Mo Tom seeks second consecutive Kentucky Derby prep at Fair Grounds, Airoforce returns in Risen Star

Profile Picture: James Scully

February 14th, 2016

After rolling to a 2 ¼-length decision in the January 16 Lecomte (G3), Mo Tom will try to make it two straight at Fair Grounds in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star (G2). The Tom Amoss-trained colt heads a field of 13 in the 1 1/16-mile event.

The Risen Star kicks off the “Championship Series” portion of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, awarding points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers. Mo Tom has already pocketed 12 points, 10 for winning the January 16 Lecomte and a pair for a rallying third in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs in late November.

By Uncle Mo, Mo Tom doesn’t possess the speed prevalent in many offspring of the record-setting freshman sire. The $150,000 yearling purchase has stamped himself as a confirmed late runner in five career starts, closing from far back in upper stretch of the Lecomte to score convincingly, and Mo Tom registered a 103 BRIS Late Pace rating last time.

He’ll save his best for the long Fair Grounds stretch in the Risen Star and regular rider Corey Lanerie has the call.

Gayle Benson, wife of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, campaigns the 1-2 finishers from the Lecomte, but runner-up Tom’s Ready has a different trainer in Dallas Stewart. The More Than Ready colt will also return for the Risen Star, but Tom’s Ready receives a rider switch to the high-profile John Velazquez.

Kentucky Jockey Club winner Airoforce makes his highly-anticipated return for Mark Casse. A talented turf performer, recording a neck second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), the gray Colonel John colt made a seamless transition to a sloppy main track in the Kentucky Jockey Club, posting a 1 ¾-length decision over Mor Spirit, a leading Kentucky Derby contender for Bob Baffert.

Airoforce was initially being pointed toward the February 13 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa, which was captured by Lecomte fourth-placer Destin, but Casse was forced to call an audible after Airoforce came down with a minor illness a few weeks ago. He returned to the worktab after a two-week hiatus and appears to be training forwardly in preparation. Julien Leparoux has the call.

Gun Runner is a promising colt from the Steve Asmussen stable making his 2016 bow. A winner in his first two starts, the son of Candy Ride recorded a respectable fourth while trying stakes competition in the Kentucky Jockey Club. He’ll pick up a new jockey in Florent Geroux.

Uncle Walter, a lightly-raced Uncle Mo colt in the Mike Maker shedrow, is eligible to show more following a fine third in the Lecomte, his first stakes appearance. Javier Castellano, the reigning 3-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey, will take over the reins.

Other runners of interest include Candy My Boy, a sharp maiden and entry-level allowance scorer over the track in his last two outings; Jerome (G3) third-placer In Equality; recent Fair Grounds allowance winner Dolphus, a half-brother to Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; and Santa Anita shippers Bistraya and Laoban.

Mo Tom winning the Lecomte courtesy of Fair Grounds/Amanda Weir Hodges/Hodges Photography

Airoforce winning the Kentucky Jockey Club courtesy of Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography