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The Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series is set to kickoff Saturday in New Orleans with a field of 13 horses that were entered in the $400,000 Risen Star presented by Lamarque Ford (Grade II) at Fair Grounds.

   Over the next nine weekends, 3-year-old Thoroughbreds will continue their quest for points in select races to secure a berth in the starting gate for the 147th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) on Saturday, May 1 at Churchill Downs.

   The Risen Star has 85 points up for grabs: 50 for first, 20 for second, 10 for third and 5 for fourth.

   Since the point series was adopted in 2013, it has taken an average 23 points to make the field of 20 for the Kentucky Derby.

   Also on Saturday, the Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Season will continue with the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby (Listed) over the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields. The 1 1/8-mile race will award the Top 4 finishers points on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

   Monday’s $750,000 Southwest Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn, also in the Prep Season races, has been rescheduled to Saturday, Feb. 20 due to inclement weather in Hot Springs, Ark.

LECOMTE TOP 4 JOINED BY SENOR BUSCADOR IN SATURDAY’S GRADE II, $400,000 RISEN STAR – The Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series will kick off Saturday in Louisiana as the top four finishers of the Jan. 16 Lecomte (GIII) will clash with eight rivals, including Springboard Mile hero Senor Buscador, in the 49th running of the $400,000 Risen Star presented by Lamarque Ford (GII) at Fair Grounds.

   The 1 1/8-mile Risen Star is carded as the finale on a 13-race stakes bonanza. Post time for the Risen Star is 7:18 p.m. (all times Eastern). First post is 1 p.m. Live coverage of Fair Grounds racing will be shown on “America’s Day at the Races” on Fox Sports 2 or via the live simulcast show on TwinSpires.com.

   The Risen Star is the first of 16 Championship Series races in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series. It will yield a total of 85 points to the Top 4 finishers on a 50-20-10-5 scale.

   The race drew a field of 13 horses but one of the top contenders, $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) winner Keepmeinmind, will remain at Oaklawn to compete in next week’s $750,000 Southwest Stakes (GIII).

   Joe Peacock Jr.’s $200,000 Springboard Mile winner Senor Buscador will ship outside of Oklahoma for the first time for Saturday’s Risen Star. The Mineshaft colt is perfect through two starts of his young career following a 5 ¾-length score in the premier race at Remington Park. Jockey Luis Quinonez will have the call on Senor Buscador for trainer Todd Fincher from post 5.

   Winchell Thoroughbreds’ speedy Midnight Bourbon will be in search of back-to-back victories following his one-length win in the $200,000 Lecomte. Trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bourbon has not missed the board in five starts with two wins, a second and two third-place finishes. Joe Talamo will have the return call from post 6.

   One of the other horses likely to garner attention in the Risen Star is Juddmonte FarmsLecomte third-place finisher Mandaloun. Trained by Brad Cox, Mandaloun will add blinkers following his one-length defeat as the beaten 4-5 favorite in the Lecomte. Jockey Florent Geroux, who tallied 34 wins on the Fair Grounds meet prior to switching his tack to Oaklawn, will return to New Orleans on Saturday and will be aboard the Into Mischief colt from post 11.

   The complete field for the Risen Star from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Starrininmydreams (Brian Hernandez Jr., Dallas Stewart, 12-1); Proxy (John Velazquez, Mike Stidham, 8-1); Beep Beep (Miguel Mena, Norm Casse, 20-1); Carillo (James Graham, Tom Amoss, 15-1); Senor Buscador (Quinonez, Fincher, 6-1); Midnight Bourbon (Talamo, Asmussen, 6-1); O Besos (Marcelino Pedroza, Greg Foley, 12-1); Sermononthemount (Declan Carroll, Tim Dixon, 50-1); Defeater (Diego Saenz, Tom Amoss, 12-1); Santa Cruiser (Adam Beschizza, Keith Desormeaux, 15-1); Mandaloun (Geroux, Cox, 9-2); Keepmeinmind (David Cohen, Robertino Diodoro, 3-1); and Rightandjust (Mitchell Murrill, Shane Wilson, 15-1).

PREP SEASON CONTINUES SATURDAY WITH EL CAMINO REAL DERBY – The Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Season will continue Saturday at Golden Gate Fields in Northern California with the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby, run at 1 1/8 miles over the Tapeta surface.

   The race will award the Top 4 finishers points on a 10-4-2-1 scale and is carded as Race 8 with a post time of 7:15 p.m.

