The final major local prep for the Louisiana Derby was contested at Fair Grounds on Saturday and Kentucky Derby 2012 hopeful El Padrino nipped Mark Valeski a thrilling renewal of the G2 Risen Star Stakes.
G2 Risen Star Stakes (2-25-12): El Padrino (99 BSF)
It was not easy by any means but overwhelming favorite El Padrino notched his first stakes win and garnered a much needed $180,000 in Derby graded earnings on Feb 25.
The Pletcher trainee settled into a nice stalking rhythm on the outside under Castellano with Rosie Napravnik and Mark Valeski intently tracking longshot Hero of Order.
Mark Valeski poked his head in front but was quickly joined by El Padrino and the two leaders matched strides and brushed in the lane with The Godfather getting his nose down on the line.
El Padrino was not flashy or brilliant in New Orleans but he proved he could win a dogfight and walked away win the victory. The versatile sort handles any footing and has fired in all five lifetime starts at Saratoga, Belmont, Aqueduct, Gulfstream, and Fair Grounds. He possesses all of the tools to win on the first Saturday in May and will have one more race before the big dance under the Twin Spires.
Mark Valeski had the most upside in the Risen Star but did not offer much value because he was coupled with Lecomte hero Mr. Bowling. The Larry Jones trainee did everything but win and the top two were well clear of the rest. He could continue to progress and looms a major player in the Louisiana Derby on April 1. El Padrino could end up in that spot as well.
Z Dager landed the show and was the only Lecomte runner to do anything. Mr. Bowling ended up last.
Optimizer ended up 9th for Wayne Lukas and needs to return to synthetic or turf.
Risen Star Stakes Grade: B-