The second division of the Grade 2 Risen Star on Saturday at Fair Grounds attracted a field of 12 runners with a standout in the lineup. Anneau d’Or looms as a prohibitive favorite, coming in with a résumé that is considerably stronger than any horse entered to participate in either division of this race. Looking beyond him, despite the large field of challengers, there is not as much depth to this group as in the first division. This division lacks a clear alternative to the favorite, opening the door to some longshot possibilities if you think this favorite is vulnerable.
I’m hardly against Anneau d’Or (#8). He has proven he’s a quality runner, backing up his surprising runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with another strong effort in the Los Alamitos Futurity behind the undefeated top Derby prospect Thousand Words. He’s handled a variety of surfaces in his first three starts and possesses a versatile running style that should allow him to adapt to any kind of pace scenario. While this will be his first start outside of California, he’s shipped to new venues for each of his last two starts without issue. I do find it somewhat curious that his connections are adding blinkers for this race given how well he’s run in each of his last two starts, though it is a decent move for this barn. If he shows up, he’s probably going to win. However, he does need to work out a trip in this large field, and I’m reticent to accept a very short price on him when there are so many rivals with upside potential.
I’m not particularly fond of a few of the runners likely to attract public support in this spot. Liam’s Lucky Charm (#5) wasn’t able to handle two turns as a 2-year-old, having done all of his best work over sprint distances. While he did put forth an improved effort in his sophomore debut at Tampa last time, he benefited from a moderate pace and speed-favoring surface. Furthermore, the Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace, which seems likely to develop given the fact that primary speed Ny Traffic (#12) has drawn the outside post position. If these two runners hook up in the early going, it could set the race up for a closer.
Mailman Money (#11) is another who should attract his fair share of support as he enters his stakes debut with an undefeated record. He beat a solid field in his sprint debut at Churchill Downs, and he did well to handle his first two-turn test with style last time. However, that optional claiming race was an off-the-turf event which did not feature the strongest competition, so this son of Goldencents still has to prove himself in a true route test.
Lynn’s Map (#9) is difficult to gauge. After showing so much promise in his two victories at the end of 2019, he put forth a very disappointing effort in the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn, unable to capitalize on a perfect trip stalking a slow pace. The allowance race he won two back was flattered when Mr. Monomoy returned to run so well in the Lecomte last month, so there is hope that Lynn’s Map can rebound here. However, it’s unclear if the added distance will work in his favor and he still needs to get a bit faster from a speed-figure standpoint.
If I’m taking a shot against this favorite, I want to get a little more creative. While most of the horses who were successful in the Lecomte wound up in the first division of this race, one of the Lecomte participants in this division interests me. EXCESSION (#6) was a well-beaten seventh in that local prep, but I don’t think his performance was quite as dismal as the result would indicate. This colt got into a good ground-saving position heading into the first turn, but he was a little too keen and reluctant to settle. He eventually relaxed into a mid-pack journey down the backstretch, but his rider seemed to get a little impatient passing the half-mile pole. He motivated Excession to make an early move after the leaders, launching his rally even before the eventual winner Enforceable started to pick up his stride. Excession had to lose ground in making that move and was basically spent by the time they got to upper stretch. He may not have even cracked the trifecta with a more patient ride, but there are some aspects to this Risen Star that could work in his favor. He figures to get a well measured ride as he’s reunited with regular jockey Ricardo Santana, and they should get a bit more pace to close into this time. Furthermore, he should relish the slight stretch-out to 1 1/8 miles given that he’s by Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags out of a dirt-routing dam who wanted to run all day. I acknowledge he’s hardly the most likely upsetter, but he’s going to be a generous price in this spot and I think he’s a strong candidate to outrun his odds.
The other horse I’d want to throw onto my tickets is recent maiden winner Major Fed (#7). This horse benefited from the stretch-out to two turns last time, unleashing an eye-catching turn of foot to put away a field of maidens. This is a significant step up in class, but he does own the highest TimeformUS Late Pace Rating (102) in the field. Typically those horses are dangerous in situations where the Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace. I’ll primarily use him in exotics.
Exacta Key Box: 6 with 7,8,9,11
Trifecta: 6,8 with 6,8 with 1,3,7,9,10,11
Trifecta: 6,8 with 1,7,9,11 with 6,8