With her horse, In Equality, the first shipped from out of state for the Risen Star Stakes, trainer Leah Gyarmati was somewhat bemused by a corresponding post position for Saturday’s feature race at the Fair Grounds.
“The rail’s not always the easiest place, but at least I know we’re going to get a ground-saving trip,” said Gyarmati on In Equality getting the No. 1 post position. “That’s a good thing. I guess it’s better than being (outside) in post 13.”
This year’s Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes, the second leg for 3-year-olds being pointed for a possible run in the Kentucky Derby, has a field of 13. It includes top contenders for the race such as four-time winner Airoforce along with Lecomte Stakes winner Mo Tom, Tom’s Ready, and threats Uncle Walter and In Equality, whom Gyarmati says may be helped by the Fair Grounds’ long stretches. And, Laoban has finished in the money against good competition.
“I think this is going to be one of the deepest Risen Star’s we’ve had,” said Tom Amoss, trainer of Mo Tom. “Obviously with a horse like Airoforce coming in, that really adds to the race.
“Just (Saturday), a horse, Destin, who finished fourth in the Lecomte (on Jan. 16 at the Fair Grounds), came back and won the Sam Davis (Stakes) at Tampa. That’s a huge race in South Florida, and it flatters the horses that ran in the Lecomte because Destin was only fourth-best.”
The Risen Star sets up rematches for Mo Tom against Airoforce, which won the Jockey Gold Club, with Mo Tom finishing third. Mo Tom also will be in a rematch against Tom’s Ready, which finished second to Mo Tom in the Lecomte. Both are owned by Tom and Gale Benson’s GMB Racing.
Mo Tom drew the second post, with Tom’s Ready getting the eighth and Airoforce drawing No. 10. Amoss was pleased.
“The position (Mo Tom) drew fits his style because it allows him to sit back and make a late run,” Amoss said. “Being close to the inside is good. I’ll save some ground going into the first turn, and I think that will be a benefit for our horse.”
Amoss noted that horses were shipped in from California (Laoban and Bistraya) as well as Florida (Airoforce) attests to quality of the field.
Bistraya, who drew the No. 4 post, got his first win on Jan 24, beating Bob Baffert-trained Hoffenheim by 1¾ lengths, with the third-place finisher more than 10 lengths back.
Other horses in the race are Dolphus (No. 3 post), Forevamo (No. 5), Gun Runner (No. 6), Its All Relevant (No. 7), Zapperini (11) and Candy My Boy (No. 13). Laoban is in No. 9 and Uncle Walter No. 12.
In the Grade III, $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, Stageplay, winner of the Silverbulletday on Jan. 16 at the Fair Grounds, is the heavy 7-5 favorite. Stageplay drew the No. 8 post.
In the Grade III, $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap, International Star is the 8-5 favorite. International Star won the Lecomte, the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby last year and on Jan. 16 won the $75,000 Louisiana Stakes. In the Mineshaft, which has five horses, International Star drew the No. 3 position.
Chocolate Ride, winner of the Col. E.R. Bradley Stakes on Road to the Derby Kickoff Day, is the favorite for Saturday’s Grade III, $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap.