The complexion of the points chase for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve will change Saturday with the Risen Star Stakes presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds – the year’s first race with a 50-point top prize on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. While the previous preps have put their top finishers in a contending position for a berth, taking the Risen Star will give the winner more than enough points to assure him of a spot in the field for the Run for the Roses on May 6. That kind of reward, plus a $400,000 purse, explains why a field of 14 hopefuls turned out.
1. Quiet as Midnight (50-1): He has yet to race beyond seven furlongs so he’s stretching out here. The rail helps but with a lone win in a $20,000 maiden claimer, he’s a tossout in this field.
JOCKEY: Emanuel Nieves TRAINER: Benard Chatters
2. Single Ruler (30-1): It took him five tries to break his maiden and he finally broke through last time out. Has some late kick but will need to take a big step forward to advance from a maiden winner to a Grade 2 stakes winner.
JOCKEY: Jose Riquelme TRAINER: Keith Desormeaux
3. Shaq Diesel (30-1): Has plenty of experience with seven career starts and owns three wins. Yet with two coming in starter races and the other in a maiden claimer, he lacks the class to be considered a main threat here.
JOCKEY: Adam Beschizza TRAINER: Renaldo Richards
4. Determinedly (8-1): Chased the victorious Jace’s Road in the Gun Runner before dropping back to third at the wire. Rebounded with a nice allowance win, but the added distance here at 1 1/8 miles may not be his friend.
JOCKEY: Reylu Gutierrez TRAINER: Mark Casse
5. Harlocap (8-1): Has moved from Bob Baffert’s barn to Steve Asmussen’s to chase Kentucky Derby points here. He broke through with a sharp maiden win last time out at Santa Anita and if he can duplicate or improve on that effort, he’ll be a main threat here.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
6. Angel of Empire (8-1): One of three starters from trainer Brad Cox. He was second by three lengths in the Smarty Jones to stablemate Victory Formation, who led throughout and will be one of the favorites here. A fast pace would certainly help his chances and a jockey switch to Luis Saez is a big positive for him.
JOCKEY: Luis Saez TRAINER: Brad Cox
7. Sun Thunder (15-1): Was an impressive maiden winner but then failed to threaten in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He faced a tough customer there in Arabian Knight and might relish the added ground in this test. Deserves some consideration in this field.
JOCKEY: Brian Hernandez Jr. TRAINER: Ken McPeek
8. Tapit’s Conquest (6-1): Rallied nicely along the rail while finishing second to Determinedly in his first try against winners. He figures to benefit from that experience and a fast work for this race indicates he can take a step forward at an opportune time.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux TRAINER: Brad Cox
9. Curly Jack (8-1): Closed out a promising 2-year-old season with a good second in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He’s been training in solid fashion for his 3-year-old debut but it’s fair to wonder if nine furlongs may be a tad long for his first start in nearly three months.
JOCKEY: Edgar Morales TRAINER: Tom Amoss
10. Two Phil’s (8-1): Took his 2-year-old finale in resounding fashion by winning the Grade 3 Street Sense Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths. Started the new year by finishing second to a top Kentucky Derby prospect in Instant Coffee and since then put in a quick bullet work for this. Certainly has the credentials to be a main factor.
JOCKEY: Jareth Loveberry TRAINER: Larry Rivelli
11. Silver Heist (12-1): He was third behind Determinedly and Tapit’s Conquest in the allowance race, finishing only a length behind. He also put in a bullet work for this race and has the look of an improving 3-year-old for Asmussen who cannot be ignored.
JOCKEY: Corey Lanerie TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
12. Crupi (15-1): He’s a maiden after five career starts but do not write off this Curlin colt off that alone. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he has a habit of sleepwalking at the start and then rallying belatedly to hit the board. Seemed hopelessly beaten last time, then missed by a head to an intriguing maiden winner in Slip Mahoney. He has the right connections and if the price is right, too, he could be a wise inclusion in the exotics.
JOCKEY: James Graham TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
13. Victory Formation (3-1): He’s undefeated in three starts and was a decisive winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes on the front end. He drew a tough post but with his speed, he can move inside on the turn and work out a good trip. Looks like the one to beat in this field.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat TRAINER: Brad Cox
14. Private Creed (12-1): He’s only raced on turf and while he has some ability, drawing post 14 makes a difficult challenge an even more formidable task. In a strong field, we’ll let him beat us.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
THE PICK: Victory Formation
LIVE LONGSHOT: Crupi
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