Risen Star Stakes Keys Saturday’s Derby Prep Card

The biggest races of the Kentucky Derby Championship Series, leading up to the Run For Roses on May 3, begin on Saturday. The point value of these qualifying races is about to multiply five-fold and three of the most successful horses of the prep season’s early phase are going to be in Louisiana for the Risen Star Stakes.

Rosie Napravnik is a jockey who hasn’t gotten the attention that Danica Patrick has in NASCAR. But while Patrick, the first female driver to be a regular on the NASCAR circuit has struggled and started to take some tweaks from rivals, Napravnik is an undisputed success in the horse racing world. And she’s got the favorite down in the Bayou on Saturday.

Vicar’s In Trouble is a 5-2 favorite to win the Risen Star Stakes and is one of 16 horses nationally that have built up ten points in the Derby Prep standings. With the points starting to come in much larger chunks, Vicar’s in Trouble needs to keep it going with at least a top four finish on Saturday.

Two other contenders at the New Orleans Fair Grounds have gotten to double digits in the points standings and that’s Rise Up and Bond Holder. They go off at 4-1 and 6-1 respectively. Gold Hawk and Hoppertunity are 8-1, and each have a nationally renowned trainer in Steve Asmussen and Bob Baffert respectively.

If you believe the best way to look at picking these races is to keep it simple and look at the combination of jockey, trainer and odds (I got that advice from a regular gambler several years ago when I worked in handicapping and it’s worked as well as anything else), then take a look at Intense Holiday.

Priced at 8-1, this horse not only has a big-time trainer in Todd Pletcher, but a big-time jockey in Mike Smith. The 8-1 price on the morning line is enough to be worthwhile, while not so high as to imply that winning the race is a pipe dream. If I were a betting man (and I’m only a hypothetical one), this would be the ticket I’d take.

One other Championship Series race takes place on Saturday and it’s also in SEC Country. Over in Florida, the Fountain of Youth Stakes runs at Gulfstream Park. Even though Gulfstream is a much more renowned track, the field here is rather mediocre. There’s no horse that’s made any mark in the early stages of the prep season that began last September.

Pletcher has the favorite at Gulfstream, with Commissioner going off at 3-1 and ridden by John Velazquez, a good jockey and one of the more successful on the New York circuit he primarily rides. Top Billing is a 7-2 shot and ridden by Joel Rosario, who is to the SoCal circuit what Velazquez is to New York. General a Rod is 6-1. Pletcher not only has the favorite, he has a live challenger in We Miss Artie at 8-1.

If you have HR-TV on your cable/satellite package you can watch both races. The Fountain Of Youth has a post time of approximately 5:30 PM ET. Then the big event in Louisiana, the Risen Star Stakes will go off at roughly 6:55 PM ET.