Ernie Banks would have loved the Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford. Why run one stakes when you can get 23 entries and contest it in two divisions? That’s the scenario Saturday when Fair Grounds will offer not one, but two divisions of a Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve prep worth 50-20-10-5 qualifying points to the top four finishers.
Risen Star Stakes, First Division
1. Digital (6-1): His second-place finish in an allowance race was fast enough to make him a major factor. Yet it was also a big improvement over his first two starts which raises the possibility of a bounce and a sub-par effort, even if he benefits from a ground-saving trip from the rail.
2. Silver State (4-1): Was a good second in the Lecomte Stakes to Enforceable in his stakes debut. Has the look of an improving 3-year-old for Asmussen who should relish the added distance and be a major factor here.
3. Ready to Roll (20-1): Was a decisive maiden winner by 7 ½ lengths in his last start but that came on a sloppy track. He’s never raced on a dry, dirt track and it may not be worth the gamble to back him if the weather is sunny.
4. Perfect Revenge (20-1): Was claimed two starts ago for $50,000 by trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. Was a distant second in his first start for new connections and will need to take a major step forward to be a threat here.
5. Moon Over Miami (10-1): He closed out his 2-year-old season with a stellar five-length maiden win at Aqueduct. But then he showed little in his first race at 3, finishing fifth in a Gulfstream Park allowance race. Considering that a Hall of Fame trainer such as Bill Mott believes enough in him to ship here, he’s worthy of some consideration.
6. Shashashakemeup (20-1): Wasn’t helped by post 12 when he contested the pace in the Lecomte but faded in the stretch to sixth. Gets a better post here but the added distance may work against him.
7. Blackberry Wine (5-1): He beat Digital in that quick allowance race and has a solid resume. He won by 5 ¾ lengths in a Churchill Downs maiden race on a sloppy track in his previous dirt race. Judging by the way he battled back to win that allowance race, he could be tough to handle in the stretch here.
8. Enforceable (7-2): Rallied from 11th to win the Lecomte by 1 ½ lengths in a manner that bodes well for his chances at Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile distance. His works since then have been fine and he seems well positioned to follow the same path War of Will took trainer Mark Casse on a year ago when he won both the Lecomte and the Risen Star. Whether he can work out a smooth trip from the rear of the pack is the pertinent question.
9. Mr. Monomoy (6-1): Took a nice step forward making his stakes debut in the Lecomte, finishing third only 1 ¾ lengths behind Enforceable. His recent works are a sign that he’s getting better and with his tracking style he just might work out a winning trip.
10. Farmington Road (8-1): Part of trainer Todd Pletcher’s fleet of Kentucky Derby candidates, he’s exiting a maiden win at Tampa Bay Downs as a 1-5 favorite. He was a distant second to Moon Over Miami before that, yet with Castellano taking the mount it would be a rash decision to dismiss him.
11. Scabbard (12-1): He had some traffic issues in the Lecomte when he finished fifth, beaten seven lengths. It was his first effort since a disappointing try in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and while I like the addition of jockey Joel Rosario, the outside post in a big field may work against him.
THE PICK: Mr. Monomoy
LIVE LONGSHOT: Moon Over Miami