Risen Star (1985–1998) was one of Big Red’s best and biggest colts. He was a strapping 17-hand dark bay out of the mare Ribbon, who boasted the great Hail to Reason in her pedigree.
In 1988, Risen Star began his march toward the Kentucky Derby by winning the Louisiana Derby and the Lexington Stakes. However, that would be one of the rare years when a filly, Winning Colors, beat the boys and took the roses. Risen Star finished third in the Derby, but came roaring back to win the Preakness at 1:56 1/5, the second fastest time since Secretariat in 1973.
He then thrilled the crowds at the Belmont Stakes by winning by 14 ¾ lengths as the announcer shouted “He looks just like his daddy!” He posted the then-second fastest time of 2:26 2/5 behind his sire’s record-shattering 2:24. Today it ranks as the fourth fastest time in the Belmont behind Secretariat, A.P. Indy and Easy Goer.
After the Belmont, Risen Star’s groom Harold Joseph reportedly said, “You’re the champeen! Your daddy jumped out of you today!” Because he’d won two jewels of the Triple Crown, Risen Star earned the $1,000,000 Chrysler Triple Crown Bonus awarded to the three-year-old with the best finishes in the three races.
He won the 1988 Eclipse Award as the top three-year-old colt. That established him as the first third-generation Eclipse Award winner in the same category, as he followed Secretariat in 1973 and his grandsire Bold Ruler in 1957.
Risen Star was retired to stud after an injury which occurred in his famous Belmont. Tomorrow, in the $300,000 Risen Star Stakes, another Secretariat descendant will try to strengthen his resume as a Kentucky Derby contender. His name is El Padrino. He’s the son of Pulpit, thus a grandson of A.P. Indy and a great-great grandson of Big Red. The odds-makers list El Padrino as the favorite for the 1 1/16 mile race.
To paraphrase that classic Mardi Gras line “Let the good times roll,” we say “Let the good horses roll!”
Good luck El Padrino! Make Risen Star and Secretariat proud!
Here is a link to video of Risen Star’s great Belmont race of 1988.
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Leeanne Meaadows Ladin
Co-author “Secretariat’s Meadow”