Trainer Neil Howard, in the midst of a banner winter season at Fair Grounds where he is batting over .300 in trips to the winner's circle from a modest number of starters, on Monday updated the status of his leading three-year-olds regarding the February 19 Risen Star S. (G2).
WILKINSON (Lemon Drop Kid), hero of the January 22 Lecomte S. (G3) as the first leg of Fair Grounds' sophomore series, is now being considered for a return engagement in the Risen Star.
Named for the locally-owned 1988 Preakness S. (G1) and Belmont S. (G1)-winning champion, the Risen Star is Fair Grounds' final major designed prep for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 26.
"Right now, I would say it is 60-40 that he'll run (in the Risen Star)," Howard said, "with the 60 percent being that he will run."
In the days after the Lecomte win, Howard was considering bypassing the Risen Star with Wilkinson and training him up to the Louisiana Derby, and that, of course, remains an option.
MACHEN (Distorted Humor), another talented sophomore trained by Howard who won his last start in high-level allowance company by five lengths here January 30, is also being pointed for the Risen Star.
PRIME CUT (Bernstein), also a prime three-year-old in Howard's barn who had been considered for the Risen Star, is now not likely for that test. Prime Cut breezed a half-mile Monday morning in :50 2/5.
"(Prime Cut) is entered 'main track only' in a race (the 7TH) on Friday," Howard said. "We don't want to push him up the ladder too fast, and we want to get him going two turns for the first time in an easier spot."
In other Risen Star developments on Monday, trainer Steve Asmussen's well-regarded JUSTIN PHILLIP (First Samurai) drilled six furlongs in a bullet 1:11 4/5 on a fast track at Fair Grounds.
The colt turned in the best of 12 works at the distance by three full seconds.
Justin Phillip wound up last as the even-money choice in the Lecomte, where he sported fitst-time blinkers, but he could try to make amends in the Risen Star.