Laura's Risen Star Analysis
BY LAURA PUGH
The weekend of February 20th signifies a new beginning, the beginning of the second round of Kentucky Derby Preps. These preps will be given substantially more weight than the first round, awarding the winner 50 points. With this amount of points on the line we can expect some drastic changes to the standings in the next few weeks, starting with the Risen Star Stakes (G2).
The Risen Star is the first event of the TwinSpires.com $25,000 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.
The 1 1/16-mile race is being billed as a rematch between Airoforce and Mo Tom. Airoforce was last seen beating Mo Tom in the muddy edition of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). Since then, Mo Tom has returned to win the Le Comte Stakes (G2), which served as his 2016 bow. He also won 10 points with that race. However, do not let the race’s billing as a “rematch” fool you. There are plenty more horses that could spring an upset.
This race is brimming with speed, which could set the race up for a stalker type, should they be able to withstand the onslaught of deep closers. Bistraya, in post four, is coming off of a maiden score at Santa Anita, where he wired the field. It took him five attempts before he found a winning style, so common sense dictates that they’ll look to win the race the same way today.
Bistraya will likely be joined by Its All Relevant (PP7) and Candy My Boy (PP13). The former broke his maiden in a sloppy, off the turf, allowance event. It was a visually impressive performance as he won off by over 8 lengths, but off the turf events often produce inflated win margins. Candy My Boy has won his last two races going by wiring the field, but this time he will have to come from the outermost post. He is by far the most accomplished of the speed horses, but with the extra ground he will have to travel, it isn’t likely that he’ll be able to stay the trip.
The next group, the stalkers, is the group I am most interested in. It is comprised of Airoforce, Gun Runner, Foreveramo, Uncle Walter and Zapperini. This group will have first run on the leaders as soon as they begin to falter. The obvious picks out of this group would be Airoforce and Gun Runner. The latter has done nothing wrong, with his only defeat coming on an off track. Airoforce did win his only main track start to date, but it was in the mud. Today, he’ll have to prove that he’s just as effective over a dry track. Judging from his recent works that is entirely possible.
Another horse within the stalker group that is intriguing is Zapperini, the son of Breeders Cup Classic winning Ghostzapper. He only just broke his maiden, but he did so impressively, after just falling short in his first attempt. He possesses a long sustained run, which makes him very dangerous over this type of track. His lack of foundation is concerning, but with such an evenly match group as this it would be surprising to see him coming home in the top three.
The final group, the closers, is a very underwhelming overall. Mo Tom is the only horse that looks like he will present a threat. In the Le Comte he made up 6 ½ lengths in the final quarter-mile. That is an impressive turn of foot that will be aided, once again, by the long Fair Grounds stretch. Tom’s Ready is a consistent horse, but he comes across more as a more of a grinder, and a grinder doesn’t typically find success against more explosive types.
Outlook: The Risen Star looks to be a stalkers race. It is by far the most established group, and the likely pace collapse will give them the perfect set up for success. The only closer with a legitimate shot will be Mo Tom.
Laura’s Picks: 1.) Airoforce 2.) Gun Runner 3.) Zapperini 4.) Tom’s Ready