Sophomore ‘Stars’ Line Up at Fair Grounds Saturday

The road to the Triple Crown heats up in New Orleans Saturday with the GII Risen Star S. and GII Rachel Alexandra S.

A full field of 14 will line up in the former, led by unbeaten ‘TDN Rising Star’ Victory Formation (Tapwrit). One of three entered for Brad Cox, the 3-1 morning-line favorite heads to the post off a front-running tally over stablemate Angel of Empire (Classic Empire) in the Smarty Jones S. going a mile at Oaklawn Jan. 1.

Drawn on the outside in post 13, Victory Formation figures to have plenty of company on the front end if similar tactics are employed in this first attempt at 1 1/8 miles.

“I think he should be able to break well and get a good position,” Cox said. “I’m not too worried about the outside post. He’s very quick from the gate and broke really sharp in all three of his starts. Obviously, Flavien [Prat] is a great rider; we’re not going to give him too many instructions, and he rode him last time so he does know the horse.”

Cox will also saddle second-choice Tapit‘s Conquest (Tapit), who looks primed for a breakthrough performance following a strong second with a less-than-ideal trip behind the re-opposing Determinedly (Cairo Prince) in his sophomore debut at Fair Grounds Jan. 21.

“I think he got a lot out of it and he hadn’t run since October,” Cox said. “He needed the last race, he’s still learning. He didn’t really get involved as much as we’d like last time, but ultimately came running, and I think he got a lot out of it from an educational standpoint. He should love a mile and an eighth even more.”

Only two Risen Star entrants–Curly Jack (Good Magic) and Two Phil’s (Hard Spun)–have posted wins versus graded stakes company so far.

Curly Jack, winner of the GIII Iroquois S. Sept. 17 and a well-beaten fifth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, capped his 2-year-old campaign with a very good second behind subsequent GIII Lecomte S. winner Instant Coffee (Bolt d’Oro) in the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. Nov. 26. Last term’s GIII Street Sense S. winner Two Phil’s, meanwhile, completed the exacta in the Lecomte last time.

The six-deep Rachel Alexandra is headlined by the highly regarded Hoosier Philly (Into Mischief), who puts a perfect three-for-three record on the line. She concluded her juvenile campaign with a dominating win in Churchill’s GII Golden Rod S. Nov. 26.

“We have a lot of expectations for her based on what she’s done so far, so there’s a lot of anticipation about how she’s going to come back at three,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “Her morning preparation has been just as it was when she was two, so that gives us some feeling of confidence going into the race. But still, it is just her first race at three.”

Hoosier Philly closed at 11-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 4, the third choice in wagering.

“That’s just noise,” Amoss said. “We’re not looking at anything other than this race right now.”

The 13-race card at Fair Grounds also includes the GIII Mineshaft S. and GIII Fair Grounds S.

There are four other graded stakes around the country Saturday–the GIII Royal Delta S. at Gulfstream; the GIII Barbara Fritchie S. and GIII General George S. at Laurel; and the GIII Razorback H. at Oaklawn.

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