Airoforce is still in the running for the Kentucky Derby but his status took a big hit on Saturday as he failed to fire and finished tenth in the Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Park in Louisiana. For now, he’s still #14 in the Derby qualification points standings but will have to have a strong performance in his next prep race to guarantee a place in the race.
The winner of the Risen Star was Steve Asmussen trained Gun Runner with Florent Geroux aboard. Gun Runner held off 40-1 long-shot Forevamo by a half-length to earn the victory and 50 Derby Qualification Points. That puts him at the top of the standings with 50 points, 19 more than Nyquist who’ll race next in the Florida Derby. Forevamo took second followed by Mo Tom. Mo Tom couldn’t buy a break–he had trouble getting out of the gate and while mounting a late charge was hit by Bistraya resulting in a cut to one of his legs. He’s currently fourth in the Derby Qualification Points standings thanks to his victory in the Lecomte Stakes in January.
Gun Runner’s owner, Ron Winchell, said that his horse would run next in the Louisiana derby and then barring anything unforeseen on to Kentucky: “That’s the dream, right? The Kentucky Derby. He’s been highly anticipated and a quality horse.” Gun Runner was the beneficiary of Mo Tom’s troubled trip–immediately after the race his jockey Corey Lanerie said that the horse looked OK but many felt that he was the best in the Risen Star field before he got clobbered: “It was really good until we got kind of wiped out. I definitely thought he was the best horse today.” No word yet on the next start for Mo Tom–he’ll likely get examined by a veterinarian tomorrow before his connections do anything else.
As far as Airoforce, he was never competitive and his performance–after everyone around him said he was ‘raring to go’ all week and went off as the 7/5 favorite–left jockey Julien Leparoux scratching his head: “I don’t know. He was traveling good and then he put his head up and didn’t pick it up.”