Race 13 at Fair Grounds | Saturday, February 15 | Post Time 7:12 PM Eastern Time

Risen Star Stakes – Grade 2 (second division)| Purse $400,000 | One Mile and One Eighth | Three Year Olds


On the heels of tabbing Sole Volante in last week's Kentucky Derby prep race (as the Equibase Weekly Feature Race), the Tampa Bay Derby, I am going with Modernist (1) to post the upset in this year's Risen Star Stakes. Although Anneau d'Or (8) has higher Equibase figures of 101 and 106, respectively, in his last two starts, there are a number of factors in favor of Modernist stepping up and winning. First, the son of Uncle Mo has improved nicely in both route starts since his sprint debut last September. Modernist finished third with a 91 figure in December in a one-turn mile in December then in his three year old debut on January 25, he earned a new career-best 93 figure at the mile and one-eighth distance of the Risen Star, making him the only horse in the field to have run this distance. Trainer Bill Mott has proven to be an excellent judge of where to place his horses and knows when to make the big jump from the maiden ranks to stakes. Using the great research tool STATS Race Lens, I note Mott's record in dirt route stakes with horses which won their maiden races in their previous start is a strong nine-for-38 in the past few years. Included in that list is Tacitus in the 2019 Tampa Bay Derby. Another two horses Mott has felt strongly about when racing in stakes off maiden wins were Hofburg, who was the runner-up in the 2018 Florida Derby and possibly most importantly Country House, who finished second in last year's Risen Star before winning the Kentucky Derby. Getting the ground saving rail for the Risen Star, Modernist should be in a great spot from start to finish under regular rider Junior Alvarado and hopefully can add to Mott's Hall-of-Fame career with another graded stakes win.

Anneau d'Or (8) has done little wrong in three races and deserves to be the public betting choice near post time. He debuted last fall in a turf route and easily disposed of the field with an eight length win. Stepping way up into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile a little over one month later, Anneau d'Or gave winner Storm the Court all he could handle when battling head-and-head for the entire length of the stretch before losing by a head and earning a very strong 106 figure. A little over one month later on December 7 Anneau d'Or once again found himself in a stretch long battle, this time with Thousand Words, coming up a neck short on the finish line to earn a 103 figure. Since then the colt has trained regularly at trainer Blaine Wright's base in Northern California. Adding blinkers for the Risen Star, Anneau d'Or gets the services of Joel Rosario for the first time which can only help his chances to run big in his three year old debut and put his name on everyone's list of top three year olds.

Mailman Money (11) is one of two colts in the Risen Star trained by Bret Calhoun, the other Mr. Big News (who is not without a chance either). Mailman Money won his debut in late November at six furlongs very nicely in a field of 12, earning a 90 figure in the process. Stretched out to two-turns against allowance company last month at Fair Grounds, Mailman Money ran even better, opening up a four and one-half length lead at the top of the stretch and widening to cross the finish line five and three-quarter lengths in front. Not only does Mailman Money have familiarity with the track, but the 97 figure earned is the second best two-turn last race figure in the field, and within range of the 101 figure Anneau d'Or earned in the Los Alamitos Futurity with logical improvement in the third start of his career.

Major Fed (7) is another recent winner at Fair Grounds with a figure (96) which warrants including him on my contender list. He finished third in his sprint debut near the end of November but when stretched out to two-turns on New Year's Day (adding blinkers as well), Major Fed proved to be a much better horse. With the only other foal of his dam being Zapperini, who was fifth in the 2016 Risen Star and who went on to earn over a quarter million dollars, Major Fed rounds out a quartet with a shot to take the top honors in this field.


Betting Strategies:

Win Bets: Modernist (1) should be the horse we consider first and foremost for a win bet, at odds of 3 to 1 or more.

Anneau d’Or (8) would be playable to win at odds of 3 to 1 or higher but that’s unlikely so we can use the “exacta as a win bet” strategy below instead.

To round out the contenders and look for other value, if either Mailman Money (11) or Major Fed (7) are 4 to 1 or higher near post time, they would be playable to win as well.

Exactas: (Two tickets)

(Note: because there appears to be a lot of value in terms of mid-price to high-price horses, we are going to also use Mr. Big News (3), Fame to Famous (4) and Finnick the Fierce (10) on some exacta tickets in the second place position.

Box Modernist (1), Major Fed (7), Anneau d’Or (8) and Mailman Money (11).

Modernist (1), Major Fed (7), Anneau d’Or (8) and Mailman Money (11) over Modernist (1), Major Fed (7), Anneau d’Or (8), Mailman Money (11), Mr. Big News (3), Fame to Famous (4) and Finnick the Fierce (10).

The “exacta as a win bet” strategy is Anneau d’Or (8) over Modernist (1), Major Fed (7), Mailman Money (11), Mr. Big News (3), Fame to Famous (4) and Finnick the Fierce (10).

Trifecta: (two options)

Box Modernist (1), Major Fed (7), Anneau d’Or (8) and Mailman Money (11)

(Note: I do not prefer this option as much as the other option, but this has a smaller cost)

Modernist (1), Major Fed (7), Anneau d’Or (8) and Mailman Money (11) over ALL over Modernist (1), Major Fed (7), Anneau d’Or (8) and Mailman Money (11).

At the $0.50 minimum this has a cost of $45. If we play both exactas above we will win the exacta twice if two of the top four contenders finish first and second, so this trifecta covers us if any of the two finish first and third, or if three of the four finish first, second and third.