Tipsheet: 2022 Risen Star Stakes & Pro vs Con Rating

Profile Picture: John Mucciolo

February 17th, 2022

A superb field of 10 sophomores will travel nine panels on the Fair Grounds dirt in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star S. (G2). The 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby challenge series contest will reward the top four finishers with qualifying points (50-20-10-5) towards the Run for the Roses on May 7.

Risen Star Stakes Picks

  • #5 Epicenter
  • #8 Smile Happy
  • #3 Trafalgar
  • #7 Zandon

Risen Star Stakes Wagers

  • $15 win and place 5
  • $5 exacta key box 5 with 3, 7, 8
  • 20-cent superfecta 5 with 1, 3, 7, 8, 10 with 1, 3, 7, 8, 10 with all

Risen Star Stakes Contenders

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Pappacap wins the Best Pal S. 2022 (Photo by Benoit Photography)

#1 PAPPACAP has never run a bad race while facing graded stakes foes in five straight for trainer Mark Casse. The Grade 2 winner was twice Grade 1-placed at two, and he commenced his three-year-old season with a very good third in the Lecomte S. (G3) on this course. Tyler Gaffalione inherits the ride atop the obvious contender.

#2 RUSSIAN TANK rates as a major outsider after failing to make the frame in his two previous tries with winners. The Tourist colt can’t be endorsed at this stage of his development.

#3 TRAFALGAR finished fourth in the Lecomte and has added blinkers since for trainer Al Stall. The exotics contender has flashed ability at Fair Grounds, and I expect him to take a big step forward as a value contender beneath Colby Hernandez.

#4 TAWNY PORT is two-for-two on the All-Weather and will get a class test while making his dirt debut for conditioner Brad Cox. The expensive son of Pioneerof the Nile could be any kind on this surface as a wildcard under Florent Geroux.

#5 EPICENTER gets the nod in a tough spot for Steve Asmussen. The talented Not This Time colt was a facile winner of the Gun Runner S. on the strip, prior to finishing a head second in the recent Lecomte S. The speedy colt will be the one to catch at the top of the lane with Joel Rosario taking the reins.

#6 PIONEER OF MEDINA has won two races in succession since adding the hood but gets a real class test on Saturday. The Todd Pletcher pupil has been consistent leading up to this point, but he will need to vault forward to challenge this cast inside the final furlong. Luis Saez comes in for the ride.

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Zandon (right) narrowly beat by Mo Donegal (left) in the the Remsen S. (Photo by Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photos)

#7 ZANDON was narrowly toppled by Mo Donegal in the Remsen S. (G2) to finish his two-year-old season one-for-two. The Chad Brown trainee has displayed considerable ability at this stage of his development and looms a big chance if ready to go 1 1/8 miles off the layoff. The Upstart colt will have Jose Ortiz in the stirrups.

#8 SMILE HAPPY romped in both of his starts at two, led by a smashing score in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2), and the Runhappy colt is likely the one to beat on Saturday. The $185,000 yearling buy has trained consistently in advance of his sophomore debut, and the superb late runner will be tough to deny if he runs his best in this deep field. Corey Lanerie has the call.

#9 BODOCK is two-for-two from a pair of sprint races to date for Brad Cox. Talented sort takes a serious class hike, combined with a stretch out in distance for the initial time, and he also has to overcome a wide post. The Street Boss colt will be forwardly placed with Marcelino Pedroza riding.

#10 SLOW DOWN ANDY notched the Los Alamitos Futurity S. (G2) last time out and was flattered when Messier, the horse that he toppled, came back to win a graded race by 15 lengths in his subsequent effort. The Doug O’Neill trainee is an obvious contender who thrived in his initial route test, and the Nyquist colt has trained well in the interim. Mario Gutierrez comes along to guide the California invader.

What do our TwinSpires experts think of the Risen Star contenders?

  1. PAPPACAP ***
    • Pro: Consistent sort not beaten far first time over the track in Lecomte (G3).
    • Con: Slipping into a habit of minor awards after winning first two starts.

    • Pro: Barn once pulled off a 109-1 shocker in the Louisiana Derby (G2).
    • Con: Well beaten in both starts facing winners.

    • Pro: Adding blinkers generally a good move from a small sample of Stall runners.
    • Con: Made no late impact in Lecomte and perhaps a cut or two below this kind.

  4. TAWNY PORT **
    • Pro: Hails from barn that’s won this race the last two years.
    • Con: Both wins so far on synthetic against lesser sorts.

  5. EPICENTER ***
    • Pro: Easy winner of Gun Runner, ran big race in Lecomte when caught late.
    • Con: Can he harness his speed effectively to hold at this longer distance?

    • Pro: Perfect w/blinkers and barn has won this race a record three times.
    • Con: Didn’t win a deep allowance and this a tough spot for stakes debut.

  7. ZANDON ****
    • Pro: Barely missed in roughly-ridden edition of the Remsen (G2) at this distance.
    • Con: Like the other top contenders, must overcome effects of a layoff.

  8. SMILE HAPPY *****
    • Pro: Current Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite dominated key race when last seen.
    • Con: Favorites making their season debut in this race have poor record since 2010.

  9. BODOCK **
    • Pro: Perfect in two starts sprinting for Cox, who’s had recent success in this race.
    • Con: Like stablemate Tawny Port, dives into deep end for stakes debut.

  10. SLOW DOWN ANDY ****
    • Pro: Won Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) over Messier, who later romped in the Robert B. Lewis (G3).
    • Con: Showed some greenness in aforementioned victory and ships for first time.