'We Were A Little Surprised He Won': Cox Contemplating Next Moves For Risen Star Winner Angel Of Empire - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘We Were A Little Surprised He Won’: Cox Contemplating Next Moves For Risen Star Winner Angel Of Empire

Angel of Empire winning the Risen Star under Luis Saez

One of three runners for trainer Brad Cox in the Risen Star's field of 14 3-year-olds, Angel of Empire – a Pennsylvania-bred colt from the second crop of the Pioneerof the Nile stallion Classic Empire – was sent off at odds of 13-1 and paid $29.40 to win after covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.47. Angel of Empire moved to the top of the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 54 points after the victory.

“He came out of it in good order,” Cox told Fair Grounds publicity on Monday. “He'll stay here (at Fair Grounds) and we will look at either the Louisiana Derby, Arkansas Derby or Blue Grass with him. We were a little surprised he won. We always thought he would get better with more ground and he did. He should get the 1 /4 miles (of the Kentucky Derby) for sure. We will give him one more opportunity at either 1 1/8 miles or 1 3/16ths (Louisiana Derby). Hopefully that's a positive race as well and then it's on to the Derby (leading points earner with 54).”

Cox's other two Risen Star entrants were fourth-place finisher Tapit's Conquest and beaten 9-5 favorite Victory Formation, who checked in ninth.

On Victory Formation, Cox said: “I don't know what to make of it. He might be a Pat Day Mile type horse, or maybe he just needs the lead. The post the other day (didn't help). We wanted to give him an opportunity to sit off a horse. I don't know if Flavien (jockey Prat) could have even have gotten to the lead. The horses to the inside were pretty intent on getting there. He had to sit off a few and never really traveled up the backside like he was taking him anywhere. He just kind of run even. He came out of it good. He's always been a sound horse. We will come up with a plan in the near future.”

Cox wasn't disappointed with the run by Tapit's Conquest: “I thought he was a winner at the eighth pole, he just kind of leveled off a little bit late. I think he got a good bit out of it. He's still a young horse. He's a Tapit and then usually get better the more they go out there and do it. We will look at the Louisiana Derby with him.”

There are a number of other Triple Crown contenders in Cox's barn, as well. Previous Triple Crown prep races won by Cox include the G3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds with Instant Coffee, the G3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct with Hit Show, and the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds with Jace's Road. Other promising 3-year-olds in the Cox barn are Verifying, Giant Mischief, and Eyeing Clover.

Instant Coffee will make his next start in the Louisiana Derby, Cox confirmed.

“He worked by himself the other day (49.80 on Feb. 18),” the trainer said. “Just wanted to get him back in the swing of things. We weren't looking for much. Went good, galloped out well.”

Hit Show may be poised to target the Wood Memorial, while plans have not been confirmed for the other aforementioned 3-year-olds.

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