Keying Instilled Regard in the Risen Star Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 13th, 2018

With 50 Kentucky Derby qualification points on the line, you can bet that the race for victory in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds will be competitive and exciting.

Ten horses have turned out to contest the 8.5-furlong event, which has been won in recent years by the future Breeders’ Cup Classic winners Gun Runner and Mucho Macho Man. The horse to beat is undoubtedly #5 Instilled Regard, who ships in from California for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The son of Arch announced his arrival on the Derby trail when beaten less than a length in a strong renewal of the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (gr. I) in December, after which he shipped to Fair Grounds and parlayed a wide, pace-tracking trip into an authoritative 3 ¾-length victory in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III), the local prep for the Risen Star.

With BRIS speed figures of 100 and 96 in his last two starts, Instilled Regard has an edge over his Risen Star rivals, especially considering that he won the Lecomte with something less than a perfect trip. He’ll be a short price, but it’s going to be tough to beat him.

#9 Principe Guilherme, runner-up in the Lecomte while racing very wide while off the pace, figures to return to the front-running tactics that carried him to a pair of easy wins to start his career. But he could face pace pressure from #2 Noble Indy, who steps up in class for trainer Todd Pletcher after winning two straight races at Gulfstream while showing speed. He was particularly impressive in a January 11th allowance optional claiming race, in which he beat the capable Mississippi in narrow fashion but with his ears up at the wire, suggesting that Noble Indy might have had something left in the tank.

One longer shot that I really respect is #7 Bravazo, who ran second in the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) last October at Keeneland. In his 2018 debut, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt turned in a visually impressive performance in a one-mile allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn, rallying strongly on the far turn to reel in the lone leader Ezmosh and then defeat him in a long stretch battle. That was a big step forward off his previous form, especially considering how difficult it can be to catch a clear leader, and Bravazo received an excellent 96 BRIS speed figure for his effort. If Noble Indy, Principe Guilherme, and #4 Snapper Sinclair set a fast pace, I think we’ll see Bravazo come running to finish in the top three and possibly even win.

I’ll make Instilled Regard the focus of my plays while adding a backup exacta with Noble Indy and Bravazo on top:

$6 exacta: 5 with 2,7 ($12) $6 exacta: 2,7 with 5 ($12) $1 trifecta: 5 with 2,7,9 with 2,7,9 ($6)

In addition, Bravazo could be worth betting to win if he starts at 5-1 or higher. Good luck!