   In Saturday’s El Camino Real, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) fifth and $200,000 American Pharoah (GI) runner-up Rombauer tops a field of eight others that were entered in the premiere race at Golden Gate.

   Trained by Michael McCarthy, Rombauer broke his maiden on turf at Del Mar prior to a sixth-place finish in the $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Turf. Following that race, McCarthy switched the colt to dirt in the American Pharoah and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

   The field from the rail out (with jockey and trainer): Positivity (Julien Couton, Paddy Gallagher); Waspirant (Assael Espinoza, John Shirreffs); Tesoro (Catalino Martinez, O.J. Jauregui); It’s My House (William Antongeorgi III, Jamey Thomas); Petruchio (Irving Orozco, Richard Mandella); Play Chicken (Evin Roman, Doug O’Neill); Javanica (Frank Alvarado, Eoin Harty); Govenor’s Party (Cristoal Herrera, Daniel Franko); and Rombauer (Kyle Frey, McCarthy).

PAST PERFORMANCES

Brinset.com Kentucky Derby Contenders Past Performances

https://bit.ly/3p728Wp

Risen Star Past Performances

https://bit.ly/3papoCR

El Camino Real Past Performances

https://bit.ly/3jCsb6G

QUOTABLE

Notable Risen Star quotes provided by owners, trainers and jockeys to track officials:

#2 Proxy: “He’s still a work in progress but I like having a 3-year-old that I think has something left that we haven’t seen yet. He’s still figuring it out, both mentally and physically. But in his works, and in his races, he seems to be getting a little better and I think that’s where he is right now. Now that we’re getting into these longer races, it starts to separate them a bit and I think that’s really going to help my horse; and I’m not sure that’s the case for everybody.” – trainer Mike Stidham

 

#3 Beep Beep: “We had a compromised trip (in his first start at two-turns). He has trained very well since that race. We just want to see where we stand and it’s the right time to do it.” – trainer Norm Casse

#4 Carillo: “He trains like he ran and shows a great deal of stamina in the mornings and in his workouts. He shows a very good turn of foot at the end. The horse is pretty straightforward since I’ve gotten him. He needs to show he can make the transition from one to two turns but he’s not the only horse like that at this time of year. All things point to that being something he’s going to successfully do but he hasn’t done it at this point.” – trainer Tom Amoss

#5 Senor Buscador: “I’ve never been (to Fair Grounds) but it’s a big race and there’s Kentucky Derby points on the line. I’m really looking forward to it. I think the distance is absolutely in his favor. My wish list would be two preps and hopefully qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He has more speed than you’ve seen in his previous races but he just does his own thing. We didn’t teach him to do that. We taught him to come from behind but not walk out of the gate and do a slow roll before he does anything. He’s so nerve-racking to watch run. They get so far back and you think ‘what the heck.’ But he makes it work.” trainer Todd Fincher

#6 Midnight Bourbon: “I think the distance is right in his wheelhouse and we’re excited about running him in this series because of the distance of these preps. He’s an efficient mover with a high cruising speed and horses like that can be very effective at Fair Grounds. We were very pleased with how he started off the year and this is the next step.” – trainer Steve Asmussen

#7 O Besos: “This horse put together two really nice efforts sprinting. He’s a really nice colt by Orb that we own along with Bernard Barrett and West Point Thoroughbreds. This is his first real test trying this distance and we’re hoping he takes to it. He closed from off the pace in all three of his starts so far but sprinting is different than going nine furlongs.” – trainer Greg Foley

 

#11 Mandaloun: “I feel like the works with blinkers have shown some progression and he can take that next step forward with them and have more focus late. He was right there in the Lecomte and he was wide. The two horses that finished in front of us had a little more seasoning and I think he got a lot out of that race. It wasn’t a strong pace and I think it kind of played out how it was supposed to. Both horses in front of us had experience around two turns and you can’t train that into them, they get that from racing in the afternoon. I want to be up in the mix, I’m not a guy that wants to take back and weave through a bunch of horses going long. I think we’ll be forwardly placed.” – trainer Brad Cox

DERBY DETAIL

WINTER WEATHER FORCING TRAINERS TO ALTER PLANS – With weather forecast calling for icy conditions and temperatures to not reach above freezing for several days in Hot Springs, Ark. Monday’s Southwest Stakes (GIII) has been postponed until Saturday, Feb. 20.

   The 1 1/16-mile Prep Season race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby is expected to be a highly-contested matchup between last year’s 2-year-old champion Essential Quality, Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) winner Keepmeinmind and Champagne (GI) winner Jackie’s Warrior.

