The Road to the Kentucky Derby rolls through New Orleans on Saturday with the $400,000 Risen Star (G2) and with 23 three-year-olds entered the race was split into two divisions, giving us double the fun.
Each race will have a $400,000 purse and offer up 50-20-10-5 points toward entry into the Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs on May 2.
The winners of the two races are virtually assured a starting spot in the gate on the first Saturday of May. The Risen Star also serves as a prep for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) coming up on March 21.
We have had a good run in 2020 in our Road to the Kentucky Derby races. Last week our second choice Sole Volante got the job done in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs paying $13.60 but we whiffed on the exacta.
The previous week Max Player got the job done as our top pick in the $250,000 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct, returning $12.80. On Jan. 24 Gold Street took the field gate to wire as my top pick to win the $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park, paying $22.80.
It started with Enforceable pulling off the upset in the $200,000 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds on Jan. 18. Our top pick returned $15.60 and he is back on Saturday in the first division of the Risen Star.
Lecomte Winner Enforceable Returns
The colt is 7-2 on the morning line in the field of 11 and will break from the eight post with jockey Julian Leparoux in the irons.
“We couldn’t be any happier with him,” said assistant trainer David Carroll said. “He’s a horse who trains himself. He loves going out in the mornings and doing his work. He does it very professionally every morning and well within himself. It was a nice and easy (half mile) breeze Saturday morning (49 3/5) and a nice gallop out. He has so much foundation that he doesn’t need a whole lot of training at this point.”
Among his foes is the Lecomte second and third place finishers Silver State and Mr. Monomoy.
The second division has a dozen led by Anneau d’Or, the 9-5 morning line favorite. The colt was the runner up in both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) last year.
Let’s head out to Fair Grounds for Saturday’s featured races of the day:
FG Race 12 The Risen Star G2 (Post time 5:38 CT)
#7 Blackberry Wine 5-1
#8 Enforceable 7-2
#2 Silver State 4-1
#9 Mr. Monomoy 6-1
The Joe Sharp trainee makes his stakes debut here after a sharp win last out against Alw-1 optional claimers. The colt set the early fractions, lost the lead in upper stretch and battled back for the win. The effort was his first on a fast dirt surface e going long. Three of his first five starts came on turf. Two back in his first start against winners he pressed the early pace and did not have enough left late in a third-place finish on yielding turf here. Three others came out of that race to win next out. The winner Hieronymus came back to win the Randy Romero Memorial here on Feb. 1 while the runner up Bodecream won the Texas Turf Mile at Sam Houston in his next outing. It took him four tries to break maiden but he did run into repeaters in two of those starts There is not a ton of speed in here so he should get a good trip on or sitting just off the pace. He is bred to run all day, by Oxbow out of a A.P. Indy mare that has dropped four other winners. Looks as if we should catch a fair price on this guy.
This colt paid $15.60 as our top pick in his Lecomte (G3) win last out and he looked really good winning that race by 1 1/2 lengths. He had a tough post, was off near the back of the pack, did not get a ton of pace to run at and made a strong late run. He earned a career top speed fig and he looks as if the added ground here will not be a problem. He again may not get a ton of pace to run at and his price is going to be lighter. I still think this guy could be a serious Derby threat but I am hoping our top pick is going to offer more value for the top spot.
The Steve Asmussen trainee was my second choice in the Lecomte and he ran well. The colt made a good late rally to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner in a runner up finish. It was his first go around two turns. He broke his maiden by 9 3/4 lengths in his debut in a deadheat and then missed by a nose going a one turn mile in the slop at Churchill Downs in his first start against winners. The $450,000 Keeneland purchase is by Hard Spun out of the stakes winner Supreme ($162,789) who is by Empire Maker. The Asmussen trainee has some ability and I don’t think we have seen the best out of him yet.
WIN: #7 to win at 4-1 or better.
EXACTA: 7,8 / 2,7,8,9
TRIFECTA: 7,8 / 2,7,8,9 / 2,7,8,9,11
Fair Grounds Race 13 The Risen Star G2 (Post time 6:12 CT)
#8 Anneau d’Or 9-5
#5 Liam’s Lucky Charm 9-2
#7 Major Fed 10-1
#10 Finnick the Fierce 10-1
This colt makes his three-year-old debut here for the Wright barn after a couple of tough beats to cap off his juvenile season. After breaking his maiden by eight lengths in his debut he battled on gamely in the stretch at 28-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and was beaten just a head by Storm the Court who was 46-1. The winner came back to run a disappointing fourth in the San Vicente (G3) at seven furlongs last Sunday. Our top pick then went to the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) where he tracked the early pace, took over the lead and battled on gamely to miss by just a neck. The winner was the Bob Baffert trained Thousand Words who came back to win the Robert B. Lewis (G3) in his next start on Feb. 1. Blinkers and Rosario are added here. This colt has the pedigree to handle nine furlongs and beyond. The $480,000 Ocala purchase is by Medaglia d’Oro out of the stakes winner Walk Close who was a Grade 2 winner at 1 3/16 miles. The colt has been prepping on the fake stuff at Golden Gate Fields and looks as if he will take to this surface and stretch. We have not landed on many favorites on the Road to the Derby so far, but his guy looks legit.
Liam’s Lucky Charm
Trained by Ralph Nicks, this guy took the field gate to wire to win the seven-furlong Pasco last out at Tampa Bay Downs in is three-year-old debut off nearly a four-month break. In his lone start going long he was third in the FTBOA Reality. That ended up a pretty good field with four next out winners including the winner Chance It, who won the Mucho Macho Man in his next outing on Jan. 4. The colt is by Khozan out of Stormy Atlantic mare that has dropped four other winners. Looks as if this guy still has some upside and should be forwardly placed with the main question mark the added ground.
The Greg Foley trainee faces winners for the first time here after a smart looking maiden win in his second career start and first going two turns. He stalked the early pace, came with a six wide run and drew clear late to win by 4 1/4 lengths. The colt was third in his debut in the slop at Churchill Downs behind the winner Gold Street who won the Sugar Bowl and Smarty Jones in his next two starts. He is out of a Smart Strike mare that has dropped five other winners including sprint stakes winner May Lily ($273,426) and Zapperini ($261,471) who ran second in the 1 1/2-mile John B. Connolly (G3) on turf last January. He looks as if he will be able to handle nine furlongs and is going to be a decent price in this spot.
WIN: #8 to win at 2-1 or better.
EXACTA: 5,8 / 5,7,8,10
TRIFECTA: 5,8 / 5,7,8,10 / 5,7,8,10,12