Mo Town Takes on Local Talent in Risen Star
As is often the case with Kentucky Derby Trail races this time of year, the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star Stakes at Fair Gounds will pit local talent against a well-known shipper.
The Risen Star is the first race of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series and is worth 85 Derby points with 50-20-10-5 going to the top four finishers.
On Saturday, the stakes-winning names are Guest Suite, the locally-based winner of January's LeComte at Fair Grounds, and Mo Town, who ships in from Florida and makes his 3-year-old debut after winning the 1 1/8 mile Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct last November.
Guest Suite is a homebred owned by William S. Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy. He's improved in each of his five starts that include three victories, one of them a professional-looking move in the mud in the mile and 70-yard Lecomte. Twice a winner around two turns, the Neil Howard trainee was last beaten when third to McCraken, the top name in NTRA's 3-year-old poll this week, three races back in the one-turn Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Guest Suite, a gelding to be ridden by Robby Albarado from post 6, seeks to become the third winner of the Risen Star for his Howard after Comic Strip (1998) and Gradepoint (2004).
After a seven-length Belmont Park romp to graduate at second asking, Mo Town jumped in class considerably to prove a clear victor in the Remsen. The Risen Star comes on the heels of three consecutive bullet drills by Mo Town at Payson Park in south Florida. John Velazquez, who's stationed at Gulfstream Park, will fly in for the mount. Mo Town is owned by trainer Tony Dutrow's Team D and the Coolmore team of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith.
Mo Town is installed as the 7-2 morning line favorite, while Guest Suite is 6-1 despite his LeComte victory over the track.
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Reddam Racing’s So Conflated, based at Santa Anita, was another stakes-winning shipper entered in the Risen Star, but he will be scratched by trainer Doug O'Neill after drawing the far outside post 14. The announced plan is to ship So Conflated to New York for the March 4 Gotham Stakes.
Most of the other entries are stabled at Fair Grounds. Two of them come from the barn of Joe Sharp: Girvin, to be ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr. from post 1, and Cool Arrow, with Gabriel Saez up in post 8.
Cool Arrow is the more experienced and accomplished of the two, having won the Springboard Mile last time out on Dec. 11 at Remington Park and two of six starts overall, but Girvin is the more highly regarded of the two. Girvin enters on the strength of a local maiden victory over top promising sophomore Excitations at first asking and a second-place finish going a mile on the grass in the Keith Gee Memorial on Feb. 4 — an effort designed to set him up for the Risen Star. The morning line pegs Girvin at 5-1 and Cool Arrow at 15-1.
Steve Asmussen also has a pair of entries in Untrapped and Local Hero, the latter one the second morning line choice at 4-1.
Untrapped, who has Ricardo Santana, Jr., named to ride from post 2, was a good-finishing second behined Guest Suite in the LeComte, and the Risen Star will be his fourth start around two turns. He's 10-1 on the morning lline.
Local Hero, who will have Florent Geroux aboard from post 3, broke his maiden last time out. He turned heads while prevailing by 7 1/4 lengths at third asking in a mile and 70-yard event at Fair Grounds.
Local maiden winner Takeoff (10-1, Julien Leparoux, post 10), well-intended maiden Arklow (15-1, Shaun Bridgmohan, post 4) and and local allowance victor Shareholder Value (15-1, Mitchell Murrill, post 5), were the third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers in the LeComte. They return with hopes for a dry surface. Not much separates them on paper; they finished within a length of each ohter in the LeComte.
Jockey-go-round is not uncommon as the Derby Trail progresses. Bridgmohan is off Shareholder Value and will ride Arklow. Geroux left Takeoff for Local Hero.
It’s Your Nickel (James Graham, post 13) will seek to validate the form of Senior Investment, a deep-closing winner at Fair Grounds last Saturday. On Jan. 27 at the track, after losing the race to the wire by a neck, It's Your Nickel was declared the winner when stablemate Senior Investment was disqualified from first to last for interference on the far turn. It's Your Nickel was game and forwardly placed under Graham throughout the one-mile race despite a five-month layoff. It's Your Nickel is 30-1 on the morning line.
The remainder of the field for the Risen Star is comprised of U S Officer (20-1, Jose Valdivia, Jr., Danny Pish, post seven), Sorry Erik (30-1, Kent Desormeaux, Keith Desormeaux, post 11) and Horse Fly (30-1, Miguel Mena, Wayne Lukas, post 12). Sorry Erik ships in from Santa Anita, and Horse Fly comes to town from Oaklawn Park.
The Grade II Risen Star is race 11 on Saturday's card with a post time of 5:00 CT. At this post, there is almost no chance of rain in the New Orleans area through Saturday.
By Dick Downey with content from Fair Grounds release