Risen Star, Barbara Fritchie And Hyacinth Are Putting The Pieces Together For An Array Of Top Racing And Big Purses

Written By Dave Bontempo on February 18, 2022 - Last Updated on March 1, 2022
hyacinth race puzzle pieces in sunlight

An alliteration fest greets nationwide horse racing bettors on Saturday.

Call it Fecta-cular Fair Grounds in Louisiana or Lucrative Laurel in Maryland. Either way, it’s Signature Saturday for both tracks, which are presenting their biggest programs of the entire meet.

Bettors can access all the action via TVG.

Besides these loaded cards, online gamblers can find an array of high-quality, six-figure purse races at Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park and Aqueduct.

Some players may also catch the Hyacinth Stakes from Tokyo in the late Saturday night, early Sunday morning window, wherever it is available. There is a 14-hour time difference between New York and Tokyo. Check TVG on Saturday to find updated post times and betting availability.

A look at the rising stars racing at Fair Grounds

The Louisiana track aims a six-figure six-pack at the gambling public on Saturday. In time-honored horse racing tradition, Fair Grounds anchors its signature $400,000 Risen Star Stakes, a Kentucky Derby prep carrying 50 points to the winner, alongside five other high-quality events.

Here is the big lineup:

  • Risen Star Stakes: $400,000
  • Rachel Alexandra: $300,000
  • Mineshaft: $250,000
  • Fair Grounds Stakes: $150,000
  • Colonel Powers and Albert Stall: $100,000

Fair Grounds: Risen Star race offers a good field

The event has produced two Kentucky Derby winners. War Emblem finished sixth at Fair Grounds before winning at Churchill Downs in 2002. Country House was second in the Risen Star before crossing second in the Derby, only to be promoted after first-place finisher Maximum Security was disqualified by Kentucky stewards for interference in 2019.

There could be one more. Mandaloun triumphed here last year and ran second in the Kentucky Derby behind Medina Spirit, who later failed a post-race drug test. There is still a chance the result of the race could be overturned.

The Risen Star also produced two winners of the Preakness Stakes. That was Master Derby in 1975 and War of Will in 2019. Breeders Cup Classic Winners Gun Runner and Mucho Macho Man also graduated the Risen Star.

An early look at the Risen Star

A field of 10 was entered for the race as of Thursday. It has a post time of 6:58 p.m. EST Saturday. Early money is centered on a quartet of horses, although a good number of the entries are considered “live.” Pappacap ran second to Corniche in the Breeders Cup Juvenile and then was third behind Epicenter (second), who is in this race, in the Grade 3 Lecomte.

Bettors hope Slow Down Andy is inappropriately named and will run fast here. It’s been an excellent early career for this horse, who is 2-for-3 and captured the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity in his third race.

Smile Happy is an excellent 2-for-2 and has a recent win over Abarrio, who secured the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes last weekend at Gulfstream Park.

Laurel’s winter wager wonderland

Laurel Park will host its Winter Carnival with six stakes worth $900,000 in purses, led by the 46th running of the $250,000 General George for 4-year-olds and up and the 70th edition of the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older, both sprinting seven furlongs.

Here’s an overview of its big afternoon. Besides the pair of $250,000 races, a quartet of $100,000 races are on the card:

  • Miracle Wood Stakes
  • Country Wide Stakes
  • John Campbell Stakes
  • Nellie Morse Stakes

Laurel Park overview

Trainer Rodney Jenkins and Hillwood’s Ellen Charles debated whether to run Cordmaker around two turns in the Campbell before settling on the General George, a race they won together with Bandbox in 2014. The 7-year-old son of two-time Horse of the Year and 2014 Hall of Famer Curlin has run 15 consecutive races at a mile or longer.

He has a distinct advantage by having run often at Laurel but will have to shorten up at seven furlongs after going longer distances.

Sir Alfred James, the early second choice, has not run at Laurel but has triumphed at seven furlongs at Churchill Downs. He recently hit a wall in stakes company, and that will be a question surrounding him.

A quick look at the Barbara Fritchie

Jakarta, a bargain purchase for Three Diamonds Farm who has gone on to become a stakes winner on turf and dirt as well as twice graded-stakes placed, goes after the biggest win of her career.
Joining Jakarta in the contender’s ranks is Glass Ceiling, who comes off two nice victories at Aqueduct.

Neither Jakarta nor Glass Ceiling has ever run at Laurel. That’s a big variable. Who will take to the surface? Both enter off of victories at this distance.

Keep one eye on the Hyacinth

Japanese interests in the sport grew more pronounced after the Breeders Cup last year. That’s when March Lorraine edged Dunbar by a nose to win the Distaff at 45-1 in a thrilling photo finish.

On the same card, Loves Only You won the Filly & Mare Turf with a late surging burst at 4-1. This brings added attention to the graduates of Japan’s Road to the Kentucky Derby, which automatically offers a Kentucky Derby starting berth to the top qualifier in a series of pre-races in Japan. The Hyacinth has been a major part of the series, offering 30 qualifying points.

There are two significant graduates from the Hyacinth. In 2016, Lani finished fifth in this race but then ran all three Triple Crown races. He finished an excellent third in the Belmont Stakes.

In 2019, Hyacinth starter Master Fencer became the first Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby alumnus to compete in the Derby, unleashing a late charge to finish sixth under the Twin Spires. Master Fencer continued on and ran a solid fifth in the Belmont Stakes.

Fan favorite: The Gulfstream Park Rainbow 6

Bettors can watch this pool mount the way a lottery carryover grows. Gamblers need to pick winners of six consecutive races, usually the last six on the card. The wagers are only 20 cents. For $20, a player can put multiple selections on the ticket.

The Rainbow 6 is paid out when there is a single unique ticket sold with all six winners. That almost never happens, although it did one day this year for $1.2 million. On days when there is no unique ticket, 70% of that day’s pool goes back to those bettors holding tickets with the most winners, while 30% is carried over to the jackpot pool.

The Pick 6 pool grows quickly and entered the week above $500,000. It will enter Friday at more than $692,000. Watch for mandatory payouts on the heels of major Saturday races, because the pool has grown significantly.

Other notable races throughout the country

Gulfstream Park hosts the $150,000 Sprint Stakes.
Oaklawn hosts the $150,00 Dixie Belle.
Santa Anita hosts the $100,000 Pasadena Stakes.
Aqueduct hosts the $100,000 Hollie Hughes.
Tampa Bay hosts both the $100,000 Lightning City and $100,000 Turf Dash.

Overall thoughts on this week’s strategies

Somewhere along the line, a winning ticket will likely have one “single.” That’s your take-a-stand race in which only one selection is made.

If a player wins that, it allows for multiple possibilities in other races. Some races will suggest two or three selections. One, especially a large field of lightly raced maidens, may signal an “all,” because those races may be impossible to handicap.

All told, it’s a great puzzle. It’s a great payout, and it does not have to be expensive.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, who writes extensively on the emergence of legalized sports betting, is a recipient of the Sam Taub Award for Broadcast Excellence by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has broadcast boxing for all the major networks over the last four decades and is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame as well as the Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame. His work also can be seen at the Press of Atlantic City and iGamingPlayer.

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