The big Derby preps are upon us as we head to The Fairgrounds in Louisiana for the $400,000 G2 Risen Star. If history serves, the 50 Derby points for the winner should be more than enough to garner a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. 10 hopefuls will go to the post for this 1-1/16 mile event around 2 turns over The Fairgrounds’ dirt course.
The Fairgrounds 1-1/16 mile affairs had been playing to runners from off the pace with only 1 of the last 9 tries being won in wire to wire fashion, but oddly, the rail has still been the place to be. Also oddly, while going over recent charts from Fairgrounds, I noticed that 1m 70 yard races, also around 2 turns, have been giving an edge to front runners with 3 of the last 4 winners going wire to wire. Digging deeper we find that the most recent 1-1/16 mile event was won on the front by a horse who battled all the way around on Feb. 10th. It looks like a changing track bias.
This field includes the top 3 finishers from the G3 Lecomte Stakes, including 8/5 morning line favorite and Lecomte winner Instilled Regard. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, this colt has posted the highest speed figures in the field and will again have the services of Javier Castellano in the saddle. After breaking his maiden last October, Instilled Regard has taken a big leap forward in his last 2 graded stake efforts.
Also from the Lecomte is Principe Guilherme who broke wide from post 12 and never got within 4 paths of the rail and still battled on for 3rd as the 6/5 favorite. The #4, Snapper Sinclair, finished 3rd while enjoying a post position advantage over the top 2
With modest early speed from this whole group, the pace of the race looks up for grabs. Instilled Regard posted the best early figures in the field 2 races back in the G1 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity but he sat 5th, eventually cashing a 2nd place check via disqualification.
The horse I landed on is the #2, Noble Indy, from the Todd Pletcher barn with John Velazquez aboard. Undefeated in 2 tries, this colt has put up competitive speed figures while showing that he could handle 2 turns in his win at Gulfstream Park. In that allowance win he seemed to hang a little while on the lead before posting a ¾ length victory, which tells me he has even better races in him once the team of Pletcher/Velazquez work their schooling magic. Note: the 2nd place horse in that race, Mississippi, bypassed the Holy Bull Stakes and finished 2nd again in an allowance race on Feb. 4th.
At 5-1 morning line odds, expect Noble Indy to settle on or near the lead early and grind to the front late. I will take an improving Noble Indy for the win.