The $400,000 dollar, Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fairgrounds Saturday kicks off the 85-point round of Kentucky Derby preps. With 50-20-10-5 awarded to the top four finishers, the Winner and runner-up should be nicely positioned in the quest for one the 20 spots in the starting gate on May 7th.
The race is listed as the final contest on a card of thirteen with a scheduled Post Time of 7:00 eastern. Here is a look at this year’s field.
1. PAPPACAP [ML 4-1] Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. Trainer: Mark Casse. He turned in a good effort four weeks ago here, in the Lecomte Stakes, finishing 3rd by three-quarters of a length. He rarely turns in a bad effort but more was expected from him and it’s fair to wonder if he’s peaked. The rail and a rider switch to Gaffalione should help, but he will need to take a step forward in a field as tough as this one.
2. RUSSIAN TANK [ML 50-1] Jockey: Jose Vega. Trainer: Gennadi Dorochenko. This trainer sprang a 110-1 upset (understatement) in the 2012 Louisiana Derby with HERO OF ORDER and you might see similar odds here with a colt who was 35-1 last time out when running 6th in an Allowance race.
3. TRAFALGER [ML 10-1] Jockey: Colby Hernandez. Trainer: Albert Stall Jr. He was a competitive 4th in the Lecomte and adds blinkers here, but he seems a notch slower than the favorites and will face a tough challenge in the Risen Star.
4. TAWNY PORT [ML 12-1] Jockey: Florent Geroux. Trainer: Brad Cox. He is undefeated in two starts but the trouble is that both of those starts came on synthetic surfaces. He’s a not a toss-out but it will be asking a lot of him to handle a field this talented in his initial try on dirt.
5. EPICENTER [ML 4-1] Jockey: Joel Rosario. Trainer: Steve Asmussen. He took a tough beat in the Lecomte, losing by a head after setting the pace from the start. This race is a sixteenth of a mile longer, but this colt has gotten better with each start, and should be very hard to catch once again.
6. PIONEER OF MEDINA [ML 10-1] Jockey: Luis Saez. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. While Pletcher’s main string of horses are in Florida, he shipped this colt to Fair Grounds for a prep on the track four weeks ago and was rewarded with a front-running Allowance race Victory. His speed figures are slower than the top contenders, but, given his connections, consideration is warranted.
7. ZANDON [ML 9-2] Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Trainer: Chad Brown. This spot was chosen over the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream for a variety of reasons; such as the purse, configuration of the track, distance, and qualifying points. It looks like he made a wise decision as this colt seems primed for another big effort after ending 2021 with a sharp 2nd in the Remsen Stakes, which was contested at the same 1 1/8-mile distance as the Risen Star.
8. SMILE HAPPY [ML 7-2] Jockey: Corey Lanerie. Trainer: Ken McPeek. Here is another colt who closed out his 2-year-old season in impressive fashion- he was a dominant Winner of both juvenile starts. He ended the year with a decisive Victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, and a repeat of that effort could propel him into the Winner’s circle. Yet at this stage of the year, with the Kentucky Derby being the ultimate prize, he may not be cranked up to 100%.
9. BODOCK [ML 10-1] Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza Jr. Trainer: Brad Cox. Another starter with a 2-for-2 record for the trainer, who has Won at least a division of this race the last two years. This 3-year-old has raced only on dirt and Won an Allowance race here, but he’s yet to travel beyond six furlongs and an outside post will not help his chances.
10. SLOW DOWN ANDY [ML 9-2] Jockey: Mario Gutierrez. Trainer: Doug O’Neill. The California shipper beat MESSIER in his last start and that rival Won by 15 lengths in the February 6th Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita. He’s definitely a major threat here, but the expected ground loss from the outside post is bothersome.
SUMMARY: Despite running a little green down the stretch, #10 SLOW DOWN ANDY Won the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) in December by one length over the talented MESSIER, who exploded his next time with a 15-length Win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2).
The 127 Speed Figure MESSIER posted while Winning the Robert B. Lewis looks massive compared to the rest of the 3-year-olds in this crop. SLOW DOWN ANDY does not need to reach a 127 to Win the Risen Star. If he takes a reasonable step forward off his 110 at Los Alamitos, he can Win this race.
THE PLAY: We will do a Trifecta key #10 SLOW DOWN ANDY on top with #1 PAPPACAP, #3 TRAFALGAR, #5 EPICENTER, #7 ZANDON, and #8 SMILE HAPPY underneath. We will use the same horses in a .10 cent Superfecta key as well. #3 TRAFALGER is our live longshot, so perhaps a Win bet on him as well.
Best of luck no matter how you play it.