Risen Star Stakes and Angel of Empire 2023 Prep Race Recap

Kentucky Derby prep race recap of the 2023 Risen Star Stakes and winner Angel of Empire.
Kentucky Derby prep race recap of the 2023 Risen Star Stakes and winner Angel of Empire. / Associated Press

The Championship Series races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby featured 15 major prep races that awarded 50 to 100 points to the winner and a spot in the starting gate for the May 6 Kentucky Derby.

The 1 1/8 mile Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 18 at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans was won by Angel of Empire (13/1). He rallied from the back to win in 151.47 seconds over two other upcoming Kentucky Derby runners, Sun Thunder and Two Phil's.

Angel of Empire went on to win the April 1 Arkansas Derby with Flavien Prat aboard, and Prat will ride in his sixth Kentucky Derby for trainer Brad Cox. Prat finished third in the Run for the Roses last year aboard Zandon and second the year before with Hot Rod Charlie. In the 2019 Kentucky Derby, Prat won with huge longshot Country House (65/1) after Maximum Security was disqualified.

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Angel of Empire Kentucky Derby Contender

Angel of Empire is a deep closer who will be one of the contenders to win and hit the board, according to FanDuel Racing odds. The parimutuel opening odds are released on May 1 of Derby week, and Angel of Empire's odds will sit behind favorites Forte and Tapit Trice but in a similar range of Derma Sotogake and Practical Move.

Angel of Empire's two major prep wins have come at different tracks, and he finished the Arkansas Derby strong with a final 3/8 mile time of 36.86 seconds.

Nine of the last 11 Kentucky Derby winners and 19 of the last 25 finished the final three furlongs of their final prep race in less than 38 seconds.

The Risen Star Stakes was inaugurated in 1973 and renamed to honor locally-owned Risen Star, a son of Secretariat who won the race in 1988 and went on to win the Preakness and Belmont Stakes after finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. The race was contested at 1 1/16 miles from 1991-2019 and has since been run at 1 1/8 miles.

No winner of the Risen Star Stakes has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. However, two runners who have raced in the event have gone on to win the Run for the Roses. War Emblem finished sixth at Fair Grounds before winning at Churchill Downs and the 2002 Kentucky Derby. Country House was second in the 2019 Risen Star before his Kentucky Derby win at 65/1 odds via disqualification of Maximum Security.

Epicenter won the 2022 Risen Star and finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Gun Runner won the 2016 Risen Star and was third in the Kentucky Derby. Run Dusty Run won the event in 1977, then went on to finish second in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes as well as third in the Preakness.

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