While the first division of the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford is top heavy with returning talent from the Lecomte Stakes, the second division features a more diverse bunch of runners battling to divide 85 points toward a start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
Highlighting the field of 12 in a race named after the New Orleans hero who won the 1988 Preakness and Belmont Stakes is Anneau d’Or, the runner up in both the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Los Alamitos Futurity who is making his 3-year-old debut.
Risen Star Stakes, Second Division
1. Modernist (8-1): The third time was the charm for this son of Uncle Mo as he was stretched out to two turns for the first time by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and responded with a sharp gate-to-wire maiden win at Aqueduct. Don’t be fooled by the fractions. They were fairly typical of the splits at the “Big A” in the winter for young horses. The big question involves the caliber of the horses he trounced. He’ll get tested for class today in his first try against winners.
2. Truculent (20-1): Another maiden winner jumping into stakes company, he was tested in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes as a maiden and came away with an “F,” losing by 25 lengths. He was a front-running winner on this track in his most recent start, but that was back in November and it is uncertain if he’s graded stakes material.
3. Mr. Big News (20-1): And let’s do it again. He’s also a maiden winner tackling stakes foes. He’s run on this main track twice and won in his lone try on a fast track. He has some late kick and maybe he can sneak into a minor spot in the exotics at the end. In a statistical quirk, trainer Bret Calhoun has the horse with post three in both divisions.
4. Fame to Famous (20-1): This will be his third straight start with a different trainer and his first race on dirt. He was fourth in the Pulpit Stakes on turf in his most recent race, finishing fourth to future Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Sole Volante. Yet it seems best to check back later on him when there’s a little more consistency in his past performances.
5. Liam’s Lucky Charm (9-2): He’s a veteran of some excellent Florida Stallion series stakes that also featured Mucho Macho Man winner Chance It. He was razor sharp in his 3-year-old debut after a four-month layoff, winning the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on the front end. He doesn’t appear to need the early lead and should work out a great trip from this post.
6. Excession (20-1): He was seventh in the Lecomte at 36.60-1 and would be a longshot in the first division of the Risen Star. Even with the Asmussen-Santana connections, I can’t see him as much of a factor in the second, either.
7. Major Fed (10-1): He took a big step forward on New Year’s Day in his second start when he stretched out to two turns and broke his maiden by 4 ¼ lengths at Fair Grounds in a nice time. Would not be surprised if he’s in the mix at the end.
8. Anneau d’Or (9-5): He’s a deserving favorite off his races at two, and we should learn more about him Saturday after his narrow losses by a neck and head in the Los Al Futurity and TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, respectively. He had the length of the stretch to get by Storm the Court in the Juvenile and couldn’t, and couldn’t get by Thousand Words at Los Alamitos, either. Those two are much better than anyone he’ll face here, but playing him to win at low odds could be risky until he shows that he likes to get his picture taken in the winner’s circle. The bright side is a positive jockey switch to Joel Rosario.
9. Lynn’s Map (10-1): He tired in the slop in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park and wound up fifth. He won here at Fair Grounds in an allowance race on a sloppy track, and it’s a question of whether you believe the Smarty Jones or the Fair Grounds race. If the odds are right, he’s worth a gamble.
10. Finnick the Fierce (10-1): He was fourth in the Lecomte, but seven lengths behind winner Enforceable. The blinkers come off here and that might be enough of a prod to make him more competitive in this division. The distance should suit his late running style.
11. Mailman Money (8-1): He’s 2-for-2 and was quite impressive in a 5 ¾-length allowance win on this track. Yet his post, coupled with a stalking style and the fact that the allowance race came off the turf raises some doubts here again much better competition.
12. Ny Traffic (10-1): He romped in a Gulfstream Park allowance race in his first start for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., winning by 6 ¾ lengths. His speed and having jockey Javier Castellano will help from post-position 12, and this just might be a horse with a bright future. We’ll see.
THE PICK: Liam’s Lucky Charm
LIVE LONGSHOT: Ny Traffic