Races of the Week – The Risen Star & The Fountain of Youth

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This week, the stakes are raised (no pun intended) on the Road to Kentucky. 50 crucial points are awarded to each winner from this point on until the end of March. Accordingly, the field sizes are inflated and the contenders are far more numerous than in weeks past. The winners of all three triple crown races last year emerged from these preps; combine that with the distinguished list of past winners (and close losers) in both and expect this to be the last time you catch any sort of price on a longshot victor in the near future. It could happen, but don’t be afraid to take a shot in either heat if the price is right.

The Risen Star

The race had taken a bit of a backseat on the trail from the time its namesake won until about a decade ago, but two of the aforementioned three winners in the 2013 Triple Crown lost to Ive Struck A Nerve at a million to one, as well as the runner-up in the Derby. What didn’t look like an incredibly live prep race became one in hindsight—with another SRO field in place don’t be surprised to see another crowded stretch run and perhaps a live longshot come the Derby (home of the crowded stretch run.)

The ‘Star appears to have a bit more pace than its counterpart at Gulfstream, and may play into the hands of an off the pace type like Intense Holiday. Much like Tampa Bay Downs (week 1), Pletcher has gaudy percentages shipping into FGNOLA (44% in five years). With his three year olds especially, they’re out of this world. He’s won with three of his last four 3yo shippers and has won two of the last four Risen Stars. No one needs my help finding this horse…..What are the alternatives?

Gold Hawk will take his share of money, and Nakatani ships in to ride the expensive son of Empire Maker & BC winner Caressing. He came in to ride for Asmussen last year on Louisiana Derby day as well, and the tandem went a whopping 0-5. An interesting item is Dallas Stewart’s Commanding Curve. Fresh out of his maiden score, he enters for a barn not really known for their graded stakes prowess…..but two of the well-spaced wins in such events for Stewart came for West Point Thoroughbreds. He’ll be up against it post-wise but the price should be right. Flat Gone is a usable bomb underneath/contest-wise, but duplicating that kind of bizarre result two years in a row seems a little tougher in this group.

*Pedigree Players: A.P. Indy and his sons Pulpit and Mineshaft have sired six of the last ten winners of the Risen Star. Flat Gone, Son of a Preacher, and Commanding Curve are all by A.P. Indy stallions and Quick Indian is out of an A.P. Indy mare.

The Fountain of Youth

Todd Pletcher usually has his mitts all over this race and with the inside two runners in this year’s edition, this barn should again be heard from. However, it’s interesting to note that while he’s stayed right around 30% in three year old stakes at Gulfstream, his percentage dips to a somewhat modest 15 with his colts. Mike Maker hits at about the same rate with his three year olds, and these two take their share of money no matter what. The gate is bulging with for the most part Stakes runners, and speedy ones at that. While there shouldn’t be a mad crush for the lead, there will be an awful lot of runners looking for the “Cat-Bird” seat just off a clear leader if form on paper holds.

With that in mind I’m not looking for a horse that can weave through twelve others and pass them all at this point in the spring – I’d prefer one that can make his own trip and if he tires, he tires. That horse would be Almost Famous for me. His trainer, Pat Byrne, is very selective with his small stable and only two horses left his barn to enter the gate for a graded stake – Take Charge Indy and Positively. Take Charge Indy sprung an upset in the Florida Derby two years ago and Byrne knows how to get a young horse to put things together quickly. Though he was a well beaten fourth in the Holy Bull, that was his first race since November and with Cairo Prince out of the picture it wasn’t a bad dust-buster. He does (at this point in his career) appear to be sort of a one trick pony but with that blood and speed today may fit him perfectly. The aforementioned trainers may fill the trifecta but if the price is fair there’s some upside in this corner.

Good luck to all as we continue on the trail to Kentucky!

This blog was written by Angela Hermann, Canterbury Park race analyst.



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