The Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series kicks off on Saturday with the $400,000 Risen Star S. (G2) at Fair Grounds. Held over 1 1/8 miles, the lucrative race awards a total of 85 Kentucky Derby qualification points, split 50-20-10-5 among the top four finishers. Based on historical standards, the winner is virtually guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

Starrininmydreams
Total 2 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(88) when winning a Churchill Downs allowance race.
Total Earnings:
$93,064
Owner:
Stewart Racing Stable and WinStar Farm
Breeder:
Dallas Stewart and WinStar Farm
Trainer:
Dallas Stewart
Jockey:
Brian Hernandez
Sire:
Super Saver
Dam:
Boy Crazy
Color:
Bay

A son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Starrininmydreams showed plenty of promise at Churchill Downs last year. After wiring his debut sprinting by three lengths, Starrininmydreams stretched out over 1 1/16 miles and used pace-tracking tactics to narrowly prevail in a 1 1/16-mile allowance event. The latter race was contested over a sloppy track, so the prospect of rain at Fair Grounds this week shouldn't bother Starrininmydreams. The key will be working out a clean trip from the tricky rail draw.

Proxy
Total 4 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
2
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(94) when finishing second in the Lecomte (G3).
Total Earnings:
$107,700
Owner:
Godolphin
Breeder:
Godolphin
Trainer:
Michael Stidham
Jockey:
John Velazquez
Sire:
Tapit
Dam:
Panty Raid
Color:
Bay

Never out of the exacta in four starts, Proxy has steadily improved his Brisnet Speed ratings while facing increasingly tough competition. After posting front-running maiden and allowance wins at Fair Grounds, the Godolphin homebred joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a game runner-up effort in the Lecomte (G3) over this track. In the Lecomte, Proxy was only beaten a length after tracking the early tempo, and he'll gain the services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez for the Risen Star. But Proxy may have to use his speed hard to avoid getting buried behind horses in the run to the first turn.

Beep Beep
Total 2 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(83) when winning his debut at Churchill Downs.
Total Earnings:
$51,424
Owner:
Marylou Whitney Stables
Breeder:
Marylou Whitney Stables
Trainer:
Norm Casse
Jockey:
Miguel Mena
Sire:
Tapizar
Dam:
Speedy Bird
Color:
Bay

A homebred racing in the colors of Marylou Whitney Stables, Beep Beep showed early promise when cruising to victory in his debut sprinting seven furlongs at Churchill Downs. But the son of Tapizar faltered when stretching out in distance for a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Fair Grounds, rallying only belatedly to finish fourth by 7 1/2 lengths. A troubled break and a wide trip compromised Beep Beep's chances, so he might have finished closer with a clean trip. But even off the form of his maiden win, Beep Beep will need a step forward to challenge in the Risen Star.

Carillo
Total 1 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(88) when winning his debut at Aqueduct.
Total Earnings:
$44,000
Owner:
Greg Tramontin, Joel Politi, Brittlyn Stable, and Asaro Enterprises
Breeder:
Paul Pompa Jr.
Trainer:
Tom Amoss
Jockey:
James Graham
Sire:
Union Rags
Dam:
Proper Mad
Color:
Bay

A son of Belmont (G1) winner Union Rags out of a mare by Preakness (G1) hero Bernardini, Carillo is bred to run long and handled one mile just fine in his Jan. 8 debut at Aqueduct, rallying wide to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Subsequently sold for $875,000, Carillo will make his first start for hot trainer Tom Amoss in the Risen Star. Stepping up in class off a single maiden race is a tough task, but Carillo has turned in a couple of sharp workouts at Fair Grounds, and the 88 Brisnet Speed rating he earned on debut suggests a top-four finish isn't out of the question.