 

SATURDAY ALLOWANCE FEATURES FIVE TRIPLE CROWN NOMINEES AT FAIR GROUNDS – Saturday’s 13-race program at Fair Grounds features several Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-olds including five that are entered in a 1 1/16-mile first-level allowance event.

   Carded as Race 8, the allowance race features the two-turn dirt debut of impressive maiden winner Laker Mamba; Fair Grounds debut winner Defeater, who is trying two turns for the first time; two-length maiden winner and recent allowance runner-up Gagetown; Whiskey Double, who will attempt two-turns for the first time; and recent maiden winner Big Lake.

   Defeater is also cross-entered in the Risen Star.

   Post time for Race 8 at Fair Grounds is 4:41 p.m.

 

OAKS, TURF CLASSIC EARLY NOMS DUE – Early nominations for the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) and the $1 million Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (GI) close Saturday. For more information: http://bit.ly/2spFso1

SCULLY’S DERBY REPORT

Last-out maiden winners grabbed the spotlight on Feb. 2.

   Candy Man Rocket and Risk Taking earned Kentucky Derby qualifying points for respective wins in the Sam F. Davis Stakes. (GIII) and Withers Stakes. (GIII), and well-regarded Concert Tour passed his first stakes test in the San Vicente (GII).

   None of the performances were inspiring, but the lightly-raced colts still have more than 11 weeks remaining until the first Saturday in May.

San Vicente

The seven-furlong San Vicente at Santa Anita has had an impact upon the Kentucky Derby.

   Bob Baffert prepped the first of six Kentucky Derby winners, Silver Charm, in the 1997 San Vicente. More recently, the top two from the 2016 edition — Nyquist and Exaggerator – came back to finish 1-2 in the Run for the Roses.

   Concert Tour was bet down as the 16-1 individual fourth choice in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager after impressively graduated at first asking in mid-January, leading wire-to-wire for a 3 1/2-length tally over six furlongs.

   Baffert brought the Street Sense colt back three weeks later in the San Vicente, and Concert Tour switched to rating tactics, closely stalking front-runners Freedom Fighter and The Chosen Vron.

   The 2-5 favorite advanced to even terms with Freedom Fighter entering the stretch, but his stablemate had more to offer along the inside. Concert Tour started to gain the upperhand approaching the sixteenth pole when he suddenly drifted out. And he drifted late while edging to a half-length victory with Joel Rosario.

   The Gary and Mary West homebred upped his Brisnet Speed ratings, netting a respectable 97. His Hall of Fame trainer is known for not pushing recent maiden scorers in their first start against winners, and Concert Tour came back from a short rest like the Baffert-trained Nadal, who improved significantly after posting a hard-fought win in last year’s San Vicente the second time out.

   Concert Tour was a bit underwhelming, especially when drifting about, but he managed to win. It left me questioning his scope for 1 1/4 miles this spring, but he remains eligible to change the perception when stretching out to two turns next time.

   Freedom Fighter, unraced since an odds-on debut win at Del Mar in early August, ran well following the 189-day layoff. The Violence colt promises to add pace to future engagements.

Sam F. Davis

Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bill Mott saddled the top two finishers in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, with Candy Man Rocket holding Nova Rags safe by a length on the wire.

   Candy Man Rocket was prominent from the start, tracking in second until seizing control midway on the far turn. The dark bay accelerated into the stretch with a widening advantage beneath Junior Alvarado.

   Campaigned by Frank Fletcher, Candy Man Rocket didn’t take to a sloppy track when making his first appearance at Churchill Downs in late November. The Candy Ride colt came back seven weeks later to romp by 9 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park, and he carried his form to two turns in the Davis.

   Candy Man Rocket appears to have plenty of upside for a Hall of Fame conditioner – he looked good visually winning the Davis — but he did not finish fast. His 87 Speed rating dropped 10 points from the maiden win, and the sophomore generated only a 76 Brisnet Late Pace figure. Those numbers are a big contrast from my initial impression.

   Nova Rags, who raced in close attendance behind his stablemate during the early stages, reduced the final margin by a couple of lengths in deep stretch while never a serious threat to his stablemate. The Union Rags colt stretched out after posting a 2 3/4-length win in the seven-furlong Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay, and Nova Rags may continue to appreciate longer distances if he can increase his Speed ratings.

   Hidden Stash didn’t experience the cleanest trip from the rail post in his initial stakes attempt. The Constitution colt missed second by a neck after finding his best stride in the latter stages, and the Vicki Oliver trainee is a candidate for further improvement off the third-place effort.

Withers

Risk Taking has thrived over longer distances in his last two starts at Aqueduct, breaking his maiden and winning the Withers by open lengths at 1 1/8 miles.

   Owned by Klaravich Stables and trained by Chad Brown, the Medaglia d’Oro colt made no impact when opening his career in a sprint and a turf route. The late runner turned things around in mid-December, adding blinkers and graduating by a 2 1/4-length margin in his third start.

   Risk Taking began to advance leaving the far turn in the Withers and offered his best stride in deep stretch, rallying boldly to win going away by 3 3/4 lengths.

   Authentic led wire-to-wire in the 2020 Kentucky Derby, but the potential always exist for a hot and contested pace that sets the table for a confirmed closer.

   Risk Taking will bring an improving late kick to his final expected Kentucky Derby prep, the April 3 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct.

   His Speed rating (92) came back a little light in the Withers. And pacesetter Capo Kane coughed up a clear lead in midstretch, appearing to suddenly hit a distance wall after taking the Jerome Stakes over a one-turn mile.

   Risk Taking certainly isn’t flashy, and must run faster against deeper competition, but he’s progressed nicely over the last two outings.

Up next

The second of three qualifiers at Fair Grounds, Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (GIII) has attracted a fascinating 13-horse field.

   The top three from the Jan. 16 Lecomte Stakes (GIII) are all back: Midnight Bourbon, Proxy, and Mandaloun.

   Senor Buscador, unbeaten from two starts, is another prominent name in the mix after rolling to a 5 3/4-length win in the Springboard Mile Stakes.

   Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby over the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields is also part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

   On Monday’s Presidents’ Day card at Oaklawn Park, unbeaten champion two-year-old male Essential Quality will return to action in the Southwest S. (GIII) at 1 1/16 miles.

   Additionally, Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager begins its three-day run on Friday. – James Scully/TwinSpires.com

 

THIS WEEK IN DERBY HISTORY

Wednesday marked 80 days until this year’s running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I). The Kentucky Derby Museum’s Rickelle Nelson took a look back in history 80 years ago when the “Calumet Comet” won the Kentucky Derby.

1941 Whirlaway, the flashy chestnut colt that was affectionately known to his followers as the “Calumet Comet”, or “Mr. Longtail”, was bred and owned by the famed Calumet Farm. Warren Wright, along with a partnership, imported the 1930 Epsom Derby winner, *Blenheim II, that they purchased from the Aga Khan. Wright then bred the stallion to his stakes producing mare, Dustwhirl, with the mating producing Whirlaway in Blenheim II’s first American crop. Blenheim II was known as being “slightly mad”, while Dustwhirl was high-strung, so it was no surprise that Whirlaway was nervous and a bit of a head case, however he was also tireless, full of fire, and tenacious fight.

   As a 2YO he really had a flair for lugging out badly, even as far as running into the outer rail in one race that he still managed to win. That wasn’t always the case as his antics cost him several races. Trainer Ben Jones grew increasingly frustrated with the colt, although he knew that Whirlaway was a colt of quirks and habits that he needed time to overcome. As a result, the elder Jones sent the rest of his string of horses to his son Jimmy to train so that he could focus on Whirlaway. Ben created routines to help the colt, while Whirlaway would throw tantrums if there were any deviations from them. Jones also kept his tail long; believing that when he was running it would trail out behind him and help keep horses from running up on him. Even with his crazy running style, he still had an amazing kick like no other, using it to overcome and win enough stakes to earn him 2YO Male Champion honors.

   Starting his 3YO campaign in Florida, he contested four races with 2 wins and 2 thirds prior to shipping to Keeneland. There he ran in the 6 furlong A.J. Joyner Handicap, pulling off a neck victory as a prep for the Blue Grass Stakes. Going off as the favorite in the Bluegrass, the old antics appeared once again as he bolted on the turn, losing to Our Boots by 6 lengths. The Tuesday before the Derby, the chestnut was entered in the Derby Trial; the result was a repeat of the Blue Grass.

   By reason of his two losses before the Derby, Jones decided to improvise on Whirlaway’s blinkers, making a one-eyed blinker by cutting the cup off of the left side. He also called in his former rider, Eddie Arcaro, to ride the “wacky one” as he was being called by the newspapers. Arcaro arrived in Louisville Thursday night, and Jones had the jock on his Derby mount first thing Friday morning. Jones had been working with making Whirlaway have to go in between objects that he couldn’t duck out from, trying to get him used to steering inside. Jones instructed Arcaro to run the horse between himself and the rail, while he stood less than 10 feet off of the inner rail on his pony. Arcaro, while scared and thinking they would surely collide, thought that if Jones was crazy enough to stand there, then he would try it. Jones never moved while Whirlaway went right through the opening. The newly fashioned blinkers seemed to make the difference, though Arcaro and Jones were the only ones that knew of the adjustment.

