Kentucky Derby Countdown

A larger than normal field has seen two divisions of the Risen Star created this weekend at Fair Grounds. American racing expert Peter Fornatale previews both, as well as the EL Camino Real at Golden Gate – live on Sky Sports Racing.

  • Friday 14 February
  • Blog
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Last year, the Louisiana contingent of three-year-olds was strong: Country House, eventually promoted to be the Derby winner, prepped at Fair Grounds, as did Preakness winner War Of Will. This year, so many colts have entered in the Risen Star that it’s been sliced into two divisions. 

In the first one, I like DIGITAL to spring a mild upset over Stakes-tested rivals. He ran well going long for the first-time last time out, in just his third career start, with a figure that could win this.

He did take the lead in the stretch only to see Blackberry Wine come back on him, which isn’t great, but I think overall Digital had the worst of the race flow there. He has more room for improvement given how battle tested Blackberry Wine is comparatively.

Honestly, I like them both here and will play a reverse forecast with the two of them and could even back both to win, prices pending. But Digital is the pick, and definitely worth a play at 6-1.

In the second division, ANNEAU D’OR is supposed to win on figures, and this is the type of horse that I believe will end up going off much shorter on the U.S. tote than his current prices.

As of this writing, there is 5-2 available and he’d be the clear pick to me even at 6-4. He’s simply got the fastest figures and the best form – second, a head in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and second, a neck last time to the undefeated Baffert runner Thousand Words.

He’s got a versatile running style and while it’s unusual to see blinkers added to one that’s run so well, perhaps connections are thinking that a little more focus will get him even better.

It feels unlikely that the EL Camino Real at Golden Gate will produce a Kentucky Derby contender but points are being awarded. Bob Baffert sends one up north, Azul Coast, and he’ll go favored.

Watch U.S Racing live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) every evening.

I’m a little interested in INDIAN PEAK at a price (4-1 or higher). He was bet last time and had a no-chance journey at Santa Anita. The race two back, where he beat three of these rivals, makes him a good fit here and he’s had two very nice workouts since the last.

Drawn well inside and worth a flier at the right price.


Looking back to last weekend, NADAL made a successful second start, winning the San Vicente on Sunday. He earned a 92 time figure, down from his debut, and was given all he could handle by Ginobili, a good but relatively exposed runner.

It was not a “Wow, we have seen the Derby performance,” but it did nothing to diminish my overall optimism for the colt. It’s not fair to expect him to instantly be Justify 2.0. He’s a big colt and the seven furlongs may have been a little sharp for him, and he had to run hard the whole race.

He is still the bet on the board I’d take at 12-1 for the Kentucky Derby.

We tabbed the winner, Sole Volante, in the Sam Davis stakes at Tampa Bay, but the horse I want out of the race is the beaten favorite, Independence Hall.

The latter made an early move into a fast pace and did well to finish second given how far back the other pace runners were and the fact that the third horse came from another county to run on for third.

I’m not sure Independence Hall is a Derby horse but I can say for sure that those saying he had a perfect trip and isn’t that good are wrong – this is one to mark up based on race flow/pace dynamics.

Nice job by Sole Volante to get it done but I think this was probably the race you wanted to have him – he’s the one who got the perfect trip.


Risen Star first division (FG 11:38):
DIGITAL at 6-1
Digital – Blackberry Wine reverse forecast

Risen Star second division (FG 12:12):
ANNEAU D’OR at anything over 6-4

El Camino Real (GG 11:52):

Kentucky Derby ante-post:
NADAL at 12-1

Kentucky Derby Countdown
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