El Padrino, who showed himself to be a Triple Crown contender with a sharp allowance win at Gulfstream Park Jan. 29, heads a field of 11 entered for the $300,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Feb. 25.
The 1 1/16-mile test of 3-year-olds is the headliner on a stakes-filled card at the New Orleans track. It is the final major prep before the $1 million Louisiana Derby (gr. I) April 1.
The Louisiana Derby Preview program also includes the $200,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes (g. III) for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, the $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. III) for older horses at nine furlongs on turf, and the $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles.
El Padrino, who drew post 8, is a son of Pulpit who races for Lets Go Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher. He was held at 16-1 at the conclusion of the recent first pool in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.
Others in the strong field of 3-year-olds are local hopes Mr. Bowling, the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) winner, and his Larry Jones-trained stablemate Mark Valeski. Z Dager and Shared Property, who finished a close second and third, respectively, in the Lecomte, are also entered.
El Padrino, a $210,000 Keeneland September yearling, will be ridden by Javier Castellano, who was aboard the chestnut colt for the first time in the optional claiming event at Gulfstream. They prevailed by two lengths while earning a 100 Beyer speed figure over a track rated "good." The figure is by far the best in the Risen Star field.
Third in Aqueduct's Remsen Stakes (gr. II) last November, El Padrino completed his 2-year-old campaign with one win in three starts. He was originally slated to run in the Lecomte but Pletcher opted to keep the colt in Florida for his first start of the year.
Order the 2012 Triple Crown Preview
an in-depth look at the 40 most-likely contenders to run in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
Mr. Bowling, racing as part of a coupled entry with Mark Valeski for owner/breeder Brereton Jones, won the Lecomte, at one mile and 70 yards, by a head over Z Dager Jan. 21 at Fair Grounds. The son of Istan has won three of five starts. Robby Albarado will be aboard and they will break from post 3.
Mark Valeski, leaving from post 9, will be making his stakes debut for Larry Jones and will be ridden for the first time by Rosie Napravnik. The Proud Citizen colt has won his only start this year, a six-furlong optional claimer at Fair Grounds Jan. 13.
Zayat Stables' Z Dager graduated Dec. 15 for trainer Steve Asmussen and rallied superbly in the Lecomte as part of a favored entry to just miss. Shane Sellers will be aboard the son of Mizzen Mast .
Shared Property, trained by Tom Amoss for owner Jerry Namy, joins Mr. Bowling as the only graded stakes winners in the field. The third-place finisher in the Lecomte, beaten by just a half-length after rallying extremely wide, captured the Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III) last September at Arlington Park.
Sixth in Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) one month later, Shared Property had been off for more than four months prior to the Lecomte.
Looking to rebound from a ninth-place finish in the Lecomte is Steve Martin's Ted's Folly, who leads the field in earnings with $337,241. Wilson Brown trains the Oklahoma-bred son of Wild Tale, winner of the Springboard Mile Stakes at Remington Park in December.
Bluegrass Hall's Optimizer ships in from Oaklawn Park off a pair of bullet works for trainer Wayne Lukas. The English Channel colt ran sixth last time out in the Smarty Jones Stakes.
On the far outside is George and Tiffany Veloudis’ Tizanexpense, who has won twice over the track at one mile and seventy yards this meet and breezed a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 flat Feb. 18. Mike Maker trains the Tiznow colt.
Trainer Gennadi Dorochenko has two entrants, Adena's Chance and Hero of Order.
$300,000 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II, Race 11, 4:55 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Afford (KY), S Bridgmohan, 116, G Geier
2. Optimizer (KY), C H Marquez Jr., 116, D W Lukas
3. a-Mr. Bowling (KY), R Albarado, 120, J L Jones
4. Z Dager (KY), S J Sellers, 116, S M Asmussen
5. Ted's Folly (OK), R Zimmerman, 120, W L Brown
6. b-Adena's Chance (FL), R E Eramia, 116, G Dorochenko
7. b-Hero of Order (KY), J Graham, 116, G Dorochenko
8. El Padrino (KY), J Castellano, 116, T A Pletcher
9. a-Mark Valeski (KY), R Napravnik, 116, J L Jones
10. Shared Property (KY), L R Goncalves, 120, T M Amoss
11. Tizanexpense (KY), M Mena, 116, M J Maker
a - Brereton C. Jones coupled entry
b - Gennadi & Irina Dorochenko coupled entry