Instilled Regard will be a deserving favorite in Saturday’s Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds, but my eyes (and my money) will be on Todd Pletcher’s lightly-raced Noble Indy (post 2, 5-1).
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons not to stray from Instilled Regard (post 5, 8-5). He’s one of the most impressive 3-year-olds this year and has done nothing wrong. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, he’s posted a 92 Beyer Speed Figure in each of his last 2 races, in the Grade 1 Cash Call Futurity at Los Alamitos and Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds. He was beaten by two Bob Baffert horses, Solomini and McKinzie at Los Al, and there’s no shame in that. Personally, I worry about the double-top speed figures, and think that chance of a regression outweighs his short odds.
Principe Guilherme (post 9, 7-2) is a solid second choice but will be up against it starting from the far outside. There’s plenty of speed in this race, as Noble Indy, Instilled Regard and Snapper Sinclair all figure to be close to the lead. Principe will have to be on the gas early to clear the field going into the first turn, and that could compromise him at the end.
Noble Indy only has three races under his belt, and plenty of questions about him remain unanswered. This son of Take Charge Indy has proven that he can go two turns, but he has never faced competition like this. He’s only run twice, winning both times against questionable competition, and will have to take a giant step forward to defeat this field. But Todd Pletcher is a great trainer, especially when it comes to 3-year-olds pointing to the Kentucky Derby, and getting horses to take giant steps forward is what he does best. He’ll get whatever kind of trip he wants with Johnny Velazquez on board, and I’ll be absolutely thrilled to get 5-1 odds at post time.
One longshot I can’t overlook is D. Wayne Lukas’ Bravazo (post 7, 8-1). The Coach hasn’t had a legitimate Derby contender in quite a while, but this guy showed tremendous improvement in his first race as a 3-year-old. Whether that can be attributed to a change in tactics or to jockey Gary Stevens climbing aboard is yet to be seen, but Stevens will be back aboard on Saturday. He’ll get a good stalking trip just off the pace, and if Principe Guilherme forces a hot pace as expected, I can easily see Bravazo hitting the board, or even pulling the unlikely upset.
This is a race in which you can try to make some money. I’ll have a win bet on Noble Indy, and will bet an exacta and trifecta with Noble Indy and Bravazo on top of Noble Indy, Instilled Regard, Bravazo and Principe Guilherme.
Good luck at the races! And for more news and analysis of the Kentucky Derby prep season, including my evolving “Five Who Could Thrive” list, click here to sign up for the MeathouseBets Horse Racing Newsletter.