2015 Risen Star Picks, Odds and Expert Horse Racing Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 2/18/2015
This is the time of year when the race to the Triple Crown really gets exciting, We have already seen some big prep races - especially in California - but with the Risen Star and the Fountain of Youth things really get fired up. After this weekend we still won't know who is going to win the Derby, or even which horses are going to be favorites, but we will know more than we have up until now - and we'll likely see some really great racing at the same time.
The Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans is the last major local prep race for the Louisiana Derby - which, in turn, is one of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby. The race is named after, not surprisingly, Risen Star, who won the race in 1988 and then went on to win both the Preakness and the Belmont.1975 winner Master Derby also went on to win the Preakness. No Risen Star winner has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. What the race has done recently, though, has produced winners that have gone on to have pretty impressive careers when they have gotten older - Pyro, Lawyer Ron, and especially Mucho Macho Man stand out.
This year's edition of the race is set to have 10 horses in the gate at post time of about 5:24 pm local time on Saturday, Feb. 21. Here's a look at the bright spots in the field:
Horse, jockey, morning line odds
Imperia, Mike Smith, 7/2: This horse will be making his three year old debut after a strong two year old year. He won the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont on turf in September. Eskendereya won that same race in 2009 and was poised to be 2010 Kentucky Derby favorite until he was injured a week before the race. Imperia should also probably have won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, but he faced some seriously bad racing luck. His breeding is sound, he has an outstanding jockey on his back, the distance won't be a concern, and he closes strong. What we'll be looking to see here is if he has continued to develop and grow into himself as a three year old or if he is one of those horses who peaked young. He's a legitimate favorite, but backing him still requires a bit of a leap of faith.
International Star, Miguel Mena, 9/2: Last time out this Florida-based runner again shipped to New Orleans to win the Lecomte Stakes - a race that was won by Preakness winner Oxbow in 2013. He's a son of Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, so Triple Crown success is in his blood. The Lecomte was his first win on dirt, though - he had previously won on the synthetic at Woodbine. He has been working well and should be ready, but drawing the outside post in this 10-horse field is a real concern. I'll be looking elsewhere.
War Story, Kent Desormeaux, 5/1: This horse was second to International Star in the Lecomte. He was originally aimed for the Southwest Stakes, but that race was postponed last weekend because of weather, so now he is coming here. The gelding has decent breeding and he likes the track, so he should be fine. I can't shake the feeling, though, that there isn't enough upside to make him a real threat here and beyond.
Tiznow RJ, Robby Albarado, 5/1: Here's the horse to watch in this one by my eyes. Last time out he was third in the Lecomte, just a neck behind War Story. He loves this track, though. He won his maiden at Fair Ground by more than 13 lengths in December. He is bred to run forever as a son of Tiznow, and trainer Steve Asmussen is sure to have him finely-tuned for this one after seemingly treating the Lecomte as more of a tune-up than anything. He likes to run from the front, the pace scenario should work for him, and his No. 2 post position is a decent one for him. If his price stays close to this level he's worth an investment.
J S Bach, Rafael Bejarano, 5/1: Here's another refugee from the postponed Southwest Stakes. He's one of many horses in Todd Pletcher's deep barn, but like most of his horses we don't yet know if he is a serious contender or an also-ran. He broke his maiden a month ago in his second try by more than eight lengths at Gulfstream, and he is making his stakes debut here. He has talent, but this feels like they are asking too much at this point.
Keen Ice, James Graham, 8/1: This is another horse with serious breeding - he's the son of the great Curlin, out of a mare by Awesome Again, another Breeders' Cup Classic winner. He's a closer with clear potential, but in three stakes attempts he has yet to put a big race together. Dale Romans is good enough to find the best in this horse, but is this the time?
Raphael Esparza will be handicapping the Risen Star and Fountain of Youth stakes races this weekend. Esparza is one of the best horse racing handicappers in the nation, and he is expecting a big payday this weekend and throughout the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Get his weekend picks for both races for just $30 here, or new clients can take advantage of Doc's no-hassle $60 free picks offer and get Esparza's weekend racing picks and still have a $30 credit to use for any picks from any handicapper on the site. Click here for $60 worth of free picks.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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