The “Championship Season” portion of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series kicks off this weekend with Saturday's 400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds. Point values will increase to a 50-20-10-5 scale for the first four finishers.
The 1 1/16-mile race marks the first start of the year for Airoforce, who was last seen posting a 1 ¾-length victory in the November 28 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. The Mark Casse-trained colt not only earned 10 points that evening, Airoforce defeated an outstanding field that evening, with runner-up Mor Spirit and third-placer Mo Tom coming back to win graded stakes in their next start.
Julien Leparoux will be back aboard Airoforce, the 5-2 morning line favorite in the Risen Star.
Mo Tom will look to turn the tables on his rival as he seeks to garner his second straight Kentucky Derby prep race at the New Orleans track. The dark bay son of leading freshman sire Uncle Mo opened his 3-year-old season with a 2 ¼-length tally in the January 16 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds, rallying boldly from off the pace to win going away, and jockey Corey Lanerie will be back aboard for trainer Tom Amoss.
Eleven were entered for the Risen Star but only 11 are expected to start. Other contenders include:
Gun Runner will be making his first appearance for trainer Steve Asmussen since a fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club. He’s listed as the 6-1 third choice on the morning line with jockey Florent Geroux.
Lecomte runner-up Tom’s Ready, who shares common ownership with Mo Tom but is trained by Dallas Stewart, merits respect with his late kick and will add a new rider in Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Uncle Walter will return for the Risen Star off a third in the Lecomte. The Uncle Mo colt is trained by Mike Maker and owned by Ken & Sarah Ramsey, who swept the three Kentucky Derby preps at Fair Grounds last year with International Star. Three-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano picks up the mount on Uncle Walter.
Photo of Airoforce winning the Kentucky Jockey Club courtesy of Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography