Riser passes distance test, wins Emerald Downs Derby

Despite setting swift early fractions, the 3-year-old gray colt held off his stablemate, Aqua Frio, winning the championship race of the meet for 3-year-old males by 1¼ lengths.

There was little doubt which horse would be leading early in the Emerald Downs Derby.

The bigger question was whether Riser could stay on top for 11/8 miles when he had never won at a distance longer than 6½ furlongs.

The answer Sunday in Auburn was an emphatic yes.

Despite setting swift early fractions, the 3-year-old gray colt held off his stablemate, Aqua Frio, winning the championship race of the meet for 3-year-old males by 1¼ lengths.

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Riser, who was the favorite, paid $4.40 to win and his time in the $75,900 race was 1 minute, 49.41 seconds.

“To run fractions like that and then to be able to go 11/8 miles is not easy,” said Riser’s rider, Eswan Flores. “He’s a warrior.”

Although Riser opened a clear lead in the five-horse field, he had to work early to get separation from Monydontspenitself. Staying more than 10 lengths behind were the two closers, Aqua Frio and More Power to Him.

Those two made up a lot of ground entering the stretch, easily going past Monydontspenitself, but Riser had something in reserve.

“He runs so easily and then he has something left for the finish,” Flores said.

Riser easily won a pair of sprint races earlier in the meet, including the Coca-Cola Stakes at 6½ furlongs, but after opening a clear lead in last month’s Seattle Slew Stakes, he was caught just before the wire by Aqua Frio. It seemed Sunday’s extra distance would not help Riser, and trainer Blaine Wright had his doubts whether Riser could be a route horse. But he persuaded the owner, Chappell Alpine Farms, to give it a shot.

“If we were ever going to try, this was the time,” said Wright, who seems certain to win his second straight training title at Emerald Downs.

More Power to Him was third, a head behind Aqua Frio.

Wright was asked whether Riser might possibly run in the Aug. 13 Longacres Mile and test older horses, but the trainer was having none of it.

“Maybe next year,” he said.

Notes

• Nominations for the Longacres Mile were due at midnight Sunday.

• There was a rare double disqualification in the ninth race, an optional claiming race for 3-year-olds. Double A. Prospect, who crossed the finish line first, and…

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