©2015 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
After the 73rd running of The Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park this Saturday, the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” will take us to Louisiana, the Pelican State, where Imperia will go to the starting gate as the lukewarm 7-2 morning-line favorite in what appears to be a wide open 43rd running of the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds Race Course. Post time is 6:24 PM ET.
The Risen Star will be the first start as a three year old for Imperia and he comes into this race off of a second-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) last November at Churchill Downs. Overall, Imperia has compiled a 1-2-0 record in four starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and, in stakes competition, he’s 1-1-0 in three starts.
Whether Imperia can secure the win off of a two and one half month layoff remains to be seen. But, with veteran jockey Mike Smith in the irons, I look for the pair to be competitive.
One horse I like for a potential upset is J S Bach who, along with War Story and Tiznow R J has been tagged as the 5-1 morning-line third choice. He’s a lightly-raced colt who comes into this race with a 1-1-0 record in two starts and he’s yet to race in stakes competition.
However, last month in his debut as a three year old, J S Bach looked good breaking his maiden by an impressive 8½ lengths at Gulfstream Park. That distance of that race is the same as the Risen Star and the final time of 1:44.61 makes him competitive with this group.
This race will be J S Bach’s second start as a three year old and he has room to improve off of his last start. In addition, the pedigree of J S Bach indicates that if he lives up to his breeding he should be competitive.
A long shot I like is Bluff (12-1) who comes into this race with a 1-0-0 record in three starts for trainer Larry Jones. He appears to be an improving son of Tapit and he recently broke his maiden by 5¾ lengths on January 22 at the Fair Grounds. Here’s the chart call and video of that race:
BLUFF saved ground on the first turn, was rated while well placed, chased three wide early on the far turn, made a bid passing the three-eighths pole, dropped to the two path near the five-sixteenths then moved clear, came under a right-handed whip in upper stretch, drew off under the whip until inside the furlong marker then was eased up significantly in the final sixteenth while much the best.
This performance was much improved over his previous off-the-board efforts and if Bluff returns to the form of his last start he could be competitive.
International Star (9-2), Tiznow R J and War Story could be there in the mix, too. They were the first three finishers in the Lecomte last month and only 2½ lengths separated the lot. However, if International Star runs a repeat performance of the Lecomte, he should have the edge on those two as he made a nice move in the final strides to get up for the win.
The Kentucky Derby Championship Series consisting of 16 races begins this weekend with the running of the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Risen Star Stakes (G2). The winner of those races will receive 50 points, the second-place finisher will receive 20 points, the third-place finisher will receive 10 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 5 points.
Halfway through this series beginning with the UAE Derby (G2), Florida Derby (G1) and Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 28, the points will increase to 100 points for the winner, 40 points for second place, 20 points for third and 10 points for fourth place.
Calculator, ranked 5th in the January 24 Kentucky Derby point standings, is sidelined with an injury for six months and he’s off the Derby trail. Leave the Light On, ranked 13th, is also off the trail.
Texas Red is sidelined with a foot abscess but could, perhaps, return to racing in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) or Arkansas Derby (G1).
Here’s a look at the current top twenty Derby qualifiers:
2015 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. El Kabeir, 25, John Terranova II, $380,792
2. International Star, 21, Mike Maker, $250,979
3. Dortmund, 20, Bob Baffert, $390,000
4. Upstart, 16, Rick Violette Jr., $538,080
5. Carpe Diem, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
6. Texas Red, 12, Keith Desormeaux, $1,176,000
7. Mr. Z, 12, D. Wayne Lukas, $488,326
8. Far Right, 12, Ron Moquett, $205,906
9. Ocho Ocho Ocho, 10, Jim Cassidy, $660,000
10. American Pharoah, 10, Bob Baffert, $360,000
11. Daredevil, 10, Todd Pletcher, $300,000
12. Far From Over, 10, Todd Pletcher, $150,000
13. Metaboss, 10, Jeff Bonde, $126,000
14. Lucky Player, 10, Steve Asmussen, $97,231
15. Frosted, 8, Kiaran McLaughlin, $156,800
16. Firing Line, 8, Simon Callaghan, $130,000
17. Conquest Typhoon, 4, Mark Casse, $335,827
18. Bold Conquest, 6, Steve Asmussen, $72,176
19. Rock Shandy, 6, Peter Miller, $56,000
20. Bayerd, 4, Steve Asmussen, $245,000