So impressive in taking last month’s Lecomte (G3) by nearly four lengths over the same track, Instilled Regard is the horse to beat in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, the first Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep of the season that will award 50 qualifying points to the winner.

Battle-tested in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) as a 17-1 outsider against the Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie and Solomini in December, Instilled Regard found the pickings much easier in the Lecomte. Avoiding an even wider journey that favorite Principe Guilherme endured, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee was in a good stalking position throughout, headed Snapper Sinclair at the quarter pole and drew off comfortably for the win.

Principe Guilherme is due for better racing lack against this shorter field, which should only number nine after a likely scratch. The Steve Asmussen trainee had captured his first two starts leading all the way, but had to adopt a new strategy in the Lecomte after drawing post 10 in the field of 13. The result was a very wide trip for the 6-5 favorite. That, combined with bumping approaching the far turn, made his second-place finish, a neck in front of Snapper Sinclair, respectable.

Snapper Sinclair enjoyed the best trip of the three, but was found out on class and perhaps distance. The colt is probably capable enough in the mile to 1 1/16-mile range, but a speed-oriented pedigree suggests he’s probably not a win factor this time.

The Risen Star field includes three also-rans — High North, Bravazo, and Givemeaminit — from the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), the form of which was not flattered by the results of the Holy Bull (G2) two weeks ago. I’d use them only in the bottom rungs of vertical exotics, if at all.

Making their stakes debuts are the undefeated Noble Indy and Supreme Aura, both of whom could be a part of a lively pace. Both were dominating winners first out, but Noble Indy had to work a bit to fend off Mississippi in his two-turn allowance victory, and that rival returned to run second at the same level. Supreme Aura, meanwhile, ran like a 1-2 shot should despite coming off a five-month layoff, though that race was over six furlongs. He concedes two-turn experience to all the rest.

How we’re playing the Risen Star:

At 8-5 or better, #5 Instilled Regard will be the play in the Win pool. We’ll use him in Exactas over #6 Supreme Aura and #9 Principe Guilherme. Bottom horses for the Trifecta and Superfecta will include #4 Snapper Sinclair, #2 Noble Indy, and #7 Bravazo.