   Whirlaway’s Derby was known as the biggest, richest, and fastest, as it took place in front of a record 100,000 people, gave owner Warren Wright of Calumet Farm $61,275 in purse money, in addition to winning over a fast track, in a time of 2:01 2/5, shaving 2/5 off of the record set by Twenty Grand in 1931. The enormous crowd that swelled the Louisville track made Whirlaway the favorite, despite his erratic behavior. The colt was the last to reach the paddock, as he was jogged in front of the grandstand to acclimate him to the giant crowd. The field of 11 broke from the enclosed starting gate, with Whirlaway and Arcaro saving ground on the inside, in eighth place after the half mile. Arcaro was instructed to let Whirlaway do his running once they reached the stretch, however he was having a hard time holding his mount that was full of run and energy. They had moved up into 6th by the time they reached the far turn, then fourth at the top of the stretch, only 2 lengths behind the leaders. Arcaro let Whirlaway out a notch, resulting in an amazing burst of speed. Walter Haight of the Washington Post described it, writing that at that point “Whirlaway told his 10 rivals to go to the place that is paved with good intentions…”  Arcaro later said that he felt as if he were flying through the air, nearly being catapulted out of the saddle. It was no wonder; the duo flew home the final quarter in :23 3/5, winning by 8 lengths. The track record breaking performance would stand for 20 years.

   After the Triple Crown, Whirlaway went on to win the Dwyer, American Derby, Saranac Handicap, and the Lawrence Realization, in addition to becoming the only Triple Crown winner to win the Travers. Near the end of his 3YO campaign, the Jones string of horses was sent to California. While there, the bombing of Pearl Harbor happened, resulting in keeping horses from shipping out until March. In spite of not being able to race since September, Whirlaway was still voted the 3YO Champion as well as Horse of the Year. – Rickelle Nelson/Kentucky Derby Museum

LONGINES KENTUCKY OAKS UPDATE

The Road to the Kentucky Oaks Championship Series will begin on Saturday with a competitive field of eight fillies that are expected to run in the 41st edition of the $300,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes presented by Fasig-Tipton (GII) at Fair Grounds.

   The 1 1/16-mile race will go as Race 12 with a post time of 6:47 p.m. (all times Eastern). First post is 1 p.m.

   The race will award the Top 4 finishers points for the April 30, $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) on a 50-20-10-5 scale.

   OXO Equine’s Travel Column is set to make her seasonal debut as the 2-1 morning line favorite. The daughter of Frosted las ran on Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs where she defeated eight rivals by one length under Florent Geroux.

   Trained by Brad Cox, Travel Column has kept serious company in her morning workouts by training in tandem with 2-year-old champion colt Essential Quality.

   Geroux returns to New Orleans to ride Travel Column from post No. 8.

   Another filly expected to take attention at the windows is Stonstreet Stables’ homebred Clairiere, who finished second to Travel Column in the Golden Rod. Listed at 5-2 on the morning line odds, Clairiere will get the riding services of Joe Talamo from the rail.

   The Rachel Alexandra had nine horses entered in the race but a minor injury forced the early defection of Lothenbach StablesCharlie’s Penny.

   The complete field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds): Clairiere (Talamo, Asmussen, 5-2); Souper Sensational (Declan Carroll, Mark Casse, 8-1); Moon Swag (Adam Beschizza, Brendan Walsh, 15-1); Off We Go (Mitchell Murrill, Tom Amoss, 15-1); Becca’s Rocket (Marcelino Pedroza, Scotty Gelner, 20-1); Zoom Up (James Graham, Amoss, 6-1); Littlestitious (Colby Hernandez, Amoss, 12-1); Travel Column (Geroux, Cox, 2-1); and Charlie’s Penny (Brian Hernandez Jr., Chris Block, 9-2).

   In the last 25 years, nine winners of the Kentucky Oaks also participated in the Rachel Alexandra. They are: Serengeti Empress (2019), Monomoy Girl (2018), Lovely Maria (2015), Untapable (2014), Believe You Can (2012), Proud Spell (2008), Summerly (2005), Silverbulletday (1999) and Blushing K.D. (1997).