Kentucky Derby Sophomore Spotlight: Risen Star & Southwest Stakes

February 22nd, 2018

A pair of Kentucky Derby preps highlighted the past week of racing, with two upsets leading the way.

2018 Risen Star:

The D. Wayne Lukas-trained BRAVAZO followed up a game allowance tally at Oaklawn with a brave nose victory in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds and earned his initial graded win. Dark bay son of Awesome Again broke best beneath Miguel Mena, forced the pace from second early and got the bob on the wire to remain unblemished in 2018.

Bravazo posted a lifetime-best 98 BRIS Speed number and the 100 Late Pace figure that he earned bodes well for his chances to stretch out in his subsequent offering.

SNAPPER SINCLAIR was ultra-game throughout and a tough-luck loser at big odds for Steve Asmussen. Son of City Zip led at nearly every call and showed nice improvement off of his third in the Lecomte (G3).

Colt does not boast an ideal pedigree to shine at classic distances, though he is very talented and Snapper Sinclair will be making more noise in the prep season with continued improvement.

Third-place finisher NOBLE INDY didn’t embarrass himself in a stakes debut when two lengths behind the top duo. Todd Pletcher pupil never stopped running but he has to take a big step forward to grab my attention in his next prep performance. Son of Take Charge Indy is another who has a questionable pedigree to thrive at Triple Crown distances.

Lecomte hero INSTILLED REGARD did not live up to his 7-5 favoritism in the Risen Star while fourth but was well clear of his nearest foe in a useful try. $1.05 million son of Arch looked like a winner at the top of the lane only to finish evenly.

Jerry Hollendorfer trainee is not one to omit just yet in my opinion. Instilled Regard had strung together a trio of fine races in advance of the Risen Star and he has a strong foundation under him. Tab the handsome dark bay colt, who hails from a superb female family, to improve in his return.

PRINCIPE GUILLHERME and HIGH NORTH were the disappointments to me in this field and vast improvement is needed from both to be included with the leaders in their division.

2018 Southwest:

West Coast invader MY BOY JACK surged through an opening along the rail in early stretch and pulled away to a 4 ½-length triumph for conditioner Keith Desormeaux in the Southwest S. (G3). After posting a non-threatening third in the Sham S. (G3), the dark bay colt relished the muddy Oaklawn Park oval and registered a career-topping 98 BRIS Speed number notching his first graded tally.

COMBATANT did what he seems to always do -- make a strong closing run to be a very good second. Smarty Jones and Springboard Mile runner-up probably needs to win a prep race to be in the Kentucky Derby mix, but his consistency at the level makes it hard to toss him despite potential distance and class concerns.

The connections of Hopeful S. (G1) star SPORTING CHANCE had to be pleased with their colt’s third-place finish in a 2018 debut. Lukas pupil was up against a solid field off a long layoff while catching a muddy main oval and gamely won the show spot after showing some courage late.

Sporting Chance is still lightly raced with just a single route attempt under his belt and his next prep outing will tell me a lot more about his future.

MOURINHO led to the top of the lane before retreating to fourth for Bob Baffert, regressing following a romp in the Smarty Jones. $625,000 son of Super Saver might not boast a brilliant pedigree for classic distances, though his speed and connections can’t be overlooked and I still am a fan of his.

I expect a big bounce-back race for Mourinho as long as he trains forwardly in the coming weeks.

ZING ZANG rallied some to be fifth in the Southwest for Asmussen. One-run closer has to get quicker but should have two more preps to do so. And I will be intrigued to see him race nine furlongs against this type of company.

The muddy oval clouded my view of the Southwest some, so each of the top-five finishers get another look going forward. But my hunch is we didn’t see the Kentucky Derby winner at Oaklawn.