Blackberry Wine stands out first division of Risen Star

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 12th, 2020

When was the last time a horse without any stakes experience managed to win the $400,000 Risen Star (G2)?

That’s a question I asked myself when I handicapped the first division of Saturday’s Risen Star at Fair Grounds, where 85 Kentucky Derby (G1) qualification points (including 50 to the winner) will be up for grabs.

More often than not, this competitive, 1 1/8-mile race is won by horses already proven against stakes company. The last horse to win the Risen Star in his stakes debut was Gradepoint in 2004.

But could the first division of the 2020 Risen Star present an exception to the rule? I believe the answer is yes, because the stakes-experienced runners in this field don’t appear to have an edge.

#8 Enforceable, #2 Silver State, and #9 Mr. Monomoy all ran well to finish 1-2-3 in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds last month, 5 1/4 lengths clear of the rest, but Enforceable’s Brisnet Speed rating was only a 94, so the Lecomte wasn’t a particularly fast race on paper. #7 Blackberry Wine ran half a second faster when he won an allowance race earlier that afternoon, so I’m tempted to believe he is the horse to beat.

Blackberry Wine has never run in a stakes race, but he’s certainly held his own against stakes-caliber rivals.

A stoutly bred son of Oxbow, out of an A.P. Indy mare, Blackberry Wine is undefeated in two starts running long on dirt. He sandwiched those victories around a third-place finish in a turf allowance race Dec. 28 at Fair Grounds. The two horses who defeated Blackberry Wine—Hieronymus and Bodecream—returned to win stakes races in their next starts.

Blackberry Wine’s allowance victory on Lecomte day caught the eye. After he carved out steady fractions of :24.20, :48.40, and 1:12.89, the colt sprinted the fourth quarter-mile in :23.91 to turn back a challenge from #1 Digital and prevail by a length.

There isn’t a ton of speed in the Risen Star field, and Blackberry Wine has drawn nicely in post 7, so he should sit a perfect trip on or stalking the pace. Blackberry Wine has the talent to jump up the class ladder and defeat his more heralded rivals.

We’ll bet him to win and key him on top of a trifecta, with the Lecomte runners and Digital underneath.

$18 to Win on #7 Blackberry Wine
$1 Trifecta: 7 with 2,8,9 with 1,2,6,8,9 ($12)

Good luck!