Kellie Reilly picks the Risen Star Stakes for Kentucky Derby Dream Bet
The 1 1/16-mile test at the historic New Orleans Fair Grounds revolves around the form of last November’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. There are no fewer than four alumni squaring off again here: can the victorious Airoforce beat them all again, or is another ready to step up?
I’ve got a lot of respect for Airoforce, but his minor hiccup that prompted a change of plans – from last Saturday’s Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa to the Risen Star at Fair Grounds – has given me just enough cause for pause. Although going to Plan B might still work, I’ve sometimes been too quick in the past to overlook things like this.
There’s another, more positive reason I’m pondering a form reversal: Gun Runner (#6, 6-1) ran a better-than-appears fourth when I liked him a bit in the Kentucky Jockey Club. The Steve Asmussen trainee may be poised for a big effort here with new rider Florent Geroux.
A substantial part of Gun Runner’s appeal is pedigree. Bred on a cross similar to Shared Belief and Sidney’s Candy, he’s by Candy Ride and out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Quiet Giant, herself a Grade 2-winning half-sister to Horse of the Year Saint Liam. This is the prolific family tracing through Hall of Famer Gallorette back to *Flambette.
Gun Runner captured his first two starts, improving from his debut around Churchill’s one-turn mile to a 1 1/16-mile Keeneland allowance, where he left future stakes winner and Sam Davis runner-up Rafting well back in third. In both, he was a tractable stalker who stayed on strongly down the stretch.
His Kentucky Jockey Club trip was a little different: a touch rank early before settling, he made an arguably premature move and had to fight past a rival the caliber of Mor Spirit in upper stretch. Gun Runner may have been sapped by that, for he tired late.
For this 3-year-old debut, Gun Runner has been training sharply over the Gentilly oval. An Asmussen horse drilling back-to-back six-furlong works in 1:12 and change? I’m taking that as a signal.
Superb photo of Gun Runner courtesy of Michael Adolphson via Twitter.
Check out the TwinSpires.com Kentucky Derby Dream Bet contest, where you can play to win a trip to this year’s Kentucky Derby and Oaks and a $25,000 win bet on the Kentucky Derby.
TwinSpires.com will also offer the 3 Million Points Rolling Pick 4 Bonus on Risen Star Day, with a 1 million point bounty on each of the three Pick 4s on the program.