With five of the nine starters in Sunday's Risen Stakes at Fair Grounds coming off races in which they set or pressed the pace, the 1 1/16-mile race appears to set up perfectly for morning line favorite Repent. The son of Louis Quatorze has not run since his come-from-behind victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 24.
Although Repent looks to be the class of the race off his series of perfomances last fall, including a second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, there are several other talented colts, like Easyfromthegitgo, French Assault, and It'sallinthechase, who have a similar running style.
The key to the race may be whether or not Sky Terrace is able to rate off the pace this time. After getting creamed from both sides coming out of the gate in the LeComte Stakes, he rushed to the lead, battled on or near the pace the whole way, and was just nailed on the wire by Easyfromthegitgo. Another key is how much Easyfromthegitgo will improve off the LeComte. The son of Dehere showed a good deal of professionalism, sitting behind horses for a long while with nowhere to go. He then waited for jockey Donnie Meche to make up his mind whether he wanted to split horses or go around them. When he decided at the last minute to take out and go around, Easyfromthegitgo responded like a seasoned horse and put in a determined stretch run to catch Sky Terrace.
However, some feel the LeComte, with the first five finishers within two lengths of each other, was not a strong race, especially since they came home the last quarter in :25 4/5. If that's the case, then Repent and French Assault would look like a strong exacta play.
Repent recently worked a blistering 5-furlongs in :58 at Gulfstream, and coming off a layoff, he could be very sharp, resulting in him being closer to the pace than usual. Trainer Kenny McPeek is very confident that Repent will run a huge race first time out. Off his races last year, he will be difficult to beat, and a victory would put him No. 1 on many of the Derby contenders lists.
French Assault has been given several long works by trainer Keith Desormeaux, whose brother Kent rode the colt twice last year, but will not be aboard on Sunday. E.J. Perrodin, who has ridden him five times has the mount. This colt has an explosive turn of foot and we expect him to put in a big effort on Sunday, despite not having run in 2 1/2 months. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he made a menacing move at the quarter pole, but couldn't sustain it, finishing sixth, beaten only 5 1/2 lengths by Johannesburg and 4 1/4 lengths by Repent. Not a bad effort for a 61-1 shot. He looks like the play here if you're out to knock off the favorite. You're sure to get a big run for your money.
The most interesting horse in the field is Bob's Image, who has really taken to Fair Grounds, winning his only two starts by a combined margin of 11 1/2 lengths. In his last start on Jan. 10, he wired an allowance by 2 1/1 lengths, defeating promising colts Robe and Forty Nine Deeds. We don't know just how good this son of Halo's Image is and whether he'll be able to sit off horses. In the Jan. 10 race, he did go his half in a pretty solid :46 1/5, so it'll be interesting to see how he runs against better competition and more pace pressure. Trainer Dallas Stewart says he's a "different animal" than the one who finished out of the money in his two starts in Kentucky last year.
Rounding out the field are the Louisiana-bred Screen Idol, winner of both his starts, including a 7 3/4-length romp in the Crescent City Derby for state-breds; and Willow Gate, winner of 1 1/16-mile maiden race by a head.