Don’t be surprised if disappointing Instilled Regard proves the best of these

Bravazo and Miguel Mena, the leading rider at Fair Grounds this season, after their victory in the Risen Star Stakes

Bravazo went to the top of the leaderboard with his Risen Star win on Saturday. But what did TRC race analyst James Willoughby make of the performance? Willoughby is assessing each stop on the American Road to the Kentucky Derby.



Episode 9: Risen Star Stakes (February 17, Fair Grounds, Grade 3, 8.5f)

Winner: Bravazo
Jockey: Miguel Mena (TRC Global Rank #259)
Owner: Calumet Farm (#99)
Trainer: D Wayne Lukas (Unranked)
Sire: Awesome Again (#79)

Result: click here

This race was supposed to confirm that G3 LeComte winner Instilled Regard is a genuine Kentucky Derby candidate. After all, the Jerry Hollendorer-trained colt had travelled strongly throughout his impressive win over the same course and distance. But, after easing up to press the first two early in the straight, he could not find anything in the way of acceleration (see video below).

This left a gaping hole on the podium, and it was filled by a pair of longshots: 21/1 chance Bravazo and 42-1 chance Snapper Sinclair. The result takes some explaining.

Bravazo, trained by Wayne Lukas and decked in the famous black-and-gold Calumet colours, had Hall of Famers on his side in trainer and owner, even if their TRC Global Rankings reminds us that this isn’t the 1980s. Neither is jockey Miguel Mena highly ranked in our classifications, though he is the leading rider at Fair Grounds this season, and local experience was clearly no hindrance in a tight finish.

A longshot second to Free Drop Billy in his stakes debut in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October, Bravazo could have been strongly entertained here on that basis, but his efforts since – notably a tenth to Enticed in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes – had portrayed him as merely a bit-part player on the Road To The Kentucky Derby. This win upgrades that status, alright, but it hardly reclassifies him as a star turn.

Indeed, the shrewd money would be on Instilled Regard to reverse the form should the race be reprised in the Louisiana Derby. The numbers here are way short of classic standard, and it is hard to apply an upgrade to either the winner or runner-up – they were prominent throughout and may have been advantaged by track position.

For his part, Snapper Sinclair battled hard, but the truth is that he had not looked in the same league as Instilled Regard when third in the LeComte.

So, this is potentially an extremely confusing rendition of the relative talents of the horses who took part in this race. For our money, Instilled Regard remains the best horse seen in the Bayou.

Previously in this series

1. Sham Stakes (McKinzie)
2. Lecomte (Instilled Regard)
3. Jerome (Firenze Fire)
4. Smarty Jones (Mourinho)
5. Holy Bull (Audible)
6. Withers (Avery Island)
7. Robert B Lewis (Lombo)
8. Sam F Davis (Flameaway)



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