Asmussen Eyes Risen Star for Track Phantom, Hall of Fame

Track Phantom | Hodges Photography

A day after Track Phantom (Quality Road)'s win in the GIII Lecomte S. at Fair Grounds Saturday, trainer Steve Asmussen was already looking forward to starting the 3-year-old colt in the Feb. 17 GII Risen Star S. The sophomore, who ended 2023 with a win in the Gun Runner S., will be following the same New Orleans path to the GI Kentucky Derby that Asmussen used for Epicenter (Not This Time) two years ago. Epicenter won the Gun Runner in 2021 and finished second in the Lecomte to begin his sophomore campaign. He went on to win the Risen Star and GII Louisiana Derby before finishing second in the GI Kentucky Derby and GI Preakness S.

“It's easy to compare where he's at with where we were with Epicenter two years ago,” Asmussen said. “Epicenter won the Gun Runner and was second in the Lecomte, but physically he was developing at the right time. I've always felt that in the 3-year-old series at Fair Grounds, your last race isn't good enough for the next one and that's how it should be. I appreciate the timing between races and the progression of the distances. It's ideal. We came up a half-a-length short of our goal of winning the Derby with Epicenter and now Track Phantom is on the same road. I think the Lecomte was as easy on him as you could have wanted it to be, with him still getting something out of it.”

Track Phantom isn't the only winner from Saturday's card in New Orleans that Asmussen is pointing to the Risen Star. Hall of Fame (Gun Runner), a $1.4-million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase, was tabbed a 'TDN Rising Star' following his 10 1/4-length maiden victory Saturday. The 3-year-old's final time of 1:44.27 for 1 1/16 miles was nearly a half-second faster than Track Phantom's clocking (1:44.73) in the Lecomte.

“Hall of Fame is as advertised,” Asmussen said. “As a $1.4-million yearling, he's impeccably bred and a beautiful individual with a tremendous amount of talent. I do expect him to run back in the Risen Star also. He was ridden much more aggressively [to win] on Saturday because he's playing a little catch up on a horse like Track Phantom, but the ability is there.”

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