The history of the Risen Star Stakes traces back to 1973. The year that saw horse racing’s elusive Triple Crown captured by Secretariat for the first time in twenty-five years was also the year that the original Risen Star Stakes, called the Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes, was inaugurated. As its original name suggests, the race was often used as a stepping stone for horses aimed to run in the Louisiana Derby. The race was almost immediately successful at producing Classic winners; Master Derby won the Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes in 1975 in route to winning the Preakness Stakes. Run Dusty Run performed very well in 1977, winning the Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes before finishing second or third to Seattle Slew in all three jewels of the Triple Crown.
Many other horses have won the Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes and performed well in the sport’s three-year old classics. Perhaps the most recognizable winner of all is the race’s current namesake, Risen Star. Risen Star was a strong and talented son of Secretariat. Though the horse was a Kentucky-bred, his owner and trainer Louie J. Rousell III is a Louisiana native.
Risen Star won the Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes in 1988. Afterwards he won the Louisiana Derby and Lexington Stakes before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. Risen Star won the Preakness Stakes and then the Belmont Stakes by a huge margin that reminded many of his sire.
[Video: Watch Risen Star win the Belmont Stakes]
Unfortunately, the young and talented colt retired after the Belmont Stakes due to injury. Nevertheless, the entire state of Louisiana was proud of that bay colt and decided to rename the Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes to the Risen Star Stakes in 1989.
13 horses have won both the Risen Star Stakes and the Louisiana Derby. The race has been run at Fair Grounds Race Course every year except for 2006, when the track was being reconstructed due to damages caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The race was upgraded from a listed stakes race to a Grade 3 in 2002 and was elevated to a Grade 2 in 2010! Since 2010, only two favorites have won the Risen Star Stakes: El Padrino in 2012 and War of Will in 2019. Quite a few longshots have won the race, including Ive Struck A Nerve at 135-1 in 2013. According to America’s Best Racing, horses based in Louisiana and Florida tend to perform the best here; eight of the last ten winners were based in Louisiana or Florida.
This year, the Risen Star Stakes (G2) will be held on Saturday, February 15th. The race has drawn so many horses that it had to be split into two divisions, each race awarding the winner 50 points towards the Kentucky Derby. This is not the first time that the race has had to be split; there were two editions in 1989, 1993, and 1995. Here are this year's contenders:
Ready to Roll
Moon Over Miami
Mr. Big News
Fame to Famous
Liam's Lucky Charm
Finnick The Fierce
All in all, the Risen Star Stakes has long been one of the premier races on the road to three jewels of the Triple Crown. This year, twenty-three colts are going to battle it out for points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Who do you like?
[Video: Watch War of Will win the 2019 Risen Star Stakes. He would go on to win the Preakness Stakes]
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Sources: America’s Best Racing