04/17/2014 11:03AM

Rise Up shortens up for Hilton Memorial

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Rise Up will attempt to regain his confidence against somewhat soft competition in the Hilton Memorial at Charles Town.

The superb form Rise Up displayed late in his 2-year-old season at the Delta Downs bullring didn’t transfer at all to the big stage in New Orleans early this year in a pair of Kentucky Derby preps. So, trainer Tom Amoss will attempt to restore Rise Up’s confidence going a shorter distance against far softer company at Charles Town.

After finishing far back in the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby, Rise Up cuts back to seven furlongs for Saturday night’s $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial for 3-year-olds. The race is the second leg of an all-stakes pick four with a $100,000 guaranteed pool that ends with the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic.

Rise Up looked like a good Kentucky Derby prospect when he completed a 4-for-6 campaign by dominating the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot in November. But when he returned to make his 3-year-old debut in the Grade 2 Risen Star, Rise Up missed the break, failed to get his customary position on the lead while rank, and backed up to a distant seventh.

Amoss gave Rise Up another chance, adding blinkers to his equipment and sharpening his speed in morning workouts with the intent of trying to wire the field in the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby. That plan backfired when Rise Up was bumped at the start and found himself seventh instead of anywhere near the early lead while forced to race five wide on the first turn. He wound up last of 10.

“His last two races he’s had a lot of difficulty coming out of the gate correctly,” Amoss said. “I don’t know what goes on with a horse that’s never had a problem with that. He’s perfect in the gate in the morning. Last time, we tried blinkers; we’ve tried pads in the gate. We’ve tried different tricks with him that haven’t worked, but here [for the Hilton] we’re going to keep his blinkers on.”

Amoss owns a 3-for-6 record shipping to Charles Town for stakes, including a win in last year’s Hilton with even-money favorite Free World.

The eight opponents Rise Up will face include another Risen Star also-ran, Interchange. Like Rise Up, Interchange ran well at 2, finishing first in both of his starts, although he was disqualified and placed second for interference in a one-mile overnight stakes at Delaware Park.

Little has gone right for Interchange in three starts this year at Fair Grounds, with problems ranging from a wide trip to a stumbled start to wasting energy by acting up while loading in the gate. On Saturday night, he must overcome post 9 in the two-turn race.

Germaniac ran a big race three starts ago to win the seven-furlong Frank Whiteley Stakes at Laurel Park but then was last in two stakes starts. His trainer, Tim Tullock, does show a 7-for-29 record (24 percent) with dirt sprinters going 6 1/2 to seven furlongs following a break of 31 to 60 days.

Elsewhere on the undercard:

◗ Immortal Eyes, who won three straight runnings of the Webb Snyder Charles Town Dash before finishing a troubled second as the even-money favorite last year, faces an imposing new challenger in Star Harbour in the $50,000 race at 4 1/2 furlongs.

Star Harbour has been in front at the half-mile call in seven straight races, including a third-place finish as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park in December.

◗ Down Town Allen, who easily won this race last year while coming off a five-month layoff, seeks to defend her title in the $50,000 Original Gold for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares going seven furlongs while making her first start in seven months. The 7-year-old Down Town Allen is 19 for 35 lifetime, including 8 wins in 11 starts over the past two seasons.

◗ In the Fairway, whose five wins in 2013 included the $158,000 Onion Juice, looks formidable against eight West Virginia-breds in the $50,000 Confucius Say at seven furlongs.