The first division of the Grade 2 Risen Star on Saturday at Fair Grounds has drawn a field of 11 runners, including most of the horses advancing out of the local prep, the Lecomte. The likely favorite is that race’s winner Enforceable, but he’s again meeting four rivals who finished directly behind him that day, along with a slew of viable challengers from other races and venues. From a wagering standpoint, this appears to be the more wide-open of the two divisions given the lack of separation among the top contenders.
The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace with Shashashakemeup (#6) on the lead over Ready to Roll (#3) and Blackberry Wine (#7). While I understand why the Pace Projector is characterizing the pace scenario as such, I tend to think we will see a more moderate early tempo in this division. While Shashashakemeup is likely to head out towards the front, those chasing him are not particularly fast and all of the horses in behind those speeds seem unlikely to press the pace. If a fast pace does not develop, that could work against a horse like Enforceable.
Of the many runners exiting the Lecomte, it would be fair to say that Enforceable (#8) ran the best race. His margin of victory was decisive and had to lose some ground while rallying wide on the far turn. Yet it would also be fair to point out that he avoided many of the issues encountered by his main rivals. In launching his run leaving the three-eighths pole, Julien Leparoux enabled Enforceable to avoid the traffic jam at the quarter pole and get the jump on the other closers. He may work out a similar trip on Saturday, and the stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles should only help his cause. Yet I didn’t walk away from the Lecomte with the sense that he had asserted superiority over that group – rather everything had come together for him to be successful that day and he seized the opportunity. If he is indeed the favorite this time, I’d rather look elsewhere for better value.
The Lecomte runner-up Silver State (#2) seems like a viable option. While he saved more ground on the turns than Enforceable, Ricardo Santana may have waited a bit too long to launch his rally, as he lost a bit of momentum behind tiring runners at the quarter pole and had to bull his way outside for running room in the lane. All things considered, he finished well enough without really threatening the winner. He also shouldn’t be hindered by a little added ground, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make better use of his tactical speed on this occasion. I view him as a logical win candidate.
Mr. Monomoy (#9) was hindered by pace dynamics in the Lecomte, as he was in close attendance to the honest pace and had to wait for room in upper stretch as the leaders began to back up in his face. For such an inexperienced runner, he showed plenty of grit and determination to rally through a small opening inside and regain momentum to finish in a photo for second. I would use him prominently, and I also wouldn’t totally discount Scabbard (#11), who may have had the most trouble of all in the Lecomte. He was following Mr. Monomoy into the lane but unlike that rival got caught up in the traffic jam of tiring runners and had to slam on the brakes and alter course multiple times through the lane. Normally I’d consider a horse like him to be one to bet back based on the trip alone, but his pedigree is geared more toward one-turn races and I’m a little concerned about him handling the added distance of this nine-furlong test.
I want to explore some other options beyond the runners exiting the Lecomte. The most appealing of those appears to be BLACKBERRY WINE (#7). This son of Oxbow was initially cut out to be a turf horse, which is no surprise given that he’s a half-brother to the longwinded Neoclassic, a plodding turf horse who won going distances as far as 1 1/4 miles. Yet it seems that Blackberry Wine has proven that he’s far more comfortable racing on dirt. He first served notice of that in an impressive maiden win on the Kentucky Jockey Club undercard at Churchill Downs last fall, running a faster final time than the main event over the same distance. He then repeated that feat on Lecomte day, stopping the clock one tick faster than the feature race in winning an optional claimer earlier on the card. He faced a stern test from today’s rival Digital in that victory, and was game to re-rally up the rail after getting passed in the lane. This colt has a steadiness to him and strikes me as one who should relish this 1 1/8-mile trip. He’s drawn well outside of his two main pace foes, so he should be able to settle into a comfortable stalking trip. If he can transfer that last-out 108 TimeformUS Speed Figure into stakes company, he’s the horse to beat.
The other runner that I would want to consider at a price is Florida shipper Moon Over Miami (#5). This Bill Mott trainee impressively won a loaded maiden event on Cigar Mile day last year. He was subsequently bet down to favoritism in his first start against winners at Gulfstream, but disappointed with a dull fifth-place effort. Things didn’t work out for him that day, as he had to break from the outside post position going that tricky 1 1/16-mile distance and was wide throughout. It’s a sign of confidence that they’re pressing on to a Derby prep immediately thereafter, and he wouldn’t have to improve that much on his New York victory to compete here.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 2,5,8,9,11
Trifecta: 7 with 2,5,9 with 1,2,5,8,9,10,11
Trifecta: 7 with 1,8,11 with 2,5,9