At 1 1/16 miles on the main track, the Risen Star drew 13 sophomores in pursuit of the total of 85 qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, with 50-20-10-5 awarded to the top four finishers.
Trained by Mark Casse, Airoforce was a graded stakes winner on both turf and dirt during his juvenile campaign, with his only loss coming by a neck in the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) at Keeneland. To cap his juvenile campaign, he was a smart winner of the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (gr. II) at Churchill Downs over a sloppy surface, defeating eventual Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I) and Robert B. Lewis (gr. III) winner Mor Spirit, along with Mo Tom in third. Regular rider Julien Leparoux will ride from post 10 in the son of Colonel John's sophomore bow.
Mo Tom kicked off his 3-year-old season in style with a 2 1/4-length win in the local $200,000 TwinSpires.com Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) on Jan. 20. Defeating fellow G M B Racing-owned Tom's Ready in the process, he won his second stakes in his five-race career. Last year's leading trainer at Fair Grounds Tom Amoss will seek his first victory in the Risen Star when the son of red-hot sire Uncle Mo breaks from the 2 hole under regular pilot Corey Lanerie.
Tom's Ready, a son of More Than Ready trained by Dallas Stewart, will try to turn the tables from post 8 under John Velazquez. The Hall of Famer will ride the dark bay for the first time since finishing fourth upon his debut at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 15. Briefly in front at the top of the lane in the Lecomte, Tom's Ready ran gamely in defeat and finished well, three-quarters of a length in front of Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey's Uncle Walter. That runner, trained by Mike Maker, also returns for more when he breaks from post 12 under Javier Castellano.
Two graded stakes also-rans who must be respected in this spot are Treadway Racing Stable's In Equality, who shipped in from New York for trainer Leah Gyarmati and worked five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 over the local surface on Feb. 13, and Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner.
In Equality, a game son of Quality Road, was third last out in the $150,000 Jerome Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Racetrack on Jan. 2 and will break from the rail under Junior Alvarado. Gun Runner, a good-looking Candy Ride colt trained by Steve Asmussen, has been working extremely well—including two consecutive six-furlong moves in 1:12 and change—over the local surface and will make his sophomore bow after finishing fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club last out. Leading rider Florent Geroux picks up the mount from post 6.