Head to Head: Handicapping the 2018 Risen Star Stakes

By Laurie Ross
February 15, 2018 03:40pm
Head to Head: Handicapping the 2018 Risen Star Stakes
Photo: Hodges Photography

Saturday's Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes marks the second of three 2018 Kentucky Derby prep races held at New Orleans' Fair Grounds, and is also the first qualifier offering higher points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top-four finishers.

Instilled Regard is the early favorite, fresh off a 3 3/4-length score in the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes last month over this track. He’ll be among nine 3-year-old colts and geldings running 1 1/16 miles, with post time set for 6:03 p.m. ET.

Ashley Tamulonis of HRN's Coast To Coast blog and I see things a little differently this time around. We went Head to Head to handicap the Risen Star:



High North — A maiden winner, High North makes his 2018 bow in deep waters. He ran a good race in the Kentucky Jockey Club to conclude his 2017 campaign, closing for fourth after being bothered and steadied in the first turn, something that took him out of his usual run style. To me, that showed maturity on his part, and any growing since then will only help. Consider for your exotic plays.

High North — Only four horses in the last 15 years have won the Risen Star in their 3-year-old debut. High North is a half-brother to a stakes-winning miler, and their dam is a stakes winner. The son of Midnight Lute has been training well at Fairgrounds, including a sharp second to last bullet. Worth a longshot look.

Noble Indy — Hey, look! Another undefeated Todd Pletcher trainee. I really want to like this one, but Mississippi, who Noble Indy beat in his last outing, did not come back and win his next start, and that was in allowance company after scratching out of the Holy Bull. He does have one of the highest last-race speed figures, so there is that. Maybe.

Noble Indy — He follows the same path as 2012 Risen Star winner El Padrino with both out of the Pletcher barn and entered the Risen Star after an allowance victory at Gulfstream. Noble Indy is by the sensational Take Charge Indy and out of a stakes winning sprinter. I originally liked this horse as a win contender, but after viewing his allowance victory, I noted that he was a bit rank early, despite winning with good energy. Noble Indy may be on the pace and may not take kindly to rating behind horses. As with Ashley, I want to like this guy, but there are more negatives than positives.

Givemeaminit — I am admittedly a bit star struck by this son of Star Guitar. As a Louisiana-bred, you would think that he would be severely overmatched in open company, but he has faced a good many of the best of his crop and held his own, even running fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at odds of 63-1. He did that while still a maiden, too. Trainer Dallas Stewart dropped this colt down to state-bred company for his last two outings and was rewarded with a convincing win in his most recent race. Maybe that change in running style helped, too. I don’t think he will win here, but he’s definitely an exotics play.

Givemeaminit — He needed more than a minute to find the winner’s circle. After traveling around the country, the locally-bred son of Star Guitar discovered there’s no place like home. He’ll be stepping up in class. I don’t see him in the winner’s circle this time, but Dallas Stewart is noted for sending out closers to pick up checks at the Fair Grounds. I agree with Ashley. He’s worth an exotics play.

Snapper Sinclair — Trained by Steve Asmussen, Snapper Sinclair has never won a dirt race; however, he did show up in a big way in the LeComte. He earned a career best speed figure while finishing third, beaten just four lengths for it all. Maybe it’s just Fair Grounds, or maybe Snapper Sinclair has found a new home on dirt. Either way, one to watch out for here.

Snapper Sinclair — Pulled a speed/fade in his first start off a layoff. His best form was as a turf sprinter and has a speed-oriented pedigree. If he’s on the lead again, he’ll be at the mercy of the late closers. Pass.

Instilled Regard — The Lecomte winner returns to take the next step on the Fair Grounds' Road to the Kentucky Derby. He was placed second in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity after the rough stretch run in that one, and the experience against the highly regarded Solomini and McKinzie certainly paid off when Instilled Regard convincingly won here last month. A repeat performance gets him the win again.

Instilled Regard — He breezed a sharp four furlongs in :48.80 in his first work back after the LeComte. His following two breezes were five furlong and six furlong stamina works.  I don’t like how he had to be pushed in his last breeze, but some horses don’t work as well without company. Deserving favorite.

Supreme Aura — Trainer Michael Stidham isn’t one of the super big names in the industry, but he knows how to win, particularly with Supreme Aura in this case. The Candy Ride colt is undefeated in two starts but will be stretching out for the first time here. Stidham is winning at a 22 percent clip in sprint-to-route situations, and he and jockey Joe Bravo are winning at a 36 percent clip together. Worth a look.

Supreme Aura — He's undefeated in two starts, sports nice speed figures, with a second to last bullet work, and by Candy Ride has the pedigree to stretch out. The only negative is moving up in class and his forwardly placed running style. Worth a look for exotics.

Bravazo — An 8-1 shot on the morning line, Bravazo is the first of the Calumet-owned, D. Wayne Lukas-trained entrants in this field. Given a brief winter freshening, the Awesome Again colt rebounded from a 10th-place effort in the Kentucky Jockey Club to win in allowance company in his 2018 bow. He earned a career-best speed figure that day and has been training well for Lukas at Oaklawn Park. I’m not convinced that he belongs here, but if he runs the same as he did last month, he could factor.

Bravazo He's bred on the same bloodline cross as Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter and Preakness shocker Oxbow. Lukas conditioned Oxbow to a win in the LeComte, but the roan colt was fourth in the Risen Star. Bravazo doesn’t have the same quality distaff line, but later-maturing colts are starting to bloom. Bravazo has the right running style and may be hitting his stride. Old-timers Lukas and Gary Stevens are sneaky.  

Kentucky Club — The second Calumet/Lukas entry, Kentucky Club took six tries and a drop into maiden claiming company to get his first win. He was given a career-best number that day, but the 84 Equibase figure he earned is well below the best in this field. Pass.


Kentucky Club  Another late bloomer. The “other” Lukas horse, ironically, by Oxbow out of a daughter of A.P. Indy. Plenty of class in this colt’s distaff line, which includes the Grade 1 winners Zafting, Zo Impressive and Zoftig. Kentucky Club is taking on an accomplished field after trouncing maiden claimers. May pass tired horses in the stretch, but they’ll have to move the finish line to Kentucky for him to win.

Principe Guilherme — Another Asmussen trainee, Principe Guilherme tasted defeat for the first time last out in the LeComte when he could not run down Instilled Regard in the stretch. That’s not to say that he can’t get the upper hand this time, however, particularly since he’s been doing his training at Fair Grounds. Contender.

Principe Guilherme — He made a nice closing run in the LeComte to catch second place over Snapper Sinclair. The bay son of Tapit earned a 92 Brisnet speed figure in all three starts. When was the last time you saw that?  Principe Guilherme could be right there if Instilled Regard is jet-lagged.

Ebben — A gelded son of Trappe Shot, Ebben has not shown the ability to keep up with the best of his class. He’s 0-for-4 in stakes company and hasn’t even hit the board in those races. His last work was a bullet, but I just do not see him improving on his sixth-place LeComte finish. Pass.

Ebben – He was wide the entire way in the LeComte. He’s the “why” horse in the field. Why do they keep running him out of his league? Pass.

Track bias

In the last 10 years, horses positioned mid-pack or closer were victorious in the Risen Star.

Final thoughts

  The thing about posting picks publicly is that readers like to give flack for picking the favorite. “Anybody can pick the favorite!” Well, yeah, that’s why the horse is the favorite. I’ll be nice and let Ashley pick up the flack this time around. Instead, I’ll toss Bravazo in there for the upset. He showed ability as a juvenile, improved over that in his 3-year-old debut, and could surprise.

There are quite a few speedy types here, so a contested pace is likely. This is also quite a competitive field with only two that I felt comfortable with completely tossing. Noble Indy is a hot prospect for Pletcher, but he will have to learn to behave around the gate and Velazquez will have to time his ride perfectly as Noble Indy tends to wait once he gets the lead. Givemeaminit and Supreme Aura are intriguing possibilities, but Instilled Regard and Principe Guilherme are obviously the big two here.




#5 Instilled Regard (8-5)

#7 Bravazo (8-1)

#9 Principe Guilherme (7-2)

#5 Instilled Regard (8-5)

#3 Givemeaminit (15-1)

#9 Principe Guilherme (7-2)

#2 Noble Indy (5-1)

#6 Supreme Aura (8-1)


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Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

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