Louisiana’s road to the Kentucky Derby continues this Saturday with the Risen Star Stakes, a race worth 50 Derby points to the winner.
Fair Grounds Race 12 (Post time: 7:02 p.m. Eastern)
The Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes
1 1/16th-miles on dirt
The Risen Star Stakes, another important Kentucky Derby prep, drew a field of 15 looking for their share of Derby points in the hopes of qualifying for “The Run for the Roses” this May. Despite a very wide post draw, #14 WAR OF WILL (5-2, morning-line favorite) is the top selection in this Saturday’s centerpiece event at the Fair Grounds.
WAR OF WILL demonstrated that his romping maiden victory, in his first try on dirt, was no fluke as he crushed the field in last month’s LeComte Stakes over this course. The son of War Front appears to have the most natural early speed of anyone in this bunch, so expect jockey Tyler Gaffalione to get WAR OF WILL toward the front and the rail in short order. The speed figures also indicate the WAR OF WILL is the one to beat. The only knock on this horse, aside from the post draw, is that he may not go off at a great price, so let’s look for some longshots that could complete the exacta.
#9 COUNTRY HOUSE (20-1) looks like the colt with the most upside in the Risen Star. His dirt debut at Aqueduct resulted in a second-place effort behind Kentucky Wildcat, the runner-up in last week’s Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Despite a slow pace, COUNTRY HOUSE closed from well back in his next start at Gulfstream to break his maiden while drawing off under Luis Saez, who ships in for the assignment. A small improvement in the speed figure department would put COUNTRY HOUSE in the mix.
#3 MR. MONEY (12-1) was entered in the LeComte but scratched due to a minor illness. He was working well going into that January heat and picked up where he left off in preparation for the Risen Star. Gabriel Saez will have to give a more patient ride than he did in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he made a bid on the far turn before giving out in the lane and checking in fourth. If MR. MONEY runs back to his maiden breaker from September, he could be a handful in the lane.
The play: $5 exacta 14/3,9 ($10)