Risen Star Stakes 2013 Preview & Picks

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas sends out Oxbow in the Risen Star Stakes. - Rob Carr

Lecomte Stakes winner Oxbow tries to make it two-for-two in Kentucky Derby prep races in New Orleans when he faces a deep and talented field in the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday, Feb. 23.

The Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds kicks off the second phase of the official Road to the 2013 Kentucky Derby qualifying series. Prior to the Risen Star, the top four horses in each prep race earned 10-4-2-1 points towards a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. Beginning with the Risen Star (and the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park), the top four horses in each prep race will earn 50-20-10-5 points, respectively. As a result, it becomes increasingly important for horses to continue to run well in order to qualify for this year's Run for the Roses.

The Risen Star is the tenth race on the Fair Grounds card and will go to post at 5:57 pm Eastern. Horse Racing TV (HRTV) will provide live coverage of the race.

Lecomte winner 10-Oxbow (5/1) earned 10 points for his victory at the Fair Grounds last month. If he were to finish first or second in the Risen Star, he would be in excellent position to make the Derby starting gate, although a second place finish would likely leave him right on the edge.

9-Normandy Invasion (5/2) will attract the most attention after what appears on paper to be a pretty strong running of the G2-Remsen in late November. But November is almost a lifetime ago when talking about developing three-year-old colts and we have to wonder how cranked up this colt will be in his first start off the bench. If he runs back to that Remsen form (and, in the process, validates the strength of that race), he'll be tough to beat. If, however, he's not at his best on Saturday, there are a bunch of colts that could spring the upset.

2-Code West (6/1) has yet to face stakes competition but I really like the way he improved in his first start of 2013, even if it was a 3 ½ length loss to Super Ninety Nine. That race doesn't look so bad after the winner came back to blow away the field in the Southwest at Oaklawn last week. Code West isn't your typically Baffert "need-to-lead" runner and should get better as the distances get longer. At 6/1 on the ML, he's a nice option in the Risen Star.

5-Mylute (6/1) ran huge in his last race and was geared down in the stretch by Rosie Napravnik when winning by 10 ¾ lengths. Napravnik, however, jumps from Mylute to Pletcher's Palace Malace for this race, leaving Shaun Bridgmohan to pick up the mount. Bridgmohan is having a nice meet at the Fair Grounds, but it's a little distressing that Rosie elected to go elsewhere in this spot.

The Pick

In a field with a lot of depth and class, like the Risen Star, I'm looking for an improving and fit horse, a requirement that I think Code West fits nicely. Bob Baffert is taking the blinkers off which should allow this colt to settle in just a bit more in the early stages, an important tactic as this colt continues to stretch out to longer distance.

I'll play Code West down to around odds of 4/1 or 9/2, and would love to see his odds stay right around the morning line of 6/1.

Below are the entries, post positions and morning line odds for the Risen Star Stakes.

PP Horse Jockey Trainer ML
1 Proud Strike G. Stevens S. Asmussen 8/1
2 Code West M. Garcia B. Baffert 6/1
3 Agent R. Eramia J. McAnally 30/1
4 Golden Soul M. Mena D. Stewart 20/1
5 Mylute S. Bridgmohan T. Amoss 6/1
6 Palace Malice R. Napravnik T. Pletcher 8/1
7 Hardrock Eleven J. Theriot D. Banks 50/1
8 Ive Struck a Nerve J. Graham J. Desormeaux 30/1
9 Normandy Invasion J. Lezcano C. Brown 5/2
10 Oxbow J. Court D.W. Lukas 5/1
11 Bethel I. Diego G. Dorochenko 50/1
12 He's Had Enough M. Gutierrez D. O'Neill SCR
13 Circle Unbroken L. Goncalves G. Simms 20/1
14 Departing B. Hernandez, Jr. A. Stall, Jr. 12/1
AE15 Sunbeam C. Hernandez A. Stall, Jr. 12/1

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