Handicapping the Risen Star, Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds

Profile Picture: James Scully

February 17th, 2018

Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds represents the first of 16 qualifiers in the Road to the Kentucky Derby’s Championship Series and the 10-horse field includes #5 Instilled Regard, who shipped in to post a convincing Lecomte (G3) win four weeks earlier.

Based in California with Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Instilled Regard can’t simply hold his form and win. Principe Guilherme appears poised to improve upon a troubled runner-up in the Lecomte and several new challengers look dangerous in the 1 1/16-mile test.

I’m expecting another forward move from the exciting Kentucky Derby prospect.

Instilled Regard certainly didn’t run fast in his first three outings, registering only an 85 BRIS Speed for a front-running maiden tally in his two-turn debut at Santa Anita in late October. The December 9 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) marked a significant point in his development, with the Arch colt delivering a top-class performance at 17-1 against McKinzie and Solomini to just miss despite being bumped repeatedly.

He not only held his own, Instilled Regard netted an outstanding 100 BRIS Speed rating jumping straight to stakes company.

I thought the Lecomte served as a perfect set-up because Instilled Regard wasn’t asked to do too much off such a massive improvement in his juvenile finale. Javier Castellano was never concerned by ground loss, traveling wide on both turns, and settled into a perfect stalking position a couple of lengths off the early leaders.

Instilled Regard advanced to even terms without being asked on the far turn and when Castellano pushed the button in upper stretch, the race was quickly over as the dark bay colt rolled home much the best in the final sixteenth of a mile. He didn’t run too fast, receiving a solid 96 BRIS Speed rating to build upon, and I’ll be surprised if Instilled Regard doesn’t post a career-best number making his third stakes attempt Saturday.

His tactical speed is another asset given how the main track played Friday.

I’ll use #6 Supreme Aura underneath – he posted a strong Speed figure last time and love how he finished winning a pair of 6-furlong starts this meet. And the Candy Ride colt should appreciate the stretch out to two turns. #7 Bravazo may have turned a corner at age 3 for D. Wayne Lukas, posting a nice allowance score in his 2018 bow at Oaklawn, and he’s eligible to challenge for at least part with further improvement.

#2 Noble Indy is also in with a chance in his stakes debut. Todd Pletcher has been high on the Take Charge Indy colt’s talent and he figures to be sent from an inside post following a pair of front-running wins at Gulfstream Park. I’m a little concerned by his lower Early Pace numbers, but it won’t be a shock to see Noble Indy carry his speed a long way.

Two races prior to the Risen Star, eight sophomore fillies will square off in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) and the Kentucky Oaks qualifier came up loaded with early speed. And that figures to benefit #5 She’s a Julie, who I’m tabbing for an upset in her second start this year.

I thought She’s a Julie recorded the most impressive maiden tally from a 2-year-old filly at Churchill Downs last year when posting an eye-catching romp in late May but she came unglued after a lengthy rain delay prior to the Debutante Stakes and headed to the sidelines for the rest of the year after a rough journey. Returning from a 6 ½-month layoff on January 19, the Elusive Quality filly caught an extremely tough group of allowance rivals and missed the break when bobbling at the start.

After lagging at the back of the field, She’s a Julie offered an encouraging turn of foot into the stretch and made up significant ground closing stoutly for third. She’s a Julie shows a 5-furlong bullet work in preparation for her second start back and couldn’t be a bigger candidate for improvement in my estimation.

And given the projected race shape, the Rachel Alexandra should set up perfectly for her late kick.

I will save with #3 Classy Act in multi-race wagers. The Into Mischief filly appears to be making terrific progress for Bret Calhoun, recording a pair of stellar wins this meet including a victory over She’s a Julie last time. Classy Act looks like the speed of the speed and given how the track has played, the up-and-coming filly has a chance to steal it.

Pick 3 tickets

The Rachel Alexandra kicks off a Pick 3 and I will use all in the middle leg, the grassy Fair Grounds H. (G3), on one ticket and spread three-deep with #3 Galton, #6 Mr. Misunderstood and #8 Synchrony on another.

Here are my $1 Pick 3 tickets (races 7-9):

3,5 with All with 5 ($24)

3,5 with 3,6,8 with 2,5,6,7 ($24)

Good luck!