Senor Buscador
Total 2 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(94) when dominating the Remington Springboard Mile S.
Total Earnings:
$137,247
Owner:
Joe R. Peacock Jr.
Breeder:
Joe R. Peacock Sr. and Joe R. Peacock Jr.
Trainer:
Todd Fincher
Jockey:
Luis Quinonez
Sire:
Mineshaft
Dam:
Rose's Desert
Color:
Bay

Undefeated in two starts for high-percentage trainer Todd Fincher, Senor Buscador has already made noise on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, rallying powerfully to dominate the Remington Springboard Mile S. by 5 3/4 lengths. The son of Mineshaft finished fast and earned a sharp 94 Brisnet Speed rating, stamping the stretch-running colt as a major threat for victory in the Risen Star. The biggest question is how he'll handle the expected sloppy track; as a deep closer, he'll risk getting caught up in muddy kickback behind rivals. But if Senor Buscador handles the conditions, he's the one they'll have to hold off in the homestretch.

Midnight Bourbon
Total 5 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
1
Show:
2
Top Speed Rating:
(95) when wiring the Lecomte (G3).
Total Earnings:
$221,420
Owner:
Winchell Thoroughbreds
Breeder:
Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings
Trainer:
Steve Asmussen
Jockey:
Joe Talamo
Sire:
Tiznow
Dam:
Catch the Moon
Color:
Bay

A relative veteran, Midnight Bourbon has already made five starts, including three on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Following placed efforts in the Iroquois (G3) and Champagne (G1), the improving son of Tiznow successfully switched to front-running tactics for the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds, winning by a length with a 95 Brisnet Speed rating. Midnight Bourbon's speed is a dangerous asset, but he enjoyed an uncontested lead in the Lecomte and may face more pace pressure on Saturday. Whether he can reproduce his A-game under less favorable circumstances is a question bettors will have to consider.

O Besos
Total 3 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(88) when winning a Fair Grounds allowance race.
Total Earnings:
$56,624
Owner:
L. Barrett Bernard, Tagg Team Racing, and West Point Thoroughbreds
Breeder:
L. Barrett Bernard
Trainer:
Greg Foley
Jockey:
Marcelino Pedroza
Sire:
Orb
Dam:
Snuggs and Kisses
Color:
Chestnut

A deep closer prone to breaking slowly, O Besos has shown the ability to unleash powerful stretch rallies. Two starts sprinting against maiden and allowance company at Fair Grounds have produced blowout victories with improving Brisnet Speed ratings. But although O Besos is a son of 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Orb, he's never run farther than 6 1/2 furlongs and is unlikely to receive as much pace to chase while stretching out over 1 1/8 miles in the Risen Star. The added distance and tougher competition are formidable obstacles to overcome.

Sermononthemount
Total 3 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(76) when rallying to victory in a Delta Downs allowance race.
Total Earnings:
$37,350
Owner:
Kevin Shane Porter
Breeder:
Charles Fipke
Trainer:
Tim Dixon
Jockey:
Declan Carroll
Sire:
Tale of Ekati
Dam:
Perfect Nodouble
Color:
Bay

Sold for just $3,500 as a two-year-old, Sermononthemount has gone 2-for-2 over the six-furlong bullring racetrack at Delta Downs, winning maiden and allowance races with powerful late rallies. But his lone start over a one-mile oval yielded a distant sixth-place finish in the Sugar Bowl S. at Fair Grounds, suggesting Sermononthemount may find the waters a bit deep in the Risen Star.

Defeater
Total 1 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(86) when winning his debut at Fair Grounds.
Total Earnings:
$30,000
Owner:
Nice Guys Stables, Manganaro Bloodstock, and Steve Hornstock
Breeder:
Royal Oak Farm and Chadds Ford Stables
Trainer:
Tom Amoss
Jockey:
Diego Saenz
Sire:
Union Rags
Dam:
Internal Affairs
Color:
Chestnut

The second Tom Amoss trainee caught eyes in his Jan. 2 debut sprinting six furlongs at Fair Grounds, rallying nicely after a slow start to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Third-place runner Gershwin flattered the effort by returning to win his next start, but Defeater is stepping up significantly in class and distance for the Risen Star. The longer trip is a question mark considering Defeater's dam sire—Orientate—was a champion sprinter whose descendants tend to be speedsters and early-maturing types more than classic router runners.

