64 Parishes

Risen Star

Sired by Secretariat and owned by Ronnie Lamarque and Louis Roussel III, Risen Star was one of the most successful racehorses ever to come out of Louisiana.

Risen Star

Courtesy of The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

This image captures Risen Star as he won the Belmont Stakes in 1988. He also won the Preakness Stakes earlier that same year.

Risen Star was one of the most successful racehorses ever to come out of Louisiana. Sired by the legendary Secretariat, one of the most celebrated racehorses in American history, Risen Star finished third in the 1988 Kentucky Derby and then won the other two jewels in racing’s Triple Crown: the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. Of the 699 offspring produced by Secretariat, Risen Star would become one of the most successful of the famed 1973 Triple Crown winner’s progeny. However, like all of Secretariat’s descendants, he would be subjected to unfair comparisons and unrealistic expectations. A leg injury eventually forced him into a premature retirement.

Born on March 25, 1985, Risen Star was purchased by Louisiana-based owner Ronnie Lamarque and owner-trainer Louis Roussel III in 1987. At two years old, Risen Star did not race much, but he did capture the Minstrel Stakes at Louisiana Downs.

The stallion’s three-year-old season, in 1988, was truly stellar, with victories in the Louisiana Derby and the Lexington Stakes, making him one of the favorites going into the Kentucky Derby. The “Run for the Roses” saw jockey Eddie Delahoussaye boxed in down the back stretch, however, and despite a late charge, Risen Star finished third at Churchill Downs. The dark bay turned heads two weeks later when he captured the Preakness, followed by a decisive 14¾-length victory in the Belmont Stakes.

In his trademark smooth and easy stride in the first half of the course, coupled with a dramatic finish down the back stretch, Risen Star ran the fourth-fastest time in Belmont history, covering the mile-and-a-half course in two minutes, 26.4 seconds, winning by fourteen lengths. Comparisons to his sire were inevitable, although Secretariat covered the distance in two minutes, 24 seconds flat, thirty-one lengths ahead of the next-closest horse. Risen Star also aggravated an injury to his right ankle during the Belmont that forced him into early retirement. The injury had been a source of concern to Roussel all spring, but a severe strain to the suspensory ligament during the race hastened the decision.

Risen Star won the 1988 Eclipse Award as American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse. He followed his sire Secretariat in 1973 and his grandsire Bold Ruler in 1957 as a winner of the Eclipse Award, which honors American thoroughbred racing champions. Risen Star won more than $2 million in purses during his short career, compiling a record of eight wins in his eleven races. He also won $1 million as the horse with the best record in the 1988 Triple Crown races. Roussel donated ten percent of Risen Star’s earnings to the Little Sisters of the Poor after having been cured of throat cancer.

Risen Star was syndicated for $7 million and stood at stud on Walmac Farms in Lexington, Kentucky. Two of his offspring, Star Standard and Risen Rave, achieved modest success, although these horses were also subjected to the same unrealistic expectations that had been placed on Risen Star as the son of Secretariat. In 1989 the Fair Grounds in New Orleans renamed the Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes the Risen Star Stakes in his honor. It is run every February as one of the qualifying races for the Louisiana Derby.

Risen Star died on March 13, 1998, at Walmac Farms, where he is buried.