Did you miss us? We missed you and we’re happy to be back for our SEVENTH year of the Derby Prep Alert! Just as in years past, we’ll bring you in-depth previews for the upcoming Kentucky Derby and Oaks prep races, along with free past performances and results charts from our sponsor, Brisnet.com. We’ll also post links to recaps and replays where available, so be sure to come back after the races.
What’s happened so far? Check out the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks prep schedules for a full list of winners to date, results charts for completed races, and upcoming scoring races. This year we’ve added the following speed figures for each race: Beyer, Brisnet, Equibase and TimeformUS. Those are typically available the day after the race, so be sure check back often.
This year we ease into the Championship Series with only two prep races to start things off, so prepare to immerse yourself in what we hope will be another exciting Kentucky Derby and Oaks prep season!
News About the Contenders
Blood-Horse: Zulu, Awesome Speed Remain on Schedule
Blood-Horse: Smokey Image Finds Trouble Again in Workout
Blood-Horse: Airoforce Likely Off Kentucky Derby Trail
Blood-Horse: Shogood Wins WEBN; Next Spot Undecided
Blood-Horse: Songbird Records Easy Breeze at Santa Anita
DRF: Watchmaker: Inside bias prevalent at Fair Grounds
DRF: Road to the Derby: Risen Star Stakes – Post race analysis
Fair Grounds: ALL SIX STAKES WINNERS EXIT WELL; MO TOM AND AIROFORCE FINE
TDN: FOY Contenders Put in Final Breezes
Twinspires: 2016 Kentucky Derby Pedigrees: Suddenbreakingnews
Blood-Horse: Vorticity Eying Rebel Stakes
Blood-Horse: ‘Conversation,’ Nyquist Shipping for TC Preps
Twinspires: Danzing Candy, Uncle Lino work for San Felipe
Twinspires: What we learned on Risen Star Stakes Day at Fair Grounds
Blood-Horse: Mohaymen Works Easy Half at Palm Meadows
Blood-Horse: Haskin’s Derby Dozen – February 16, 2016
Blood-Horse: Making the Grade: Suddenbreakingnews
Blood-Horse: Making the Grade: Mor Spirit
Blood-Horse: Making the Grade: Mohaymen
Blood-Horse: Making the Grade: Sunny Ridge
Blood-Horse: Making the Grade: Mo Tom
Brisnet: Nyquist returns a winner; Suddenbreakingnews takes Southwest
DRF: Pedigree profile: Airoforce
DRF: Kentucky Derby: Who’s hot, who’s not for Feb. 17
DRF: Frank conversation about Frank Conversation’s Derby hopes
Kentucky Derby: Frank Conversation enters Derby discussion after El Camino Real
Kentucky Derby: Songbird continues division domination in Las Virgenes
TDN: Nyquist ‘Fantastic’, Eyes FL Derby
TDN: Suddenbreakingnews Rebel Bound
TDN: Porter on Songbird: No Means No
Rachel Alexandra Stakes
Fair Grounds, Saturday Feb 20, post time: 5:23 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
2016 Rachel Alexandra News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Venus Valentine Delivers Fair Grounds Stunner
DRF: Venus Valentine pays $150.40 in Rachel Alexandra shocker
TDN: Congrats’s Venus Valentine Springs a Rachel Alexandra Shocker
Twinspires: Last-to-first Venus Valentine shocks Rachel Alexandra at 74-1
In just about every measureable category, Stageplay tops all of the fillies in the 2016 Rachel Alexandra field. Already a listed stakes winner over the Fair Grounds track at the 1 1/16 miles distance, she’s posted consistently strong Brisnet speed figures in her previous races and a sharp 6-furlong workout in advance of this start. After beginning her career with two straight wins last fall, this gray half-sister to Grade 1 Preakness third-place finisher Mylute ended her juvenile campaign with a tough runner-up finish behind Carina Mia in the sloppy Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. Making her second start off a break, she appears primed to add the one thing missing from her resume: a graded stakes win.
Looking to upset those plans is the West Coast invader, recent Grade 2 Santa Ynez winner Forever Darling. A gutsy maiden victory at Santa Anita in late September propelled her to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she finished 17 lengths behind the winner; surgery performed post-race found an ulcer on her soft palate. Off a two-month break, she defeated a talented group of fillies in the Santa Ynez, including multiple Grade 2 winner and Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante runner-up Pretty N Cool. Her breeding strongly suggests the distance shouldn’t be a problem for her, and the jockey change from Rafael Bejarano to Javier Castellano is hardly a downgrade.
In addition to Stageplay, two other fillies return from the listed Silverbulletday: runner-up Midnight On Oconee and distant fourth-place finisher Lovable Lyss. Given her early running style, only the former may be in contention for a top-four finish, but it’s hard to envision this daughter of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint victor Midnight Lute gutting out a win against some of these going 1 1/16 miles. That being said, it’s always dangerous to ignore a Larry Jones-trained 3-year-old filly, especially front-running ones that can hold a lead.
Three others must answer class and distance questions: Shaken, Finley’sluckycharm and Venus Valentine. A 6-furlong maiden winner first-up at Fair Grounds, Shaken will break from the advantageous rail post. Last out, Finley’sluckycharm won a 6-furlong allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn in wire-to-wire fashion; the extra distance shouldn’t be an issue, as her dam not only won several times at route distances, but even finished third against males in the 1 1/16 miles Iowa Derby. Another prominent member of her immediate family is the talented multi-surface performer Pure Clan, twice a 10-furlong Grade 1 winner on turf and third-place finisher behind Proud Spell in the 2008 Kentucky Oaks. A maiden sprint winner last summer, Venus Valentine hasn’t hit the board in three subsequent attempts, including the Arlington-Washington Lassie over Polytrack in August and an allowance optional claiming event on turf most recently. Given the fact that all five of her dam’s victories came over all-weather surfaces or turf, it’s not surprising her connections have experimented with her as much as they have. Corey Lanerie will be her fifth different jockey in as many starts.
