Fair Grounds: The Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star at 1 1/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points 50-20-10-5)
by Brian Nadeau
#1 High North (15-1): Versatile son of Midnight Lute makes his 3-year-old debut for a potent Cox barn that’s having a banner meet and will look to pull off a surprise with a colt who was a troubled fourth when last seen in Churchill Downs’ GII Kentucky Jockey Club in November. On the face of it, that was a nice run, especially when you consider it was his first start against winners, but the top two—Enticed and Tiz Mischief—were major disappointments in Gulfstream Park’s GII Holy Bull earlier this month, which clouds this one’s form a bit. On the plus side, he will be a big price and has been training great in the morning, but he’ll need by far a lifetime best for even a minor award; seems in too tough.
#2 Noble Indy (5-1): Undefeated Gulfstream invader will take plenty of support for Pletcher, who rarely ships here without a purpose, and this homebred son of Take Charge Indy beat a nice colt in Mississippi in that optional-claiming win last time. Expected pace player has done little wrong in two starts and has a ton of upside, too, and as good as the locals are, they aren’t breaking any land and speed records, so he seemingly fits with a bit more improvement. The rub is that there’s the “What happens at Gulfstream stays at Gulfstream” mantra attached to this barn, as you don’t often see these kinds leave the confines of South Florida and reproduce their form, so at underlaid odds, let’s make him prove it; underneath only.
#3 Givemeaminut (15-1): Stretch-out sprinter scored a long overdue maiden win last time, though he had to dip into the Louisiana-bred ranks to do it, so he’s stepping way up today against a group like this. Fans will point out that he was a close third to bigwig Sporting Chance in Saratoga’s GI Hopeful last September, but his two-turn attempts haven’t been much, and he was a meek fifth in the Jockey Club, so he’s got his work cut out for him. It’s not like Stewart to duck a fight, and he usually has a nice 3yo in these parts every year, but it’s doubtful this son of Star Guitar is the one in 2018; can’t endorse.
#4 Snapper Sinclair (8-1): Tricky read was a wake-up third to today’s two favorites—Instilled Regard and Principe Guilherme—in the local prep, the GIII Lecomte, last month and will look to prove today that that run was no fluke. Pace-presser should be up close throughout and that’s not a bad thing, but he does have four lengths to make up on the winner, and there are some solid new shooters in here, too, so he will have to improve again to threaten. Son of City Zip May be coming to hand at the right time for Asmussen, who starts two here, and do note that last time was his first two-turn dirt run, so at a nice price you could do worse; hardly impossible.
#5 Instilled Regard (8-5): The chalk was a workmanlike winner of the Lecomte, as he didn’t really wow anyone, but he didn’t really have an anxious moment, either, and considering that he shipped in from California and was making his local debut, you’ve got to give him his due. The waters get a bit deeper today, but it’s obvious that he’s best of the house horses, and as a son of Arch, he should only get better with more distance and maturity. If you want to nitpick, it is a little odd that Hollendorfer sent him back home then shipped back here for this, just four weeks later, but still, it’s obvious the path to the winner’s circle goes through this colt; rock-solid.
#6 Supreme Aura (8-1): The potential speed of the speed stretches out off two sharp sprint wins, and if you adjust his fractions after chasing honest paces, he could easily find himself in front today. Son of Candy Ride (ARG) has yet to run past 6 furlongs, but he sure is bred for this, and Stidham is one of the more underrated trainers around, so you know darn well that if he’s running here, he thinks he’s in with a shot. So sure, while he’s stepping up into stakes company today, they all have to start somewhere, and judging by those first two starts, he’s not without hope in here; could last longer than you think.
#7 Bravazo (8-1): The first of two Lukas/Calumet homebreds invades from Oaklawn Park after winning his 3yo debut in an AOC, and the fact he did it with by far his best figure to date says you may want to take notice here. Tactical son of Awesome Again had middling form as a 2yo and seemed a cut (or two) below the best juveniles last year, but, judging by that return score, there’s a good chance that he has grown up and into a bigger and stronger version at 3. And don’t lose sight of the fact that he blew by his best in his first start off a layoff, so the best could be yet to come today, which means he’d be in with a huge chance; plenty to like here.
#8 Kentucky Club (30-1): Lukas and Calumet’s second is not to be confused with his buddy next door, as this son of Oxbow is one of the longest shots on the board in here, even though he did best maiden-claimers by eight in slop in his last at OP. If nothing else, he too blew by his best figure and lifetime best performance, so he’s on the upswing, and the Coach has pulled off crazier shockers than this in a Hall of Fame career, but even still, this is a ginormous reach; needs much softer.
#9 Principe Guilherme (7-2): The Lecomte chalk endured a wide trip and was further back than expected but was disposed of by ‘Regard rather easily while running second, so you’re allowed to wonder if those two romps to kick off his career were simply the case of an accelerated juvenile beating up on less precocious types. Of course, with that being said, he still ran big considering it was the first time he didn’t make the lead, so it’s not like he can’t turn the table today with a better trip, at a better price, too. The more highly regarded of the Asmussen pair should be a lot closer today, and that will help his chances, but the gut just says he was exposed a bit last time and he’s not this kind; making him prove it.
#10 Ebben (3-1): Stretch-running longshot was sixth at 56-1 in the Lecomte and probably won’t be much shorter than that on Saturday, as this is a much deeper crew. If you’re tossing a line in the water, he actually did make a nice middle move before flattening out, and Margolis forges on with this son of Trappe Shot, which is a confident move for a patient barn. Sadly though, he drew extremely wide again, and if he’s not a player with a dream draw, you know what he is without one; easy toss.
#5 Instilled Regard
#9 Principe Guilherme
#2 Noble Indy