Road to the Kentucky Derby gets serious with Risen Star

Early favorite Keepmeinmind may be scratched for this event, overturning the odds entirely. Midnight Bourbon will be looking to benefit...

Post time for the 1 1/8 mile Risen Star at the historic Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Saturday is 7:18 pm EST, the 13th and final race on a card with $1.67million in purses. It's the first race in the Championship Series of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, with 20 horses ultimately awarded invitations to the first jewel in the Triple Crown.

The Fair Grounds has been operating off and on since 1838, making it the second oldest currently operating race course in the United States. The facility boasts a mile-long dirt track and a 7/8 mile turf course.

The Risen Star is the second of three races hosted by the Fair Grounds in the Kentucky Derby qualifying series. The $1million Louisiana Derby, which awards points based on a 100-40-20-10 scale, is scheduled to be run on March 20, most likely with many of the same Derby aspirants that are entered in the Risen Star.

Keepmeinmind's presence will hold the key

It is the first race in the series with points available on a 50-20-10-5 scale, guaranteeing the winner a lead in the standings for at least a couple of weeks until the Fountain of Youth is run on February 27 at Gulfstream Park. In 2020, 35 points were enough to gain a spot in the Kentucky Derby, so while nothing is certain, a win could mean a start at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Mr. Monomoy, last year's Risen Star winner who had previously finished third in the Prep Series Lecomte Stakes, would have qualified for the Kentucky Derby, but an ankle injury kept him from continuing his racing career. This year's winner is definitely hoping for a better fate.

The runner-up in that race was Enforceable, who won the Lecomte and earned enough points to run the Kentucky Derby in September. He finished seventh in the only Triple Crown race in which he entered. Neither third-place Silver State nor fourth-place Farmington Road qualified for the Derby.

The field in this year's edition of the Risen Star was shaping up to be quite a battle among some of the horses near the top of the qualifying standings. Second place Keepmeinmind was the early favorite at 3/1, but it's widely expected that although he is still entered, he will scratch in favor of next week's Southwest at Oaklawn Park.

Third-place Midnight Bourbon, the 2021 Lecomte Stakes winner, is at 6/1 and will most likely have far different odds by race time if Keepmeinmind doesn't end up racing. Mandaloun, with odds of 9/2, is the probable favorite despite finishing behind Midnight Bourbon in third in the Lecomte.

Senor Buscador at 6/1 won the Springboard Mile at Remington Park in December, but it was against inferior competition to what he'll face in the Risen Star. He also ran on Lasix and will be forgoing the medication to be eligible for qualifying points. Proxy, the Lecomte runner-up, is also in the field with early 8/1 odds.