Saturday's $300,000 Risen Star S. (G2) at Fair Grounds has the look of a regional showdown. Florida invaders DISCREETLY MINE (Mineshaft), DROSSELMEYER (Distorted Humor) and TEMPTED TO TAPIT (Tapit) are scheduled to descend upon New Orleans to test the best of the locally-based three-year-olds, including Lecomte S. (G3) hero RON THE GREEK (Full Mandate) and impressive allowance/optional claiming winners STAY PUT (Broken Vow) and HOTEP (A.P. Indy). As a result, the Risen Star figures to have a significant bearing not only on the March 27 Louisiana Derby (G2), but on the larger Kentucky Derby (G1) picture.
Ron the Greek has been pegged as the 3-1 favorite on the morning line, with Drosselmeyer at 4-1 and Discreetly Mine the third choice at 5-1.
Discreetly Mine, a half-brother to Grade 1 star Discreet Cat (Forestry), was one of the better two-year-olds of 2009. Then trained by Stanley Hough, Discreetly Mine romped by 6 1/4 lengths in his third start, defeating eventual Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) winner Super Saver (Maria's Mon). After a troubled runner-up effort behind D' Funnybone (D'wildcat) in the Futurity S. (G2), Discreetly Mine came back with a strong second in the Champagne S. (G1), where he forced a fast pace, held the lead in the stretch, and was just collared late by Homeboykris (Roman Ruler).
The bay was transferred to Todd Pletcher and made his debut for his new barn in the January 9 Spectacular Bid S. at Gulfstream Park, but little went according to plan that day. Discreetly Mine bobbled at the break, never looked entirely comfortable on the sloppy track, and was bumped soundly on the turn before checking in fourth. He has been training sharply in the interim at Palm Meadows, and appears ready to fire with new rider Javier Castellano.
While Discreetly Mine will be making his two-turn debut in the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star, his principal rivals are experienced over a route of ground. The Bill Mott-trained Drosselmeyer, who first attracted attention when demolishing a Churchill Downs maiden by six lengths, comes off a smart allowance score going 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream on January 31. The WinStar Farm colt stayed on strongly in the stretch to finish up in 1:49 2/5, a solid time for the distance at that track. Regular rider Kent Desormeaux will be back aboard the highly-regarded Drosselmeyer as he takes on stakes rivals for the first time.
Tempted to Tapit is making his first start outside of maiden company, but the Steve Klesaris pupil earned his ticket here with an 11 1/2-length trouncing of his foes at Aqueduct on January 18. The gray gelding had previously finished second to both Laus Deo (Medaglia d'Oro), who went on to capture the Count Fleet S., and Schoolyard Dreams (Stephen Got Even), who just chased home Rule (Roman Ruler) in last Saturday's Sam F. Davis S. (G3). In the wake of those efforts, Tempted to Tapit added blinkers, and he looked like a different animal altogether with the new equipment last out. He subsequently shipped to Gulfstream, where he has been training briskly for his stakes bow. Jockey David Cohen will reunite with Tempted to Tapit, who promises to flash speed from post 2.
The deep closer Ron the Greek will be hoping for a blistering pace. A fast tempo in the January 23 Lecomte set the stage perfectly for his last-to-first rally, and an early crawl would make his task difficult. The Tom Amoss trainee, whose only loss was a closing fourth in the Springboard Mile S., keeps James Graham in the irons.
Stay Put likewise uncorked a potent move from the tail of the field in his January 3 victory at Fair Grounds. Unlike Ron the Greek, however, he did it off steady splits, without the help of a quick early pace. The Steve Margolis trainee defeated a few useful rivals in that contest, including LETSGETITONMON (Maria's Mon), who came back to finish a closing third in the Lecomte, and WORLDLY (A.P. Indy), who reported home fifth in the Lecomte. Jamie Theriot has the return call.
Hotep, who faded to fourth behind Stay Put in his return from a nearly two-month layoff, put forth a much improved performance next time out. A full brother to last year's Canadian champion three-year-old male, Eye of the Leopard, Hotep exploded from off the pace to take a February 1 allowance/optional claimer by 3 1/4 lengths. The Mark Frostad colt must overcome being stuck in post 12, however. Jockey Robby Albarado is tasked with managing that problem.
Also noteworthy in the 12-horse field is NORTHERN GIANT (Giant's Causeway), who invades from Oaklawn for D. Wayne Lukas. Runner-up to Stay Put in a Fair Grounds maiden last December, the bay exits an 11 1/4-length triumph in a maiden at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, track.