PP, Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Weight, Morning Line
1 Gradepoint, Neil Howard, Robby Albarado, 114, 7/2
2 Mr. Jester, Steve Wren, Roman Chapa, 122, 9/5
3 Assault Commander, Isaac Leonard Bailey, V.L. Smith, 117, 20/1
4 Nightlifeatbigblue, Bobby Barnett, Eddie Martin Jr., 114, 8/1
5 Oneverycoolcat, Alex Sauque, Corey Lanerie, 114, 15/1
6 Polish Rifle, Steve Asmussen, Shane Sellers, 122, 3/1
7 Shiloh Bound, Walter Bindner, Jose Riquelme, 122, 9/2 RYAN'S PICKSPrior to 1989, the Risen Star Stakes was known as the Louisiana Derby Trial. The race was renamed in honor of the great local horse who won the 1988 Trial and its modest $20,000 purse prior to winning the Louisiana Derby and Preakness Stakes. Risen Star, a son of Secretariat, won the Belmont Stakes "just like his daddy" by the length of the stretch.You won't see a Risen Star in this year's running. You likely won't get a preview of the Kentucky Derby winner and I'll go as far as saying you won't even get a glimpse of the Louisiana Derby winner.Negativity aside, the Grade III, $125,000 Risen Star Stakes is still an intriguing race that is worth a trip to your local OTB or a flip to TVG.Only two horses, MR. JESTER and SHILOH BOUND, have won their way out of their allowance conditions. This time of year, however, the Kentucky Derby winner is often still on the verge of greatness. GRADEPOINT fits the bill of a horse who hasn't shown his best hand. I think he is the only horse who can improve to a point to be a major player in the months to come.But, Sunday ain't April or even March. The edge from a betting standpoint and not a "futures" standpoint goes to POLISH RIFLE from the Steve Asmussen barn. In an equally matched field, Asmussen sets this one apart. I think Neil Howard is thinking--rightly or wrongly--Louisiana Derby, Blue Grass type races for Gradepoint and Asmussen is going for the "get it while you can" approach with Polish Rifle.Other than the gumbo, nothing has been hotter at Fair Grounds than the team of Asmussen and jockey Shane Sellers. Over the last month the only things close to a sure thing have been the "soup of the day" and the Steve and Shane team. Polish Rifle didn't fire anything close to his best shot in the Lecomte Stakes, but it was his first start since being transferred to the Asmussen barn. Now that the courtship between horse and trainer has progressed, look for Polish Rifle to run back to his race against Tapit in the Laurel Futurity.Mr. Jester is a grind-it-out sort who will take some betting coming off his gutsy win in the $1 million Delta Jackpot. He is a nice horse who's had good training and management by trainer Steve Wren. My knock on him is that he doesn't have a quick turn of foot and may not be able to get past the more athletic Polish Rifle at 1 1/16th miles. Line them up at 1 1/8 miles and my pick changes. You can't fault his will to win. In the Kentucky Cup Juvenile he didn't even look like he was going to get a check at the top of the lane, but he kept plugging and eventually won on DQ. With what looks like a modest pace, Mr. Jester could just run out of stretch.Gradepoint comes from the same connections that brought us late-blooming Horse of the Year Mineshaft. Nobody pulls for jockey Robby Albarado more than I do, but I think this race is more about seasoning and trainer Neil Howard playing "let's see what we got" than winning.As I see it: Polish Rifle stalks and pounces on pacesetters Nightlifeatbigblue and Shiloh Bound. Then spurts away from Mr. Jester who keeps grinding down the lane to hold off the belated charge of Gradepoint.The Super Superfecta: Polish Rifle, Mr. Jester, Gradepoint, Oneverycoolcat, Shiloh Bound, Nightlifeatbigblue, Assault Commander.