2018 Risen Star Stakes Picks with Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
The Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans marks a big moment on the trail to the Kentucky Derby. It is the first domestic prep race of the year to offer 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner. Fifty points will almost certainly be enough to get a spot in the Derby starting gate, so this is essentially a win-and-you're-in race.
Last year's winner, Girvin, ran in the Derby but was struggling to overcome injuries and had a bad day - he finished 13th. 2016 winner Gun Runner led entering the stretch in the Derby but faded to third. He rebounded from that effort to be named Horse of the Year as a four-year-old in 2017, and he just won the Pegasus World Cup, the richest race in the world, before heading off to his stud career.
The Risen Star has not produced a Derby winner, but Risen Star, who the race is obviously named for, won this race en route to Preakness and Belmont wins in 1988. Other notable winners include 2007 Older Horse of the Year Lawyer Ron, 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, and 1975 Preakness winner Master Derby. So, will this year's winner match those accomplishments - or even eclipse them? Is this the road to racing greatness? Let's take a look at the highlights of the 10-horse field (horse, jockey, trainer) (odds listed are morning line odds):
Instilled Regard, Javier Castellano, Jerry Hollendorfer (8/5): This horse is favored largely because he already scored a win in the Lecomte, the first prep race of the year at Fair Grounds. He has two wins in five career starts and has been in the Top 3 in the other three starts against strong competition. He's a nice horse handled by a hot trainer and ridden by the best there is, but I can't shake the feeling that he is vulnerable at this price. I respect his breeding and connections, but at this price I feel like the only option is to bet against him.
Principe Guilherme, Florent Geroux, Steve Asmussen (7/2): He is a son of Tapit, which has been very much a popular trend in recent years in the Derby. And he was a respectable second to the favorite in the Lecomte. Before the Lecomte he had two very impressive wins last year, so there feels like there is a lot of upside here. I like him more than the favorite.
Noble Indy, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher (5/1): Pletcher always has to be respected when he comes to a prep race - especially when he has handpicked the spot and traveled for the race. Pletcher, who has won this race three times since 2010, has this horse ready for his stakes debut here. He is undefeated in two prior starts, overwhelming fields that appeared outmatched in two outings at Gulfstream. He's a well-bred horse with a pedigree that suggests that distance isn't going to be a concern. You never know how a horse will handle stakes company until he faces it, but there is enough to like here - breeding, connections, past performances - that the price is certainly attractive.
Snapper Sinclair, Adam Beschizza, Steve Asmussen (8/1): The second Asmussen horse in the field finished just behind his stablemate in the Lecomte last time out. He broke his maiden on the turf last summer, but finishing 12th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last fall suggested that the dirt was probably a better fit for him. He has earned the most money in the field, but I'm not convinced he's found his niche yet, and I don't like the rider selection - Beschizza has just 188 career starts, which is what good riders have under their belt by mid-spring each year. I'll pass.
Supreme Aura, Joe Bravo, Michael Stidham (8/1): He is unbeaten in two starts, but it has been odd - he broke his maiden is August and then was off for five months before an allowance win here at Fair Grounds in early January. I don't like that race pattern, and he is making his stakes debut and running around two turns for the first time. Add that to the fact that I'm not crazy about the connections, and this is an easy pass.
Bravazo, Gary Stevens, D. Wayne Lukas (8/1): Lukas is an absolute legend. He's about a million years old, but he still has tricks up his sleeve, and he's got a decent horse here. Stevens was named to ride, but Miguel Mena, who leads the jockey standings at Fair Grounds, will actually be on board. This horse is bred to run forever, and he's coming off an impressive outing in an allowance race at Oaklawn. His stakes appearance at Churchill before that was a total disaster, though, so consistency isn't this horse's strength. He could be interesting on the bottom of exotics, but I don't see him as a real threat to win.
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