With 13 horses signed on, most of whom have a legitimate shot to win, the G2 Risen Star is about as wide open a Derby prep as you will ever see. I think the horse that needs to be discussed first is Senor Buscador (#5). This guy is coming off a breathtaking win in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park for which he earned a field-best 93 Beyer, but he got a great setup in that race and in retrospect it may not be as fast as it was given credit for. Senor Buscador must also run without Lasix in this race for the first time in his career and Fair Grounds is foreign territory for his trainer Todd Fincher. I’m getting mixed signals from him, but I do believe he has the talent to overcome the obstacles set before him. He’s my top pick, though I wouldn’t accept too short a price on him in this spot.
The other big challenge handicapper’s must deal with in this race is what to do with the horses exiting the G3 Lecomte. I didn’t think that was a particularly good prep beforehand, however the top three all seemed to run legitimately well, even though the race had merry-go-round vibes. Since they all got good trips, I see no reason to elevate any of the others above Lecomte winner Midnight Bourbon (#6), who surprisingly led from start to finish. Midnight Bourbon is not going to have the luxury of an uncontested lead in this race, but there still shouldn’t be too much pace pressure for him to deal with.
With a lot of parity among the top contenders, I wanted to give a longshot a try that could potentially vault past them with added ground. O Besos (#7) has had an interesting start to his career, but he seems to be getting better with each passing start and is bred to thrive around two turns. I thought this horse ran really well in his last start going six furlongs, when he was held up in traffic at points and exploded late to sail by a well-meant Mike Stidham runner on a loose lead. If he does handle the transition to route racing, I think he has the ability to spring the upset.