Calumet Farm’s homebred Bravazo earned his first career graded stakes score and 50 points toward making the gate for the Kentucky Derby with a nose victory in the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds on Saturday. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained son of Awesome Again was ridden by Miguel Mena, who was substituting for Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, and was a 22-1 outsider in the field of nine, returning $44, $15.40 and $7.80.
Stevens was unable to make the trip to Louisiana due to previous commitments at Oaklawn Park.
“Gary had a commitment on a live horse [Streamline] in the Bayakoa, so I made a phone call,” Lukas said of acquiring Mena. “I felt pretty good about getting the meet’s leading rider. Hell, he knows every grain of sand on the track.”
Runner-up Snapper Sinclair capped the $603.40 exacta and was worth $26.60 and $9.80 at odds of nearly 42-1. Noble Indy was another two lengths back in third and paid $4.20 at odds of 5-2. The trifecta was good for $1,691.20.
Favored Instilled Regard, High North, Ebben, Principe Guilherme, Givemeaminit and Supreme Aura rounded out the order of finish. Kentucky Club was scratched and will run in Monday’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.
As expected, Snapper Sinclair sped to the lead where he set all the pace in somewhat pedestrian splits of :24.15, :47.96, 1:12.85 and 1:36.75 with the winner stalking closely and racing well off the rail to the leader’s outside. The early frontrunner dug in as Bravazo challenged on the far turn and refused to give up the lead, digging in gamely as the winner challenged all the way down the lane.
In deep stretch, Bravazo drifted out slightly but was able to just get past Snapper Sinclair to snatch the victory by a whisker, stopping the clock in 1:42.95 on a fast main track.
“It’s very exciting and I’m very thankful to Mr. Lukas, because they gave me the chance on such a nice horse,” Mena said. “The horse came out sharp and he was on the bridle nice. I was confident and had a lot of horse. The horse on the inside was hard to beat. I didn’t know if I had it, but thankfully I did. I have a nice horse.”
Bravazo earned $240,000 for his initial graded stakes score, bringing his career earnings to $426,528 and his career line now stands at 7-3-1-1. He now has 54 Kentucky Derby points overall — currently the most of any of his division — thanks to his Risen Star win and also the four he earned for his runner-up finish in last year’s Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland.
“I didn’t know it was that close,” Lukas said of Saturday’s tight finish. “He [Mena] was getting into him pretty good and he drifted out. That cost us a little bit. He’s a fighter. He’s tough. He’s got real good tactical speed. He’s a horse that carries his weight well and can withstand training up to the Derby.”
Lukas didn’t say what race is next for Bravazo, only that he’d return to his winter base of Oaklawn Park to prepare for his next start and that he’s intent on keeping his newest jockey.
“We’ll get him back [to Oaklawn Park] with me and if everything checks out and goes right then I’m going to lock up Miguel Mena. I’ll pack him and the horse in Styrofoam and keep them under lock and key until the next race.”