Plucky and competitive was Risen Star. The dark bay colt raced only 11 times and his vapor-like career flashed so hurriedly across thoroughbred racing’s radar screen that his notoriety was not as heavy as one might think would adhere to a winner of both the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
[cleeng_content id="645140290" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]Two Triple Crown wins usually means stardom. If not stardom, at least fame that isn’t as fleeting as a cool day in mid-July.
Any other thoroughbred with two-thirds of the Triple Crown in his folder of accomplishments and whose sire was Secretariat would be as famous as a one-term president of this country.
Risen Star was Secretariat’s son. Not only was Risen Star given only marginal credit for his stakes-winning career, but Secretariat was never honored with much credit for siring a two-time Triple Crown-race champion.
Risen Star didn’t look at all like Secretariat. He wasn’t a timber-tall chestnut. He wasn’t a chestnut at all. And he was much smaller, without Secretariat’s wide chest and muscular and powerful backside. The fickle public and even more mercurial media could have been more hypnotized by Risen Star if he were a near-clone of his famous father.
But he was rather slight of build. Not tall. Not long. Not muscular. Just a very good stakes horse whose career wasn’t long enough to fetch the adoration of those who made a living writing and talking about thoroughbreds.
In his 11 races, Risen Star had eight wins and was never worse than third. His pot of winnings was a large one since he carted away $2,029,845 in lifetime earnings.
Possibily, some of the reason for the lack of influence exerted by the colt was that he wasn’t raced by some entrenched kingpin from a well-heeled Kentucky farm. Instead, his owner (Ronnie Lemarque) and trainer (Louie Roussel) were based in Louisiana.
The owner/trainer valued the Grade II stakes races in Louisiana as much as most others treasured the Kentucky Derby prep races in Kentucky and New York.
Lemarque had purchased Risen Star for $300,000 at the 1987 Fasig-Tipton select sale of two-year-olds in training in Florida. The colt’s heritage was steeped with as many well-knowns on his mother’s side as Secretariat had on his side of the family tree.
Great-grandfathers Ribot and Hail To Reason. One grandfather was His Majesty and on back down the line there were Turn-To, Hyperion, Olympia and Heliopolis.
One of the females besides Risen Star’s mother (Ribbon) was Flower Bowl, the dam of stakes champions.
While still maturing, Risen Star was not hurried to the races just to make a quick buck and give owner Lemarque a quick return on his $300,000 investment.
He was raced only a few times as a two-year-old learning his trade in Louisiana. His best effort came when winning The Minstrel Stakes at little Louisiana Downs.
Lemarque may have been Louisiana-born and raised but he held the Triple Crown series and especially the Kentucky Derby as dear as any owner from the Bluegrass State or anywhere else.
A win in the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds was a bumptious start to Risen Star’s three-year-old campaign.
Just two weeks before the running of The Derby, Risen Star ran off to another win in the Lexington Stakes.
When the day of The Derby dawned, the crowds of bettors and media at Churchill Downs were aware of the smallish Louisiana entry. But he was only the third betting choice.
The general feeling that afternoon was that Winning Colors, a blackish filly who would eventually turn gray, would set the pace and do most anything to get to the lead. A consensus of opinion also saw her losing her grip on the race after about one mile.
Winning Colors was allowed to set her pace. She was not fully extended by any challenger. In the long Churchill Downs stretch her lead was ever-shrinking, but she held firm enough and won by a diminishing neck.
Risen Star was third under the ride of future Hall of Famer Eddie Delahoussaye.
The 1988 Preakness Stakes was run much differently.
Risen Star pressured the lead, spun around the pacesetter as the last turn approached and went on off to about a three-length lead.
He won by about 1 1/2-lengths over the closing effort of Brian’s Time.
Since Brian’s Time had closed well in the Preakness, he was made the betting favorite in the long Belmont Stakes.
No horse challenged Risen Star in the Belmont.
He poured through the home stretch in easily capsizing the field by an expanding 14-plus lengths.
Only Secretariat’s winning time was faster. Two others have bettered his time since that June afternoon in 1988.
An injury incurred in the Belmont caused Lamarque to retire his champion after only 11 career races.
The Eclipse Award as best three-year-old brought a first-time historical note.
Risen Star was the first third-generation Eclipse Award honoree in the same bracket. His grandfather (Bold Ruler) had won the award in 1957 and his father, Secretariat, was Three-Year-Old of the Year in 1973.
He didn’t look like Secretariat. He didn’t win as often or as dramatically as Secretariat. He was not able to win all three races in the Triple Crown series. And he able to race only 11 times.
Risen Star was never adorned with the accolades so liberally sprinkled on others with less of an impact on racing.
Yet he was never worse than third, had over $2 million in earnings and only lost three times in his career.
He simply didn’t didn’t look the part of a strapping and dominant thoroughbred. And he didn’t compare well when his father was brought into the conversation.
Against most others, however, he accomplished more than they did no matter if they were 17 hands tall, had the appearance of a Greek god and could charm the media out of its socks.[/cleeng_content]