02/22/2011 4:44PM

Louisiana Derby looking like Risen Star rematch


It’s possible that the top four finishers in Saturday’s Risen Star could all meet up in the Louisiana Derby on March 26 at Fair Grounds, though for now, the connections of Rogue Romance, the Risen Star third, appear to have made the strongest early commitment to the race.

“At this point, I think we’re coming back for the Louisiana Derby,” trainer Ken McPeek said of Rogue Romance, who returned to McPeek’s winter base in Florida on Monday, and came out of the Risen Star in good physical condition, McPeek said.

And if Rogue Romance will be coming for the Louisiana Derby, then it makes sense that Kathmanblu, who won the Rachel Alexandra Stakes for McPeek on Saturday, will be back for the Fair Grounds Oaks, also on March 26.

“I’m probably going to bring her back, too,” said McPeek. “Logistically, it’d be easy with him coming back there.”

Kathmanblu tracked a slow pace in the Rachel Alexandra and went on to a 1 1/4-length win, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 83. McPeek gave her extra credit for the performance since Kathmanblu became a little unnerved by a delay caused by a malfunctioning starting gate one race before the Rachel Alexandra. McPeek said Kathmanblu got excited watching horses race while she waited, and was more keyed up in the paddock and post parade than would typically be the case.

Rogue Romance raced in moderate traffic most of the way and finished steadily for third in his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall.

“This was about getting battle tested, and he got battle tested,” McPeek said. “He drank over a bucket of water after the race. He’s still got a lot of flesh on him. I see him improving in the next two or three starts.”

Mucho Macho Man, the Risen Star winner, also has gone back to Florida, and is under consideration for both the Louisiana Derby and the Florida Derby. Runner-up Santiva, still another Floridian, also remains a possible starter in New Orleans next month.

“We’re looking at all the obvious races,” said Eddie Kenneally, the trainer of Santiva. “We won’t make any decision just yet. We’re not in any hurry to make a decision. Certainly the race at Fair Grounds is a big possibility.”

Santiva, like Rogue Romance, was making his first start since November, when he won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, his first victory. Santiva raced wide on both turns and accelerated right with Mucho Macho Man into the stretch before losing late ground to a horse who had already raced this year.

“We didn’t have him cranked real tight for the first race,” Kenneally said. “We just wanted a good effort, and that’s what we got.”

Meanwhile, trainer Juan Arias told Fair Grounds publicity staff that Decisive Moment, who set the Risen Star pace before fading to fifth, had come out of the race with a minor soft tissue injury to his left-hind leg. Decisive Moment will return to Florida by van this week.

Machen, who was nearly favored to win the Risen Star in his stakes debut, loomed boldly at the race’s quarter pole but flattened out in the stretch, finishing fourth by 4 1/4 lengths. It was Machen’s first defeat after two wins to start his career.

“For as tall an order as it was, I thought he ran very well,” said trainer Neil Howard. “He needed that kind of situation. The lack of seasoning he had, it was just what the doctor ordered for him. You’re not on par with these other horses yet, but I think it’ll give him more of a fair chance when he does run back with them.”

Howard said Machen would return to training Wednesday, and that a start in the Louisiana Derby was possible. Another colt from the barn, Lecomte Stakes winner Wilkinson, remained on track for that race with a favorable workout on Monday.