Photo: Coady Photography
A full field of fourteen 2014 Kentucky Derby hopefuls will line up in the gate this Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans in what should be an exciting edition of the Risen Star Stakes (Gr. 2). With a group as large as this, these colts are sure to gain some valuable experience that should become useful one the first Saturday in May. Looking at the collection of runners as a whole, there is definitely some potential here in my opinion. I am really looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out. There is a lot to discuss so let’s delve right into it. Here are my thoughts on the possible pace scenario and today’s contenders…
Pace – At first glance, there appears to be quite a bit of speed signed on in here. As you look deeper though, it may not be as hot as it appears. Rise Up and Vicar’s In Trouble definitely should be up front. They have proven speed for the class level. Vigorish, Interchange, and Xtra Luck like to race up front, but they must prove themselves at this level. I believe a light may have turned on for Vigorish in his last, but he is still a maiden and the waters are deeper here. I view that trio as outclassed here. I believe Rise Up will be on the lead, with Vicar’s In Trouble sent from the outside post to press. I have a feeling this will be won on the front end by either a front runner or presser.
1 - Albano – This Larry Jones charge ran well last out in his first attempt going two turns while running second in The LeComte. He was no match for the winner that day, Vicar’s In Trouble, and he will have to deal with that foe again today. He should be able to work himself out a nice ground saving trip in here, but I am not sure if that is going to be enough. He may improve routing for the second time, but I am going to have to pass. I wouldn’t be too shocked if he won, and I do think he does have a chance, but I will limit his use to underneath in the exotics today.
2 - Rise Up – I am intrigued by this one. I thought his two stakes wins at Delta Downs were very nice and I was visually impressed by him. From a physicality standpoint he is a very nice looking animal. He has proven he can fire fresh and has been working very well in the mornings for his 2014 debut. The big question with him is did he just love Delta Downs, or did he just happen to figure it all out down there? I am going to say he put it all together down there and I view him as a contender today. As I said in the pace analysis, I think this may be won from the front end and if he can get the jump on the field from that inside post he may be long gone.
3 - Flat Gone – I thought this colt got a perfect set up in his last start while breaking his maiden, and for that reason I am going to pass. I do believe he may be able to round out a Trifecta, or Superfecta though.
4 - Vigorish – This D. Wayne Lukas colt took a step in the right direction in his last start, but the waters are way deeper today. The fact remains he has never crossed the finish line first. I will pass.
5 - Bond Holder – Unfortunately this colt had a tough plane ride over and as a result will be scratched. Man, tough break.
6 - Gold Hawk – I was really disappointed with this colt after his last start. I really liked his first two wins and I thought that he was going to roll in The LeComte. I could not find an excuse for him that day and I am a little leery of him today. If you want to forgive him, he has been working well in the morning and I imagine you will get a square price for your kindness. He also gets a jock change to Corey Nakatani and maybe that will help as well. As for myself, I am going to pass and will limit his use to underneath. I will say it would not be a total stunner if he ran well though.
7 - Interchange – I consider him outclassed, and for that reason, I will have to pass.
8 - Hoppertunity – Bob Baffert sends this horse across the country for this after a convincing maiden breaking score going a mile at Santa Anita. Jockey Martin Garcia also saw fit to come along for the ride and I have to take that as a positive sign. I think he should sit a nice trip pressing the pace and I consider him a definite contender. I know this is his first start verses winners and he is lacking in experience, but I have to respect Baffert here. I thought his maiden score was pretty nice visually and I think we will see a good account of his abilities today.
9 - Intense Holiday – I thought this Pletcher trainee ran very well considering his circumstances in The Holy Bull (see my recap of the Holy Bull here). He goes out second off the layoff here and gets the services of Mike Smith, which I found interesting. I believe this colt has every right to improve and I think he is a possible contender. The problem I have with him is he hasn’t shown a strong will to win as of yet. In fact, his lone win came on a super easy lead, at a very average clip at Monmouth last summer. So while I think he has a shot, I am going to pass on him today and watch him closely.
10 - Son of a Preacher – I thought this colt was going to show more in the Smarty Jones and I was left somewhat disappointed. He gets his regular jock back for this, but I am not sure that will be enough. I am going to limit his use to underneath in the exotics.
11 - Quick Indian – This colt is two for two at the Fair Grounds and two for three at the trip. He closed nicely into a slow pace last out, but I just was not visually impressed with that race. I will pass on him today as the waters get deeper here, but I do think he is usable underneath perhaps.
12 - Xtra Luck – His only win came on the lead at a snail’s pace. I believe he is in over his head here and will have to pass.
13 - Commanding Curve – I found this colt somewhat interesting. He was last seen breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs back in November. He broke eleventh of twelve that day, but he did work himself out a fine stalking trip despite the unlucky draw. He has been working very well in the morning for today’s assignment and I wouldn’t be shocked if he ran well. Whether that is good enough remains to be seen. I think with the fact he is coming in off a layoff, has a wide post, and with this being his first start verse winners I will have to side against today. I will limit his use to underneath in the exotics, but I wouldn’t talk you off him though. I am interested in seeing how he does and I will be watching this one closely for future reference.
14 - Vicar’s In Trouble – This Ramsey owned, Maker trained colt is pretty talented, in my opinion, and I don’t even think he really knows what he’s doing yet. When he is asked for his run, he absolutely explodes and takes off. I was impressed with his win in The Lecomte and I view him as a contender today. Despite his wide post, I think he has the speed to secure a nice pressing position and I am not too worried about it. I do have reservations when the distances increase, but today I see him as a contender and your most likely favorite.
15 - Emmett Park – Welcome to the big leagues, son. This colt is coming into this with a perfect record after two nice scores up at Turfway Park. He faces two major challenges today with this being his first start on dirt and in stakes company. He also has to overcome a tough post. I will pass on him today, but I may throw him in underneath with the hope of him closing late. I can’t help but root for this underdog to run well.
16 - Teniente Coronel – If this colt draws in I do not think I would be too worried. He won an off the turf event after pressing a soft pace. I must pass.
The Play – While I believe Vicar’s In Trouble is a contender, I am going to take a shot against him today. I am going to play a Trifecta keying Hoppertunity and then play an Exacta keying Rise Up and Hoppertunity. If I were playing multi-race exotics I would feel comfortable using the two just mentioned. If I had room to use more, I would add Vicar’s In Trouble and Intense Holiday, in that order.
Two dollar Exacta for $16.... 2-8 with 1-2-8-9-14
Fifty cent Trifecta for $12….8 with 2-9-14 with 1-2-6-9-11-13-14-15
Ladder the 8 across the board for $35 … $5 to win - $10 to place - $20 to show
As always, I hope I gave you some food for thought and either helped solidify your own opinion, or turned you onto something you may have missed. It should be a fun weekend of racing guys so enjoy it. I wish all of you a prosperous afternoon at the windows.