The competitive action on the Road to the Kentucky Derby continues this weekend, as Fair Grounds hosts the G2 Risen Star Stakes. This race will be staged over 1 1/8 miles, and it is one of the key preps for the opening leg of the Triple Crown. A highly competitive field of 12 will go to post, but which runner will secure victory and enhance their Derby prospects?


Race History & Records

The Risen Star Stakes has been staged annually since 1973. It has been a key prep for the Triple Crown throughout history, with Master Derby becoming the first winner of the race to land victory in one of the notable races later in the season by landing Preakness Stakes success in 1975.

There is yet to be a winner of both the Risen Star and Kentucky Derby, but two previous runners in the race have won the Run for the Roses. The first of those was War Emblem, while Country House would repeat that feat in 2019.

Epicenter holds the speed record after finishing the 2022 renewal in 1:49.03. Five trainers are tied for the most wins, including Brad Cox, Todd Pletcher, and Steve Asmussen.

Risen Star Stakes Leading Contenders

Track Phantom

Steven Asmussen’s Track Phantom made a very positive impression earlier this year when landing victory in the G3 Lecomte Stakes. The success saw his odds for the Derby cut drastically, but we will learn more about the three-year-old this weekend.

The Asmussen runner has won on each of his previous three starts, with his latest Grade 3 win registering a speed rating of 96. He steps up in trip to 1 1/8 miles for the first time this weekend, and he remains the contender that the field need to beat.

Hall of Fame

Asmussen has two runners in the field this weekend, with Hall of Fame also boasting a very interesting profile. The three-year-old boasts the best speed figure in the field, after scoring a rating of 97 when winning a maiden special weight at Fair Grounds in late January.

It is worth noting that the rating is slightly higher than the one achieved by Track Phantom, but this will be Hall of Fame’s first attempt in graded company.

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a runner for Chad Brown this weekend, and the three-year-old remains of huge interest. He finished second in the G2 Remsen Stakes at the beginning of December, reaching a speed rating of 99 when finishing second behind Dornoch.

It could be argued that the muddy conditions didn’t suit him on that day, and a return to fast ground will bring out improvement. He has experience over this distance, and that could be vitally important.

Long Shot- Real Men Violin

Given the Risen Star has attracted a big field, it could be worth assessing a potential lively outsider in the field. Real Men Violin has been very consistent for trainer Kenneth McPeek, scoring speed figures ranging between 85 and 93 across his last four starts.

He is open to further improvement on this step up in trip after finishing a close second behind Honor Marie in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club over 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs last November. It could be argued that the step up in distance will suit Real Men Violin more than the actual winner on that day.

Risen Star Stakes Prediction

Sierra Leone’s experience over this distance could be important to consider before making a wager, and that makes him our standout selection. Track Phantom looks set for another bold bid, and he may be the runner to take out of this field with one eye on the Derby. Real Men Violin could also be an interesting contender in Exotics.

Win: Sierra Leone

Exacta Box: (4) Sierra Leone/ (6) Real Men Violin/ (11) Track Phantom