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February 23rd, 2013 − Fair Grounds
Risen Star Stakes
- Top 20
- Prep Races
COUNTDOWN REWIND: RISEN STAR STAKES
By Jeremy Plonk
Date: Saturday, February 23, 2013
Track: Fair Grounds
Kentucky Derby Points Awarded: 50-20-10-5
Distance: 1 1/16 miles (2 turns)
HANDICAPPERS’ RECAP: When the top eight finishers of a route race are within 3 ½ lengths of the winner the natural inclination is to leave unimpressed. Theory goes something like this: They can’t all be that good. But in our Countdown to the Crown preview of the Grade 2 Risen Star, we lamented that a very good horse was going to run sixth in this race because it appeared to be just that deep or deeper. Now we’re left with the dilemma of which side of the argument wins following 135-1 upset winner IVE STRUCK A NERVE (Keith Desormeaux) posing for his picture. Could a race won by a ridiculous price, contested in a total scrum through the stretch, actually be productive? This deep field included Grade 2 Remsen runner-up NORMANDY INVASION (Chad Brown) in from Florida and on everyone’s top five lists of Derby contenders heading into his 3-year-old season. Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes one-two finishers OXBOW (D. Wayne Lukas) and GOLDEN SOUL (Dallas Stewart) re-matched, while west coast raider CODE WEST (Bob Baffert) exited an allowance runner-up to next-out Grade 3 Southwest Stakes destroyer SUPER NINETY NINE (Baffert). This race easily had more regional influence than any we’ve seen on the Triple Crown trail so far in 2013.
ON THE CLOCK: The Risen Star featured a very solid, rhythmic tempo. Splits of 23.92, 24.42, 24.40, 25.26 and 6.52 brought the 1 1/16 miles to the line in 1:44.52. Consider there were three other stakes on the card at that distance, and this clocked .30 faster than handicap division rivals in the Mineshaft Stakes, led by Mark Valeski. The time was about 9 lengths faster than the Rachel Alexandra Stakes for the 3-year-old fillies, as well as the off-the-turf Bayou Handicap for top older distaffers. From start to finish, this was a race pleasing on the teletimer.
THE EYE TEST: IVE STRUCK A NERVE made an impressive, menacing turn move in the Grade 3 Lecomte prior to this, one that landed him on my stable mail alerts. But I projected him to shorten the trip and be successful, passing on him in this spot against a tougher cast than the Lecomte. He showed again that he’s got a nice spurt when timed right, and this win was no fluke. Granted, this is the kind of race that a horse with a quick spurt can be most successful, and many races won’t set up like this again. CODE WEST proved very game, and had he not had his blinkers removed by Baffert for this race, likely wins it. He became lost a bit on the rail, came back on and is a horse who never gives ground in the stretch. I love his game and he’s one of my absolute Derby threats right now. OXBOW had a rough go five and six wide given his wide draw and I really liked this effort. He’s proven brilliant, and showed he can hang tough without things his way. No one has a better pedigree on the trail, only as good, and OXBOW actually galloped out best after the Risen Star. He gave this field four pounds apiece, and should be the horse to beat in the Louisiana Derby with a decent draw. The owner of NORMANY INVASION made a fuss about how much better his horse was than these in the post-script to the race, but that seems to be equal parts hubris and conjecture. I thought his troubled start provided only minor issues, and NORMANY INVASION is a dead-pan closer at heart anyway. While he finished up as well as anyone to the wire, his leg action was not decidedly yearning for more, just okay. This was a good race, no doubt, to build on, but I can’t say definitively he was any better than OXBOW or some of the others in front of him. Locals PROUD STRIKE (Steve Asmussen), GOLDEN SOUL and MYLUTE (Tom Amoss) didn’t have decided excuses and none made a step forward, though certainly didn’t go far backward.
PROJECTING THE RISEN STAR STAKES FORWARD: The Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 30 figures to get many of these players back, led by IVE STRUCK A NERVE, who will be pressed to prove it again. Given the close finish and respect I have for this race, it’s hard to be dismissive of most of these horses and I think you’ll see a productive race with a few next-out stakes winners if they spread across the country. Expect NORMANDY INVASION to head back east, perhaps with the Wood Memorial a strong a target.
Wide-drawn DEPARTING (Al Stall Jr.) wisely scratched due to the post position, and could reappear in the Grade 2 Rebel at Oaklawn.