High Hopes and Big Points for the Risen Star Stakes

Horse Racing Radar
Rich Bieglmeier
Rich Bieglmeier is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Saturday, February 13, 2021

Focus, that's what trainer Brad Cox is looking for from MANDALOUN (PP: 11 ML 9/2) in today's Risen Star Stake at Fair Grounds Racetrack. To help his horse keep his eye on the prize, Cox is putting blinkers on MANDALOUN saying, "We're trying to keep him a little more focused late, that's what we are looking for." So far so good as Cox sees evidence the eye-gear could be working, "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."

Perhaps it was a lack of concentration or just the wrong pace setup for MANDALOUN in his last start, a third-place finish as the 4/5 favorite in the Grade III, Lecomte Stakes. Cox points to his horse's inexperience and the Lecomte pace, "It was probably the slow pace, and, like all of them, it was his first race around two turns and he got carried wide around both turns."

Cox and everybody else will be focused on Kentucky Derby Points. The Risen Star is essentially a win and you are in race for the 2021 Derby. Hitting the wire first comes with a fat check and 50 qualifying points for the KD. Since moving to the points system in 2013, horses that hit the 50-point threshold could safely make Churchill reservations.

To get the 50 and run for the roses, MANDALOUN will have to get past Lecomte champ MIDNIGHT BOURBON (PP: 6 ML 6-1) and runner up PROXY (PP: 2 ML 8-1). Jockey Joseph Talamo took MIDNIGHT BOURBON to the front and never looked back. It was Talamo's first mount on the son of TIZNOW and he's in the irons again today.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has high hopes for MIDNIGHT BOURBON. The Lecomte win "showed that he can be the type of big-time horse we think he can be. We're excited going forward because there are some big races before the Kentucky Derby."

Meanwhile, PROXY's trainer Michael Stidham thinks his horse might have an advantage in the Risen Star. Today's race is 1 1/8 miles on the main track, a sixteenth of a mile longer than the Lecomte. "My horse is bred for as far as they make races. I want to see the added distance help him, which I think it will" is how Stidham sees it.

SENOR BUSCADOR (PP: 5 ML 6-1) will try to use his worst to first running style to bust up the Lecomte alumni. He's undefeated in two starts, including the Springboard Mile Trophy at Remington Park but did not receive the 10 Derby points for racing on Lasix.  Trainer Todd Fincher is not a fan of the Lasix rule change saying, "I feel this will cause more damage to the horse," but adds, "I get it. We're all on the same level playing field. It's their rules, though, and we're going to play by them."

While Fincher's will play by the Lasix rules, that won't stop SENOR BUSCADOR from doing "his own thing" when the gates open. "We didn't teach him to do that," Fincher says of BUSCADOR's way back running style. "We taught him to come from behind but not walk out of the gate and do a slow roll before he does anything. It's so nerve-wracking to watch him run. They get so far back and you think 'What the heck.' But he makes it work."

The question for Fincher and SENOR BUSCADOR is can they make it work without Lasix and against the best competition they've faced by a wide margin. Fincher hopes so, "I think the distance is absolutely in his favor. My wish list would be two preps and hopefully qualify for the Kentucky Derby."


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