Upset! Bravazo Scores Kentucky Derby Spot with Risen Star Win

Bravazo Wins Risen Start at 21-1 Odds to Secure Spot in Kentucky Derby

The Road to the Kentucky Derby welcomed a long shot winner to the starting gate for the May 5 Run for the Roses, as well-bred 3-year-old Bravazo (21-1) won Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at the Fair Grounds by a nose over another surprising long shot Snapper Sinclair (41-1). Bravazo, a son of 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, earned 50 qualifying points to essentially secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Snapper Sinclair picked up 20 points while 3rd place finisher Noble Indy earned 10 points and race favorite Instilled Regard 4 points for finishing fourth.

Bravazo pressured Snapper Sinclair on the front end throughout the 1 1/16 mile race, as the top-2 betting choices Instilled Regard and Noble Indy stalked just behind. The two long shot leaders held off the challengers and went head-to-head down the stretch in a driving photo finish. Bravazo was the winner by a nose for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Awesome Again, who won 9-of-12 races before retiring following his 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic victory, is the sire of Bravazo. Awesome Again was a late-blooming 3-year-old in 1997 who never had a chance to qualify or run in the Kentucky Derby. But he did win all three of his starts at Churchill Downs including the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Now Bravazo will have a chance to gallop in the Run for the Roses for D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer with the most Triple Crown race wins in history.

“I didn’t know it was that close,” Lukas said by phone from Hot Springs, Ark. “He (Miguel 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 (Kentucky) Derby.”

Lukas turned to the Fair Grounds leading jockey Miguel Mena just days before the race when Gary Stevens was unable to ride due to a commitment on Streamline in the $150,000 Bayokoa (G3) at Oaklawn Park. Stevens rode her to a hard-charging closing win over a sloppy track.

But Lukas said he’ll stick with Mena moving forward as they prepare Bravazo for the May 5 Kentucky Derby.

“We’ll get him back here with me and if everything checks out and goes right then I’m going to lock up Miguel Mena,” Lukas said. “I’ll pack him and the horse in Styrofoam and keep them under lock and key until the next race.”

A $2 win wager on Bravazo paid $44.00 in the Risen Star, and he clocked in a fast final time of 1:42.95. Bravazo returned $15.40 to place while Snapper Sinclair paid $26.60 as runner-up. The $2 exacta was a big score for $603.40 while the $1 trifecta was worth $1,691.20.

Bravazo finished 10th in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in November at Churchill Downs, and now has a record of 3-1-1 in seven starts after breaking his maiden at Churchill Downs last September. Awesome Again, Bravazo’s sire, won all three of his starts at Churchill Downs in a 12-race career, including the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic, his 9th win in the final race of his career.

Lukas already has one classic hopeful in his barn in grade 1 winner Sporting Chance, who is scheduled to make his seasonal debut in the Feb. 19 Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park. But it’s Bravazo that’s got Lukas smiling again, as he tries to make a run at another Triple Crown victory with a surprising entrant in this year’s Kentucky Derby – Bravazo.

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