This Grade 2 Risen Star drew a field of 13, but there will reportedly be a couple of scratches, as morning line favorite Keepmeinmind is expected to await the Southwest at Oaklawn and debut winner Defeater will opt for an allowance race earlier on this card. Among those who remain runners exiting the local prep, the Lecomte, figure to attract support along with impressive Springboard Mile winner Senor Buscador.
The Pace Projector is predicting a fast pace with gate-to-wire Lecomte winner Midnight Bourbon and recent allowance winner Rightandjust likely to vie for the lead. Others like Starrinmydreams and Mandaloun could also contest the pace, but it’s not as if this field is filled with need-the-lead types.
One horse who will have to hope for a pace collapse is #5 Senor Buscador. Following the expected withdrawal of Keepmeinmind, this deep closer figures to attract plenty of support. He’s done nothing wrong in his two career starts, but he gets his first serious class test in this 3-year-old debut. His Springboard Mile victory was visually impressive but also fast against the clock, as that 116 TimeformUS Speed Figure sticks out in this field. The problem is that the race has not aged well, as numerous horses, including the second and third place finishers, have regressed in subsequent starts. Nevertheless, Senor Buscador is an exciting addition to this field, and he should relish the extended stretch at Fair Grounds.
His main rivals include the top four finishers from the Lecomte. #6 Midnight Bourbon won that race but got a perfect trip in doing so, setting a moderate pace while saving ground every step of the way. He dug in gamely to fend off challenges late, and gives every indication that a little more distance won’t bother him. Yet his best form is exposed at this point, whereas others may have more upside. #11 Mandaloun could retain some support here after disappointing as the odds-on choice in the Lecomte. While he ran well for third, I wouldn’t give him a significant edge over #2 Proxy, who outfinished him for second. Proxy did save a bit more ground on the turns, but he battled on gamely to the wire and strikes me as one that should relish this 1 1/8 miles distance.
Perhaps the most interesting horse out of the Lecomte is fourth place finisher #10 Santa Cruiser. He finished almost 10 lengths behind winner Midnight Bourbon, but much of that deficit can be attributed to his poor start. He broke slowly and was steadied out of position, placing him well behind the field heading into the first turn. All things considered, he stayed on well for fourth when he was finally asked to run, and he should be capable of better with a clean break.
While I respect the aforementioned runners, there are some intriguing new faces to consider. One of those is obviously #4 Carillo, an Aqueduct debut winner who makes his first start for Tom Amoss after he was purchased for $875k out of the Paul Pompa dispersal.
Yet the new face who interests me the most is #7 O Besos. This colt has some serious stamina questions to answer as he stretches out from a 6-furlong allowance win to this 9-furlong graded stakes test. Yet he has shown considerable talent in his first few starts. He ran deceptively well in his career debut at Churchill Downs, making a sustained run from far back to split the field in a race dominated on the front end. And since then he’s been an unstoppable force in the stretch at Fair Grounds. He made a wild late run from far back to get up to break his maiden in December, and he improved upon that performance last time. While he again broke slowly in that most recent start, he was at least in contact with the leaders early, poised to unleash his rally at any point once they entered the stretch. I like the poise he showed as he waited in traffic before exploding in the last eighth. Horses like this sometimes turn out to be closing sprinters, but he has a pedigree to stretch out, being by Kentucky Derby winner Orb out of a dam who has produced multiple dirt route winner Six Percent. Given what will likely to be double-digit odds, I’m willing to overlook the hurdles and make him my top pick.
Exacta Key Box: 7 with 2,4,5,6,10,11
Exacta Box: 2,5,10