Updated on 09/16/2011 6:51AM

Repent wins Risen Star

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NEW ORLEANS - Repent did nothing Sunday to contradict the notion he's a major contender for the Kentucky Derby, winning the Risen Star Stakes* at Fair Grounds by two and one-quarter lengths in the first start of his season.

A fast early pace set the race up perfectly for Repent, who lagged well behind early. But that's the way things worked for trainer Ken McPeek and Select Stable this weekend in New Orleans. Saturday, Take Charge Lady, owned by Select and trained by McPeek, had things her own way in the Silverbulletday Stakes and tied a track record with a powerful win.

"I feel real privileged to train both these animals," McPeek said. "They make a guy like me look real smart."

Both horses shipped here earlier this week from McPeek's base at Gulfstream Park, and both were finely tuned for their seasonal bow. About two weeks ago, the filly and the colt worked in company at Gulfstream, breezing five furlongs in a tremendous 58 seconds. "It was so fast it scared me," McPeek said. "But that work put a ton under him."

The spotlight in the $150,000 Risen Star, a Grade 3 race this year for the first time, shone on Repent because of his 2-year-old season, when he won the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile, the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, and finished second in the the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Expectations were high, as they were the last time McPeek started the favorite in the Risen Star, Tejano Run, who finished fifth in 1995. "This was a bit better result," McPeek said.

Indeed, Repent was clearly best in a spread-out field where only one other horse ran a truly strong race. Bob's Image, who wound up second by three lengths over Easyfromthegitgo, made the lead from his rail post and set a torrid, pressured pace, but finished strongly in his stakes debut.

"That's his game," said trainer Dallas Stewart. "He gets out of the gates good and he goes. He just got beat by a better horse."

Bob's Image sped through a quarter-mile in 23.13 seconds and a half in a blazing 46.12, with Sky Terrace, French Assault and War Emblem chasing. Repent dropped back quickly leaving the gate and had only It'sallinthechase beaten down the backstretch. Repent, who was ridden by the 46-year-old journeyman Tony D'Amico, began picking up horses coming into the far turn while racing wide, and was pushed out about eight paths from the rail turning for home. Repent's momentum carried him past most of the field while he was still wide, and D'Amico swung inside in mid-stretch to engage Bob's Image, pushing past in the final furlong.

Repent's final time for one and one-sixteenth miles was 1:43.17, a fine time for this racetrack but a full second slower than Take Charge Lady ran Saturday.

McPeek said both horses would fly back to Gulfstream on Tuesday. He has not yet chosen a spot for Repent's next start, but said three races were under consideration: the Louisiana Derby, the Florida Derby, and the Spiral Stakes at Turfway. "It's just a question of timing," McPeek said.

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