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What we learned on Risen Star Stakes Day at Fair Grounds

By Ed DeRosa

Count me among those who thinks this is a solid group three-year-olds of both sexes, and as exciting as the races were on Saturday, February 20, at Fair Grounds, I don’t think any of the horses we saw today will make much of an impact on May 6-7 at Churchill Downs.

I was bearish on the depth of the Risen Star Stakes going into it considering the (overbet) favorite was untested on fast dirt, but winner Gun Runner and third-place finisher Mo Tom offer some intrigue moving forward as the former was making his three-year-old debut and the latter might have won if not for big trouble (a cut) suffered in the stretch.

Still, it’s hard for me to put that pair on the same plane as the likes of Nyquist, Zulu, Mohaymen, Smokey Imaage, Mor Spirit, and Exaggerator (my “A” list so far). That makes for an exciting next two weeks, though, as Zulu and Mohaymen are scheduled for the Fountain of Youth, and Smokey Image and Mor Spirit for the San Felipe (along with Danzing Candy).

The Oaks list suffered the biggest setback, as former top 10 name Stageplay drops off following her TwinSpires.com Rachel Alexandra Stakes flop. Most of the names on that list are filler, though, considering the top spot belongs to undefeated champion Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Songbird, who is already odds on for the Oaks with some international bookmakers, and while it’s always exciting to hear John G. Dooley call a bomb home, that’s not enough to propel Venus Valentine to a top ten spot here (though she now has more points than Songbird). Also interesting that Venus Valentine won a race for Rachel Alexandra, whose only filly is named Rachel’s Valentina.

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