Todd Pletcher's trainee El Padrino headlines a field of 11 Kentucky Derby hopefuls in Saturday's G2 $300,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.
A son of Pulpit, El Padrino is owned by Kevin Scatuorchio and Bryan Sullivan's Let's Go Stable.
He is one of five Todd Pletcher colts on the Derby trail turning heads this year—Algorithms, Discreet Dancer, Gemologist and Thunder Mocassin are the others.
In his last race, El Padrino—under jockey Javier Castellano—won an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park over highly regarded colts Take Charge Indy and Casual Trick.
A winner of two of his four races, he will be going for his first stakes win, and Castellano gets the call again on the likely favorite for the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star Stakes this Saturday.
In his lone stakes race last year, the G2 Remsen, he finished third, less than a length to then Derby contender O'Prado Again.
In his last race, El Padrino earned an eye-catching 100 Beyer figure, and no other horse in the race has eclipsed the 90 mark so far.
And as if to validate his condition, Pletcher's colt is coming to the race with two sharp four furlong prep-workouts at Palm Meadows: times of :48 4/5 on February 19th and :48 1/5 on February 12th.
El Padrino has shown that he can run just off the pace, in a stalking-like mode—just a few lengths behind the leaders—and use his very nice, late kick to get that final gear and pass the leaders on the stretch.
Hero of Order is the fastest (or should I say the least slowest horse) of the participants in a race lacking a true pacesetter, and should be sent to the front.
He is coupled with Adena's Choice, who is a true closer and should serve as the rabbit of the race in case someone shows up at the front.
If nobody answers the call, then it's up to his jockey, Irish-born James Graham.
Expect jockey Javier Castellano to most likely place El Padrino second or third, wait for the final turn to start putting some position on him, and then make his push at the final quarter-pole.
The Risen Star Stakes is a sort of rematch for some of the runners.
On January 21st here at Fair Grounds, the Lecomte Stakes (the first of the Derby preps for the track) was won by Mr Bowling, followed by Z Dager and Shared Property.
Fifth in that race was Hero of Order, with Ted's Folly and Adena's Chance ninth and 10th respectively.
The race was contested by the first three finishers, and each had a different trip to the wire.
Mr Bowling was the stalker of the leaders that day, and had a clean trip as he passed clear with two furlongs to go, holding off Z Dager and Shared Property.
Z Dager had an inside trip, saving some ground, while Shared Property had to go wide at the turn, especially on the final bend before the stretch, where he was six-wide.
All three are very worthy contenders.
However, of the trio, lookout for Shared Property to have the best race of them this time around.
My tip for the race has had four prep-workouts in 20 days, and will be El Padrino's main rival on Saturday.
There are, however, two colts that should not be taken lightly—Mark Valeski and Tizanexpense.
Both are coming off consecutive wins and make a big step up in class, but their marked improvements are worth noting.
Tizanexpense made a Beyer jump of 69 to 78, while Mark Valeski went up from 72 to 84. You might be asking yourself what is the big deal since El Padrino made 100.
The answer lies in El Padrino's jump from 79 to 100 in his last.
However, it could work against El Padrino: If he is to regress, then any horse that makes a normal improvement could win.
And that makes Mark Valeski my possible upset pick for the race.
Rosie Napravnik gets the mount for this race, and the horse has been working beautifully.
His three prep-workouts from him, are highlighted by covering the six furlongs distance on February 13th in 1:12 3/5.
This horse looks poised to make a statement—and it could very well be in the Risen Star.
The race will be the 11th on the card on Saturday and has an estimated post time of 4:55 pm CST.
Predicted Top Three:
7 - El Padrino
1a - Mark Valeski
8 - Shared Property