We are less than three months away from the Run for the Roses, and the Derby prep action heats up on Saturday, including the Grade 2 $400,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds.
The race is worth 50 points to the winner in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, virtually guaranteeing the winner a starting berth on the Kentucky Derby morning line odds on May 4.
The race drew 15 runners, although the Doug O'Neill trained He's Had Enough is also entered in Saturday's Grade 2 $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and the trainer of last year's Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another indicated the colt is headed to Florida.
The race drew a competitive field led by the 5-2 morning line favorite Normandy Invasion who will be making his three-year-old debut for trainer Chad Brown. [ Key Derby preps ]
The colt made his last start at Aqueduct on Nov. 24 where the colt was beaten just a nose in the Grade 2 Remsen. Jose Lezcano gets the return ride on the son of Tapit.
Oxbow (5-1), who is trained by hall of fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is coming off an impressive victory in the local prep, the Grade 3 LeComte on Jan. 19. The colt set the early fractions and drew away to win by 11 ½ lengths.
Six runners in the field are making their stakes debut including recent maiden winner Proud Strike (8-1) for the Steve Asmussen barn and Code West (6-1), who ran second to Super Ninety Nine last out against first level optional claimers for hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert.
The Risen Star is one of six stakes on an outstanding 12-race betting card at Fair Grounds. First post is 12:30 CT.
Here is a look at today's featured race: (get Derby Picks on all the major derbies)
Fair Grounds Race 10 The Risen Star G2 (Post time 4:57 ET)
2 Code West 6-1
6 Palace Malice 8-1
9 Normandy Invasion 5-2
Analysis: Code West ships in from the left coast for the Baffert barn that has dominated Derby preps at Oaklawn Park but is showing just two starters here at Fair Grounds going back five years, the last start a fifth place finish in the 2010 Louisiana Derby (G2) with The Program. Last out this guy tracked the early pace and was no match late in a runner up finish against Alw-1 optional claimers in his first start against winners. The winner of the race was Super Ninety Nine, who came back to win the Southwest (G3) for Baffert on Feb. 18 by 11 1/4 lengths. The blinkers come off this $340,000 Keeneland purchase and he looks ready for his stakes debut. He is by Lemon Drop Kid out of a Saint Ballado mare that has dropped four other winners including stakes winner Charitable Man ($475,800). This guy is bred to like a wet track and there is some rain in the forecast.
Palace Malice was the beaten chalk last out in his three-year-old debut going seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park. The winner of that race was Majestic Hussar who I like in today's Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park. The colt is in the very deep Pletcher barn and this $200,000 Keeneland purchase figures to move forward in his second start off a 5 1/2 month layoff. The colt has been working smartly at Palm Meadows for his stakes debut and he should have no problem handling his first trip around two turns. Pletcher is 35% winners (with a +ROI) with runners going form sprint to route.
Normandy Invasion makes his much anticipated three-year-old debut here for the Chad Brown barn. The colt just missed in his stakes debut in the Remsen (G2) last fall, coming up a nose short of getting to Overanalyze. None of the top four in that race has run since, so a bit hard to figure how tough that field was. He did earner a solid fig and has worked swiftly in the mornings for his return. The Brown barn is 28% winners with runners coming back off a 61-180 day layoff. He looks like a good fit here but his price appears likely to be on the light side.
WIN: #2 to win at 4-1 or better.
EX: 2,6 / 1,2,6,9
TRI: 2,6 / 1,2,6,9 / 1,2,5,6,9,10
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