Santa Cruiser
Total 4 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
1
Show:
1
Top Speed Rating:
(91) when breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs.
Total Earnings:
$81,792
Owner:
Calumet Farm
Breeder:
Calumet Farm
Trainer:
Keith Desormeaux
Jockey:
Adam Beschizza
Sire:
Dialed In
Dam:
Sweet Sermon
Color:
Dark bay/brown

Santa Cruiser never had a chance to show his best in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds. After hesitating slightly at the start, Santa Cruiser was shut off between rivals and forced to settle back in last place, a complete departure from the front-running tactics he employed in his maiden win. Despite these unfortunate circumstances, Santa Cruiser never gave up and rallied late to finish fourth. With a clean break in the Risen Star, Santa Cruiser can secure a forward position and potentially turn in a much-improved effort.

Mandaloun
Total 3 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
0
Show:
1
Top Speed Rating:
(94) when finishing third in the Lecomte (G3).
Total Earnings:
$111,252
Owner:
Juddmonte Farms
Breeder:
Juddmonte Farms
Trainer:
Brad Cox
Jockey:
Florent Geroux
Sire:
Into Mischief
Dam:
Brooch
Color:
Bay

A Juddmonte Farms homebred conditioned by high-percentage trainer Brad Cox, Mandaloun comfortably won his first two starts sprinting before stepping up in class and distance for the Lecomte (G3). Despite racing wide from behind a slow pace, Mandaloun gained ground resolutely down the lane to finish third by one length. A quicker early tempo in the Risen Star might be all Mandaloun needs to turn the tables on his Lecomte conquerors, though there are several other reasons to believe Mandaloun can produce a winning effort. For one, he's training sharply, breezing a fast five furlongs in :59 4/5 last Saturday. For another, he'll add blinkers, potentially sharpening his focus. Lastly, Cox wins at a lofty 37% rate with horses running long for the second time, suggesting Mandaloun will be primed for a peak effort in the Risen Star.

Keepmeinmind
Total 4 start(s)
Wins:
1
Place:
2
Show:
1
Top Speed Rating:
(98) when finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
Total Earnings:
$394,320
Owner:
Spendthirft Farm, Cypress Creek Equine, and Arnold Bennewith
Breeder:
Southern Equine Stables
Trainer:
Robertino Diodoro
Jockey:
David Cohen
Sire:
Laoban
Dam:
Inclination
Color:
Bay

One of the most accomplished runners in the field, Keepmeinmind put together a strong two-year-old season, placing in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) before rallying to victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). But the form of the Kentucky Jockey Club has taken it hit in recent weeks, with many of Keepmeinmind's beaten rivals disappointing in subsequent starts. A fast pace in the Risen Star would help Keepmeinmind's chances, though the stretch-running colt isn't a definite starter—he may scratch in favor of Monday's Southwest (G3) at Oaklawn Park instead.

Rightandjust
Total 3 start(s)
Wins:
2
Place:
0
Show:
0
Top Speed Rating:
(88) when winning a Fair Grounds allowance race.
Total Earnings:
$50,820
Owner:
Wayne T. Davis
Breeder:
Gary & Mary West Stables
Trainer:
Shane Wilson
Jockey:
Mitchell Murrill
Sire:
Awesome Again
Dam:
Pussyfoot
Color:
Bay

A former claimer, Rightandjust has gone 2-for-2 running long over the Fair Grounds main track, most recently wiring a 1 1/16-mile allowance race by three lengths. The improving son of Awesome Again has plenty of tactical speed, but he'll face tougher competition in the Risen Star and may find it difficult to avoid a wide trip while breaking from the far outside post position.