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Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

The first leg of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series kicks off this Saturday with two stakes races: the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds and the $400,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park. Both of these races also offer points toward the Kentucky Derby based on order of finish: 1st (50 points), 2nd (20 points), 3rd (10 points), 4th (5 points). 

DERBY POINTS SYSTEM OVERVIEW

Let’s take a look at the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds.

On paper, the most impressive winner coming into this race is definitely Oxbow, who defeated eight opponents in an 11 ½-length win in the Lecomte Stakes (G3). The are two things that I like about his win, his final time was solid and he fought back after an opponent came to his side at the top of the stretch. I also like that his big win was here at the Fair Grounds. He was able to win by leading at every point in the Lecomte, but I believe this time he is going to receive much more pressure on the lead.

OXBOW WINNING LECOMTE

Oxbow Lecomte

Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire

I expect Palace Malice to show plenty of early speed and maybe even Code West could also be close to the lead in the early part of the race. Palace Malice is making his first start in a race longer than seven furlongs, and he has never been worse than second in his three lifetime starts. It will be interesting to see if he likes this longer distance.

Code West comes off a second-place finish in an allowance race against Super Ninety Nine at Santa Anita Park. In his next start, Super Ninety Nine went on to crush his competition in the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park with a very impressive win. I expect Code West to also be close to the lead in the Lecomte with jockey Martin Garcia coming in from California to ride him. If he improves, like Super Ninety Nine did, he might be the one to watch.

One horse who is interesting is Departing. He is a perfect 2-for-2 in his career and both of his wins have been at the Fair Grounds. His pedigree indicates he should have no problem handling this longer distance, but it is interesting that he is not nominated to the Triple Crown. Early nominations are already closed but there is still time for late nominations for a higher fee. It might mean that his connections didn’t think he was going to be a Derby-type of horse but he might jump up with a big performance in the Risen Star.

My pick to win the Risen Star is Normandy Invasion. His last race was a strong second-place finish in the Remsen Stakes (G2) in November 2012 at Aqueduct, where he missed getting the win by a nose. He showed tremendous improvement once he was able to stretch out to a longer distance, and I think there is still more improvement possible given that he is making his 3-year-old debut in the Risen Star. I like that his trainer, Chad Brown, is winning at a 28% clip with this type of layoff and also the jockey-trainer combination of Brown and Jose Lezcano is hitting at 31%. 

My selections:

1st:  #9 Normandy Invasion

2nd: #2 Code West

3rd:  #10 Oxbow

My bet: $1 Trifecta - 9 with 2,6,10 with 1,2,6,10,14 (Total cost=$12)

 

$400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2)

Saturday, Fair Grounds, Race 10, 5:57 p.m. ET

1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1

Proud Strike (VA)

G L Stevens

S Asmussen

2

Code West (VA)

M Garcia

B Baffert

3

Agent (OK)

R E Eramia

J McAnally

4

Golden Soul (KY)

M Mena

D Stewart

5

Mylute (KY)

S Bridgmohan

T M Ammoss

6

Palace Malice (KY)

R Napravnik

T A Pletcher

7

Hardrock Eleven (FL)

J Theriot

D P Banks

8

Ive Struck a Nerve (KY)

J Graham

J K Desormeaux

9

Normandy Invasion (KY)

J Lezcano

C C Brown

10

Oxbow (KY)

J K Court

D W Lukas

11

Bethel (KY)

I V Diego

G Dorochenko

12

He's Had Enough (KY)

M Gutierrex

D F O'Neill

13

Circle Unbroken (FL)

L R Goncalves

G W Simms

14

Departing (KY)

B J Hernandez

A M Stall Jr.

AE

Sunbean (LA)

C J Hernandez

A M Stall Jr.

AE – denotes also-eligible entrant who need one defection from the field in order to start in the race. All horses carry 116 pounds.

Image Description

Jose Contreras

Contreras was born and raised in Southern California and grew up going to the races at his home tracks. He has extensive handicapping experience and has shared his selections with the public on his blog before joining ABR. He also brings marketing experience from previously working with companies like Apple and Google. He studied at the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona.

Image Description

Jose Contreras

Contreras was born and raised in Southern California and grew up going to the races at his home tracks. He has extensive handicapping experience and has shared his selections with the public on his blog before joining ABR. He also brings marketing experience from previously working with companies like Apple and Google. He studied at the Race Track Industry Program at the University of Arizona.

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