Kentucky Derby qualifying races are in full swing with a likely guaranteed spot in the Derby on the line Saturday.
The Risen Star Stakes is the first of leg one's Championship Series Qualifying races. The winner of the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds racetrack earns 50 qualifying points for this year's Kentucky Derby, second place gets 20 points, third receives 10 and fourth adds five points. That's significantly more than 10,4,2,1 for standard prep races.
The 20 horses that earn the most points on the trail get an automatic bid into the Kentucky Derby. The next four get "also eligible" status in case one of the first 20 scratches. Fifty points could be enough for the Risen Star champ to punch his ticket to the 2019 Kentucky Derby.
Last year, six horses in the top 20 of qualifying points finished with less than 50 points. In fact, number 20, Instilled Regard finished with 29 points. That means finishing second and garnering 20 points could put the place horse on the cusp of racing the first Saturday of May.
If the morning-line favorite, WAR OF WILL hits the tape second, he'll add 20 to his current total of 10, which would put him in tie for first with GAME WINNER.
Before we move on to our view of Saturday's Risen Star Stakes, let us introduce our 2019 Kentucky Derby Power Rankings. We watched and re-watched all the prep race videos and ranked the most impressive using the eye test.
GTS' POWER 5:
#1 - GAME WINNER has two dominant wins, including the very competitive 2018 Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
#2 - MUCHO GUSTO made easy work of Derby contender GUNMETAL GRAY in the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
#3 - WAR OF WILL will try to repeat his Lecomte Stakes win in the Risen Star Stakes.
#4 - IMPROBABLE was impressive in the Cash Call Futurity at Los Alamitos.
#5 - KNICKS GO will need to run more like he did in the 2018 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity than he did in the Sam F. Davis Stakes.
WAR OF WILL will have his chance to move up the rankings with a dominant Risen Star Stakes win. He'll be squaring off with 12 or 13 other runners vying for the 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. They'll race 1 1/16th-Miles on the Fair Grounds' main track.
Early speed has held a slight edge at the distance on dirt with 57% of the current meet's 28 winners running near the lead. The average winner raced 2.4th in the opening quarter and 1.4th at the 1/2-mile marker.
This is how we see them lining up early in our Risen Star Wagering Guide. Click here to get yours!
"A lot of horses but not a lot of early speed. According to their most recent fractions, they should line up out of the gate like this at the quarter-pole: OWENDALE, MANNY WAH and WAR OF WILL. If GUN IT gets in the race, he'll likely be the leader."
As you can see, WAR OF WILL has a chance to be perfectly placed and match the profile of a Fair Grounds, 1-1/16th-Mile, dirt winner. We believe KINGLY scratching from the Risen Star to run in the KD prep race El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields helps WAR OF WILL's chances, but he won't be without competition.
MR MONEY might be the one to put up the biggest fight. This is what we write about MR MONEY in our Wagering Guide's analysis of our Top Contenders.
"#3 - Mr. Money showed well at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, finishing fourth with an excuse. Since, he's laid a bunch of bullet works at FG. If his workouts are indicative, then he's ready to come off the sidelines and get after it."
Get all our Risen Star Stakes analysis, picks, suggested bets, and more with our Wagering Guide. It also includes full coverage for Fair Ground's race 9 - MINESHAFT HANDICAP (G3); race 10 - FAIRGROUNDS HANDICAP (G3); and race 11 - RACHEL ALEXANDRA STAKES (G2), which is a Kentucky Oaks qualifying race.
We'll update our Power 5 rankings as the Road to the Kentucky Derby unfolds, culminating with our picks, analysis, suggested wagers and more in our 2019 Kentucky Derby Wagering Guide.