Bravazo Finishes Fast in Risen Star Upset

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 18th, 2018

Let’s face it—it’s just doesn’t feel like Kentucky Derby prep season if the Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas doesn’t have a horse in the mix, which is why you have to be pleased by the results of Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds.

The 8.5-furlong race offered 50 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the winner, essentially making it a “win and you’re in” for the Derby, and when the dust settled it was the Lukas-trained Bravazo who entered the winner’s circle after posting a determined 21-1 upset.

Suffice to say, the Risen Star did not unfold as expected. Beforehand, it was expected that the speedy Noble Indy would set the pace with Principe Guilherme also up close, but when Noble Indy was beaten to the lead and Principe Guilherme failed to show speed, the complexion of the race changed dramatically. Instead, the 41-1 shot Snapper Sinclair found himself setting the pace with Bravazo right alongside, and the two longshots proceeded to carve out modest fractions of :24.15, :47.96, and 1:12.85 with the rest of the field bunched up behind them.

In the end, no one could catch the two front-runners. Approaching the homestretch, Snapper Sinclair and Bravazo managed to accelerate off their slow pace, running the fourth quarter-mile in a quick :23.90 and effectively preventing any off-the-pace runners from challenging. Thus, the Risen Star turned into a two-horse battle, and though close to home it appeared that Snapper Sinclair would get the nod, Bravazo managed to unleash a last surge despite drifting out late and got his nose across the wire first. The final sixteenth was timed in an excellent :06.20 seconds, producing a final time of 1:42.95 and a 98 BRIS speed figure.

There are a couple of ways to view the outcome of the Risen Star. Obviously, it can be said that Bravazo and Snapper Sinclair received perfect trips on the front end, though regardless of the early pace you have to take note when young three-year-olds accelerate the final 2 ½ furlongs of a route race in :30.10, especially since the track seemed to be playing fairly throughout the day. Bravazo in particular deserves credit to adapting to a change in running style (he usually comes from off the pace), and overall I think this is a performance he can build on down the road.

At the same time, I would be inclined to forgive the disappointing efforts from Noble Indy and Instilled Regard, who finished third and fourth. Noble Indy had a tough trip racing off the pace and in between horses, a major shift from the perfect trips he received in his first two starts, yet despite lacking room for most of the race he stayed on gamely in the homestretch to be beaten just two lengths. As for Instilled Regard, he ran below form compared to his fine victory in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) last month (in which he easily beat Snapper Sinclair), but he was wide around both turns and disadvantaged by the fast finishing fractions. If you liked him coming into the Risen Star, you might want to consider playing him back next time if a faster pace seems likely.

What are your takeaways from the Risen Star Stakes?