Road to the Kentucky Derby Picks and Best Bets for February 17: Risen Star Stakes

Steve Asmussen appears to have the Risen Star Stakes cornered with race favorite Track Phantom and single-digit contender Hall of Fame, but our horse racing betting picks believe those speed merchants are vulnerable to the closers on Saturday.

Feb 15, 2024 • 14:40 ET • 4 min read
Steve Asmussen horse racing
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Derby odds are beginning to heat up as the first of the major Derby prep races is set for Saturday in the Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes.

The Fair Grounds feature offers 50 Kentucky Derby points to the winner and drew a field of 12. Going as the 14th and final race at the New Orleans circuit, post time for the Risen Star is 7:17 p.m. ET.

Keep reading for my free betting picks and analysis of the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday, February 17.

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Risen Star Stakes odds, prediction and best bet

  • Race: Fair Grounds Race 14
  • Post time: 7:17 p.m. ET
  • TV: FanDuel TV
Post Horse Track odds DraftKings FanDuel bet365
1 Tizzy Indy 50-1 +5,000 +5,000 +10,000
2 Awesome Ruta 30-1 +3,000 +3,000 +6,600
3 Honor Marie 6-1 +600 +600 +700
4 Sierra Leone 4-1 +400 +400 +350
5 Moonlight 12-1 +1,200 +1,200 +1,400
6 Real Men Violin 8-1 +800 +800 +1,400
7 Hall of Fame 6-1 +600 +600 +350
8 Catching Freedom 5-1 +500 +500 +800
9 Cardinale 12-1 +1,200 +1,200 +1,600
10 Resilience 12-1 +1,200 +1,200 +1,600
11 Track Phantom 7-2 +350 +350 +275
12 Bee Dancer 20-1 +2,000 +2,000 +3,300

Odds as of February 15, 2024.

No. 3 Honor Marie (6-1) will be the top choice as the best-looking closer in a race replete with speed on paper. Hall of Fame, Cardinale, Track Phantom, and Bee Dancer could all be looking for the lead, and with all four drawn to the outer half of the gate, the first quarter figures to be swift. Track Phantom may be fastest of all and may even get cooperation from Steve Asmussen stablemate Hall of Fame, but the former needs to prove himself at a longer distance vs. a fuller and tougher-looking field than he faced in the Lecomte Stakes.

Honor Marie was last seen swooping the field in a last-to-first move to take the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Thanksgiving weekend. His recent works, including a stamina-building bullet move going five furlongs, suggest this one will fire off the bench under Rafael Bejarano. 

No. 8 Catching Freedom (5-1) had just one horse beaten early but closed well to take the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn on New Year's Day. The stretchout is logical for the son of Constitution, and the human connections couldn't be much better with Luis Saez climbing aboard for Brad Cox.

No. 4 Sierra Leone (4-1) has been devoid of early speed in each of his first two starts yet is a nose away from being 2-for-2 after being denied by top Derby prospect Dornoch in December's Remsen Stakes. Tyler Gaffalione and Chad Brown team up on this son of Gun Runner who could have more to offer as he matures. 

No. 5 Moonlight (12-1) could be worth including underneath, especially if the rain stays away (there's a possibility of showers in the forecast). Todd Pletcher isn't known for taking random shots at races like this, and Moonlight is training very well for the Risen Star. Fair Grounds mainstay Florent Geroux will be in the irons as this runner looks to replicate the dominant victory in his lone fast-track start to date. 

Best bet: $2 exacta box 3/4/8, $2 exacta 3,4,8/5, $3 exacta 3/4,8 ($24)

Road to the Kentucky Derby

Race Date Track Result
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile November 3, 2023 Santa Anita Park Fireceness
Smarty Jones Stakes January 1, 2024 Oaklawn Park Catching Freedom
Jerome Stakes January 6 Aqueduct Drum Roll Please
Lecomte Stakes January 20 Fair Grounds Track Phantom
Southwest Stakes February 3 Oaklawn Park Mystik Dan
Withers Stakes February 3 Aqueduct Uncle Heavy
Holy Bull Stakes February 3 Gulfstream Park Hades
Robert B. Lewis Stakes February 3 Santa Anita Park Nysos*
Sam F. Davis Stakes February 10 Tampa Bay Downs No More Time
Risen Star Stakes February 17 Fair Grounds TBD
Sunland Derby February 18 Sunland Park TBD
Rebel Stakes February 24 Oaklawn Park TBD
Fountain of Youth Stakes March 2 Gulfstream Park TBD
John Battaglia Memorial March 2 Turfway Park TBD
San Felipe Stakes March 2 Santa Anita Park TBD
Gotham Stakes March 2 Aqueduct TBD
Tampa Bay Derby March 9 Tampa Bay Downs TBD
Louisiana Derby March 23 Fair Grounds TBD
Jeff Ruby Steaks March 23 Turfway Park TBD
UAE Derby March 30 Meydan (Dubai) TBD
Arkansas Derby March 30 Oaklawn Park TBD
Florida Derby March 30 Gulfstream Park TBD
Santa Anita Derby April 6 Santa Anita Park TBD
Blue Grass Stakes April 6 Keeneland TBD
Wood Memorial April 6 Aqueduct TBD
Lexington Stakes April 13 Keeneland TBD
Kentucky Derby May 4 Churchill Downs TBD

*winner trained by Bob Baffert and ineligible for the Kentucky Derby.

Not intended for use in MA.
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