Top Picks For The 2016 Risen Star Stakes

David Schwab

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 8:00 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 8:00 PM UTC

The 2017 Kentucky Derby Trail starts to heat things up heading into the final weekend in February with the running of this Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans. 

In my book, this race marks the official start of the countdown to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. A full complement of 14 of three-year old thoroughbreds are each lining up to take their place among the top contenders to win this year’s Kentucky Derby with a victory in the Risen Star. While this race should pose a good challenge for horse racing handicappers all across the country given the number of quality horses in the field, I have my sights set on a trio of entries that I believe have the best shot of cashing in on a trifecta play.


2017 Risen Star Stakes- Fair Grounds Race Course

The Risen Star is a Grade 2 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds and it will be contested this Saturday on the dirt track at Fair Grounds over a distance of 1 1/16 miles. The total prize purse for this year’s event has been set at $400,000.

According to the projected morning line odds at Horse Racing Nation, Mo Town should open as a 7/2 favorite to win this year’s Risen Star in his racing debut as a three-year old. Trainer Anthony Dutrow has been slowly bringing this three-year old Kentucky-bred colt along following his impressive victory as a juvenile in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 26 at a distance of 1 1/8 miles. He also finished first and second in a pair of Maiden Special Weight races at both Belmont and Saratoga earlier in the year.

He definitely comes from good racing stock with a pedigree from Uncle Mo and his current HRN rank stands at No. 121 with a 7.70 rating.

Finding place horse to break through a crowded field could be a challenge, but I like my chances with trainer Neil Howard’s Guest Suite at projected 6/1 odds. He is also ranked by HRN, but quite a bit further down the list at No. 381 and his current rating stands at 6.84. What really caught my eye about this three-year old Kentucky-bred colt was is racing form in a victory earlier this year in the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes at this same track over the likes of Untrapped and Takeoff at a distance of 1 mile 70 yards.

This was his third victory in five previous events and he has yet to finish out of the money in his early racing career. He took third in his only other stakes race as a juvenile behind McCraken and Balandeen in the ungraded Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs on Oct. 30 at a distance of a mile.

It is hard to take a pass on horses such as Untrapped and Takeoff when it comes to filling the show position in this trifecta, but I am taking a bit of a flyer on trainer Doug O’Neill’s So Conflated , especially with jockey Mario Guiterrez already penciled-in to get the ride. This three-year old Florida-bred colt will be making his major stakes debut at projected odds of 10/1 on the morning line, which speaks to his overall talent considering that he is not ranked or rated by HRN.

The main reason that I believe he can work his way into the mix on Saturday is his recent victory in the ungraded California Derby at Golden Gate on Jan. 21 over a distance 1 1/16 miles. He looks really comfortable at this length after placing first in a seven furlong MSW race in late-December at Santa Anita.

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