Top Stakes to Bet On: Kentucky Derby Prep Races 2023

Top Stakes to Bet On: Kentucky Derby Prep Races 2023

One of the first major prep races for the Kentucky Derby takes place this Saturday when three-year-olds hoping to wear roses on the first Saturday in May step onto the Fair Grounds dirt track to run in the Grade 2 Risen Star. Named after Secretariat’s most successful offspring, the Risen Star has attracted a full field of fourteen runners. Which horses rate as the top play to win, place, and show? See below for more info on the Grade 2 Risen Star along with free horse racing odds picks.


2023 Road to the Kentucky Derby Prep Races: Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes | Horse Racing Lines


When: Saturday, Feb. 18, Race 13 at 7:14 pm ET
Where: Fair Grounds, New Orleans, LA
Distance: 1 1/16 miles dirt
Condition: 3 year olds


2023 Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes


To Win: Crupi

This son of Curlin trained by Todd Pletcher has yet to break the maiden. But after he ran so well in his last, Todd felt it okay to enter Crupi into a graded stakes.

Who are we to argue? Pletcher remains one of the best trainers, if not the best, in the world. Crupi lost by a neck in the last. Any more improvement should send this runner to the winner’s circle.

To Place: Tapit’s Conquest

The Brad Cox trained equine broke the maiden last October in a 1 1/16 mile race at Churchill Downs. Tapit’s Conquest didn’t win the first event in 2023.

But the three-year-old sired by Tapit finished second by a neck to fellow Risen Star runner Determinedly. Of the two, Tapit’s Conquest is the better play to finish out the exacta.

Cox’s goal is the Kentucky Derby. So Brad didn’t have Tapit’s Conquest geared up to win off the bench. We should expect much improvement in Conquest’s second race of the year.

To Show: Harlocap

Bob Baffert must transfer all of his three-year-old contenders by Feb. 28. Harlocap has already landed in Steve Asmussen’s barn. Going from Baffert to Asmussen is like trading Magic Johnson for Larry Bird.

There’s zero drop off. So Harlocap, who might end up the morning line chalk, can win this. But the son of Triple Crown winner Justify faces a lot of other speed in this race. The last out maiden winner will battle to the end. Fading to third, though, is the likely outcome.

Fourth Place: Victory Formation

Another trained by Brad Cox, Victory Formation won the Smarty Jones Stakes in the last. Don’t be fooled by the speed rating.

Jockey Flavien Prat got a big lead and then cruised to the wire. So although on paper it shows Victory ran the slowest race of his short three-race career, he actually ran the fastest race of his career.

This runner is a true Derby contender. But like Harlocap, Victory Formation prefers to be on or near the lead. There’s just too much speed in this year’s Risen Star to put the undefeated Tapit-sired runner on top. A fourth place finish seems probable.

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