5 Fast Facts about the Risen Star Stakes, a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race
  1. Inaugurated in 1973, the race was first known as the Louisiana Derby Trial. Its last running under that name was 1988, when it was won by Louisiana’s own Risen Star, en route to winning the Louisiana Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, the latter by 14 ¾ lengths in the fourth-fastest time in the race’s history. The Louisiana Derby Trial became the Risen Star Stakes in 1989.
  2. Risen Star is one of just two winners of the race to have gone on to win a leg of the Triple Crown. The other was 1975 victor Master Derby, who went on to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby, win the Preakness Stakes, and finish third in the Belmont Stakes.
  3. The only horse that ran in the Risen Star Stakes that went on to win the Kentucky Derby was 2002 Derby winner War Emblem. However, his Risen Star Stakes effort didn’t cast him in a great light; he finished sixth, 9 ¾ lengths behind subsequent Louisiana Derby winner Repent. It’s possible he just didn’t like Fair Grounds, as he had finished fifth in the Lecomte Stakes at his previous start; following the Risen Star, he consecutively won an allowance race, the Indiana Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes.
  4. The Risen Star Stakes, which earns the winner 50 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby table, has proved a great guide to the Louisiana Derby. The past three winners – Girvin, Gun Runner, and International Star – all won the Louisiana Derby, while 10 other winners went on to complete the double: Friesan Fire, Pyro, Repent, Comic Strip, Dixieland Heat, Line in the Sand, Dispersal, Risen Star, Taylor’s Special, and Master Derby.
  5. Though it hasn’t been such a fantastic guide to the Kentucky Derby, two Risen Star Stakes winners have gone on to win North America’s most prestigious race for 3-year-olds and up, the Breeders’ Cup Classic – though neither won that race in their 3-year-old season. Mucho Macho Man, the 2011 Risen Star Stakes, won his Breeders’ Cup Classic as a 5-year-old in 2013, while the 2016 Risen Star Stakes winner Gun Runner won the Breeders’ Cup Classic the following year.

    (Girvin winning the 2017 Risen Star Stakes, Photo by Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir)5