Royal Obsession and Lemon Drop Belle, the two fillies that appear to have the best chance to upset Stageplay and Forever Darling, come out of the same one-mile Fair Grounds allowance optional claiming race. Purchased by Stonestreet Stables for $1.15 million at Keeneland last November, Stageplay’s stablemate Royal Obsession is a well-bred and highly regarded daughter of red-hot sire Tapit; her dam is a half-sister to 9-furlong Grade 1 turf winner Magnificent Song. Top jockey John Velazquez gets the ride. Lemon Drop Belle finished just a head back of Royal Obsession in her last race, but this well-bred filly should improve off that effort. Winner of over $1 million, her dam Bourbon Belle was twice Grade 1-placed going 7 furlongs, but she’s already proven adept at producing quality horses that can route; Lemon Drop Belle’s half-brother Not Bourbon won the prestigious 10-furlong Queen’s Plate en route to being named champion 3-year-old in Canada.
Risen Star Stakes
Fair Grounds, Saturday Feb 20, post time: 6:21 pm ET
1 1/16 miles (8.5 furlongs)
2016 Risen Star Replay
2016 Risen Star News & Recaps
Blood-Horse: Gun Runner Opens 3-Year-Old Season in Style
DRF: Gun Runner salvages day for Asmussen in Risen Star
TDN: Gun Runner Holds off ‘Mo’ Duo in Risen Star
Twinspires: Gun Runner comes back firing in Risen Star
The Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans is the first of the Kentucky Derby prep races that will award the winner 50 qualifying points towards earning a place in the gate for the big race in May at Churchill Downs, and its winner is essentially guaranteed a spot in the gate. The second-place finisher will earn 20 points and won’t need much more than that to earn a berth in the Derby. The winner of the Risen Star – held annually at the Fair Grounds since 1973 – has never gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, but the sixth place finisher – War Emblem – in the 2002 Risen Star winner went on to victory in both the Derby and Preakness.
The expected favorite for the 2016 Risen Star Stakes, Airoforce has proven much in his brief four-race career. He has proven himself a capable runner on turf with a stakes win in the Grade 3 Bourbon and a game second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and he has shown he can win on a sloppy dirt track against strong competition with a graded stakes win at Churchill Downs in November against Mor Spirit, who would go on to notch two graded stakes wins. Airoforce needs only a win over a fast dirt surface in order to stamp himself as a legitimate contender for the Kentucky Derby. With no rain forecast for New Orleans this Saturday, it appears he will get his chance against a competitive field of 13 colts.
The biggest threat to the favorite is Mo Tom, winner of the the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds in January. He is one of four colts in the Risen Star who also ran in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November, in which he finished third. In that race, a slight stumble in the stretch kept him from finishing ahead of the classy Mor Spirit. He overcame a rough start in winning the Lecomte, proving his mettle in his 3-year-old debut. He has fallen 10 lengths behind the leaders in his last two races but made impressive moves around the final turn to close the gap and finish strong. The Fair Grounds long stretch (the longest in North America) is ideal for late-running colts like Mo Tom. He is the most likely to upset the favorite.
Tom’s Ready and Uncle Walter finished second and third to Mo Tom in the Lecomte. Like Mo Tom, Uncle Walter is sired by champion 2-year-old Uncle Mo, who proved his distance capability with a win in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and who would likely have been the 2011 Kentucky Derby favorite had illness not sidelined him the day before the race. Uncle Walter has raced three times in his career with one win. Tom’s Ready has seven races under his belt with a single win but three seconds. Tom’s Ready has finished behind Mo Tom in three of his career races and was beaten 13 lengths by Airoforce in the Kentucky Jockey Club last year. He is trained by Dallas Stewart who has finished second in two of the last three editions of the Kentucky Derby with (what appeared to be) hopeless longshots.
California-shipper Bistraya started his career with double-digit length defeats in his first three career races, including a distant fourth to the heralded and undefeated Nyquist in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes. Nyquist was named champion 2-year-old and ranks on top of many Kentucky Derby contenders lists. In his last two races, Bistraya has improved. He won his first career race in his most recent outing, beating Hoffenheim, a prospect from Triple Crown trainer Bob Baffert’s barn, by a length. The two finished over 10 lengths ahead of the field while earning solid speed figures for the one-mile race. With a dearth of early speed entered in the Risen Star, Bistraya could find himself on an uncontested lead and has a chance to wire the field at a big price.
In Equality is shipping from New York for trainer Leah Gyarmati. He finished a distant third after rallying from far off the pace in the Grade 2 Jerome Stakes in New York back in January. He will need to improve to compete in the the Risen Star on Saturday, but the decision from New York connections to make the long trip to Louisiana makes him an entry to watch.
Gun Runner is another runner in the Risen Star with the Kentucky Jockey Club on his resume. He had the lead in the stretch in that race but faltered late to finish fourth. He has put in two solid 6-furlong workouts this month to prepare for his 3-year-old debut Saturday. Leading Louisiana rider Florent Geroux will ride the well-bred son of Candy Ride.
Candy Boy, and Forevamo enter the Risen Star off wins against lesser competition at Fair Grounds. Forevamo is the only one of the three to run in stakes company, in which he finished a distant sixth last year.
It’s All Relevant and Zapperini exit maiden wins and will be deserving longshots.
Signup for a TwinSpires account! (promo code: helloracefans)