Bravazo Surges to Kentucky Derby Points Lead With Risen Star Victory

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.”

Bravazo (black silks) edges Snapper Sinclair in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday (photo by Hodges Photography).

Bravazo (black silks) edges Snapper Sinclair in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday (photo by Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir).

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.”

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.

She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.

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