War of Will the one to catch in Risen Star

The Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes, the first Kentucky Derby prep worth 50 points to the winner this year, takes place on Saturday at the Fair Grounds. Going as the finale on a 12-race program, the 1 1/16th-mile heat is scheduled for 7:02 p.m. EST. A field of 14 is expected to compete, with #14 WAR OF WILL as the prohibitive favorite.

WAR OF WILL (5-2, morning-line favorite) will be the top pick despite his outside draw. He was an impressive winner of the LeComte Stakes a month ago, opening up to score by four lengths. The speed figure he earned that day stamps him as the one to beat. WAR OF WILL has sharp early speed, so look for Tyler Gaffalione to employ it to help his mount clear the bad post. He doesn’t appear to have too many pace rivals in the Risen Star, so that should aid his cause. WAR OF WILL is undefeated on dirt in his brief career (2-for-2).

#9 COUNTRY HOUSE (20-1) was last seen romping in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park. He closed from several lengths behind and drew away confidently under Luis Saez. Prior to that, he was a runner-up to Kentucky Wildcat, who finished second in last week’s Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. COUNTRY HOUSE need only improve slightly for trainer Bill Mott to earn a share in the Risen Star. Saez ships in for the call.

#3 MR. MONEY (12-1) was supposed to run in the LeComte but was withdrawn after coming down with a minor illness. Since that defection, he has trained well for the Risen Star. The last time MR. MONEY raced, he finished a fading fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after making an unsuccessful middle move. If jockey Gabriel Saez is patient, MR. MONEY should finish full of run in the long Fair Grounds stretch.

The play: $5 exacta 14/3,9 ($10)

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