “We school her a lot.”
The Buena Vista will have a large field, including Keri Belle, Stormy Lucy, and Theatre Star, who were the first three finishers of the Grade 3 Megahertz Stakes on Jan. 18, and Prize Exhibit, who won the Grade 3 Monrovia Stakes on the hillside turf course Jan. 3.