Saturday at Fair Grounds in Louisiana looks like a fun card with the Risen Star Stakes headlining the 12-race program.
The Risen Star Stakes is the 12th and final race on this action-packed day of racing and drew 15 entrants including one ‘also-eligible’ who is expected to draw into the race with the likely scratch of the Bob Baffert trained, Kingly.
The Risen Star Stakes (which will be run at 00:02 GMT on Sunday, Feb 17th and Saturday, February 16th at 18:02 CT) is named after the 1988 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner who was based in Louisiana. Past winners of the Risen Star include: Lawyer Ron (2006), eventual Breeders Cup Classic winners: Mucho Macho Man (2011) and Gun Runner (2016) as well as Bravazo who won last years running. This race serves as the local prep for the Louisiana Derby which will be run on March 24th and is considered the state’s main prep race for the Kentucky Derby.
As of the writing of this report, rain is expected in New Orleans, Louisiana this Saturday which would only add more confusion to an already inscrutable race. War of Will is listed as the 5-2 morning line favorite off his convincing win in the LeComte Stakes which was run on this track just a few weeks ago. Despite the morning line favored odds, potential sloppy track and the large field, I’m picking him to win the 2019 running of the Risen Star. Watching his win in the LeComte Stakes, it’s obvious War of Will had plenty left in the tank. He was ridden wide around the track and drew off in hand with nobody gaining. Even though a few more speed horses have been added to the mix, I look for War of Will to continue his winning ways and head to the Louisiana Derby as Louisiana’s main representative in Kentucky on the first Saturday in May.
I’m taking a stab with a few prices to finish behind the favorite. Limonite comes off a November layoff at 10-1 odds for trainer Steve Asmussen who won this race with Gun Runner in 2016 for these same connections. Limonite has tactical speed to lay close or close from the back which gives him an added edge over his competition which are committed front-runners.
I also like Country House at 20-1 to finish in the trifecta. Country House ships in for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott and was visually impressive winning his last at Gulfstream Park, albeit with a low speed figure. Mr. Money rounds out the superfecta coming in with his first race since finishing an impressive 4th in November’s Breeders Cup Juvenile.
Risen Star Stakes Free Picks:
War of Will, 3pt @ 3.50 Skybet
Limonite, 1pt each way @ 17.00 Ladbrokes
Country House, 1pt each way @ 11.00 Bet365
Mr. Money, 1pt each way @ 11.00 Bet365, Coral, SkyBet
Rachel Alexandra Stakes – Race 11
This race run at 23:29 GMT and 17:29 CT is for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles on what’s liable to be a sloppy to muddy main track. With the likely scratched of the morning line favorite: Chasing Yesterday, we’ll be left with a field of 9. 8 of which appear to be committed front-runners. I’m going to take a shot with the one committed closer: Eres Tu for trainer Steve Asmussen. Eres Tu is lined at a generous 12-1 on the morning line for jockey/trainer connections currently winning at a 23%-win rate through 53 races together. Most recently, Eres Tu finished second on this track to Needs Supervision who she’ll meet again here. The difference here should be the fact that there’s so much speed signed on and nobody’s likely to beat Serengeti Empress to the lead.
If the track is favoring speed, Serengeti Empress is the likeliest winner but will definitely go off at much lower than her 6-1 morning line odds. Serengeti Empress has two HUGE front running wins before getting run off her feet in the Grade 1 Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies back in November. I’ll take Street Band at 20-1 to round out the trifecta for Larry Jones and Sophie Doyle. Street Band has been working out bullets and has proven she belongs with these types. These jockey/trainer connections are winning at 31% at the meet and must be respected at long odds.
Rachel Alexandra Stakes Free Picks:
Serengeti Empress, 2pt @ 3.25 Bet365, SkyBet
Eres Tu, 1pt each way @ 17.00 Bet365, SkyBet
Street Band, 1pt each way @ 26.00 Bet365, SkyBet
Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap – Race 9
A race for four-year-olds and upward at 1 1/16 miles on the main track (GMT 22:25 and 16:25 CT). The public will likely decide favoritism between Harlan Punch (4-1 ML), Lone Sailor (7-2 ML) and the returning Flameaway (5-1 ML), I’m taking a few chances here with some bigger prices who might be overlooked.
Third Day is a HUGE 20-1 on the morning line and somewhat understandably so, having not yet run a race that would win this however he’s only a few steps behind the top contenders here and has all the upside in the world. He’s the most lightly raced horse in the field with only 5 races under his belt. Trainer, Brian Lynch sprinted him off a year layoff last November where he ran a credible 3rd and then brought him back against Breaking Lucky – a Stakes quality horse before winning his most recent at Gulfstream. Lynch now has enough faith to ship him to Louisiana and employ Jose Ortiz – arguably the best rider in the country to ride. Considering that Lynch wins 19% of the stakes races he runs in and typically puts Ortiz on his live mounts, I’m guessing Lynch feels he has something here. At 20-1 I’m on board to find out.
Second I like Thirstforlife at 15-1 on the morning line. Thirstforlife ran 2nd in this race last year and sheds blinkers. His workouts have picked up and he excels on a wet track. With so many of the main contenders coming off layoffs, I’m taking some chances here. Lone Sailor is the main closer in a race with a significant amount of speed. I’ll take him for 3rd at 7-2.
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Maiden Special Weight – Race 7
Race 7 at Fair Grounds is a Maiden Special Weight for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and will be run at 21:23 GMT and 15:23 CT.
Morning line favorites are By My Standards (7-2) and Tapit Wise (9-2) but they break from the 12 post and 11 post respectively and will likely get hung wide. I’m taking Awesome Wok N Roll breaking from post 2 at 5-1. Trainer Mark Casse is winning at 25% for the meet and has the favorite running in today’s feature race. This $650k purchase has been working steadily for his return and should be primed for a big effort. There’s money to be made on the exotic wagers here as I like Sevennotrump, Free Speech, Parade Field and Cogan to pick up the pieces for the superfecta.