2022 Risen Star Stakes Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

Racing
Epicenter, Smile Happy and Slow Down Andy (left to right) headline Saturday's Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, an important Kentucky Derby prep race. (Coady Photography/Eclipse Sportswire/Eclipse Sportswire)

Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford is the third of four qualifying points preps for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve held at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. It boosts the Derby points distribution to 50-20-10-5 given to the top four finishers, virtually guaranteeing the winner a spot in the starting gate for Kentucky Derby 148 at Churchill Downs May 7.

The Risen Star, run at 1 1/8 miles, also is a steppingstone to the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby on March 26 at Fair Grounds. Since 2000, six horses have won both the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby, the last being Girvin in 2017.

This year’s $400,000 ,Grade 2 Risen Star drew a competitive 10-horse field, headlined by the second- and third-place finishers in the Lecomte Stakes last month at Fair Grounds and three highly regarded horses shipping in from other tracks.

The Risen Star will be televised live on TVG and has a scheduled post time of 6:58 p.m. ET.

Read on for information about all of the Risen Star contenders.


Eclipse Sportswire

1. Pappacap (4-1 morning-line odds)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Rustlewood Farm

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $596,000

Earnings per start: $99,333

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Derby points: 14

Pedigree: Gun Runner – Pappascat, by Scat Daddy

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Pappacap is tied with Smile Happy for second on the current Kentucky Derby points leaderboard due to three consecutive solid runs in points races dating back to last fall. After winning the Best Pal Stakes and finishing fourth in the Runhappy Del Mar Futurity in the summer, Mark Casse stretched Pappacap out to two turns, and the son of Gun Runner finished second twice to 2021 champion 2-year-old colt Corniche in the American Pharoah Stakes and TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance to close out a successful juvenile campaign. In his first start at 3, he shipped to Fair Grounds for the Jan. 22 Lecomte Stakes and saved ground as the 3-2 favorite before making a bid for the lead in the stretch. Pappacap dueled gamely with Epicenter in the late stages, but both were passed by rallying longshot winner Call Me Midnight near the finish line and Pappacap settled for third, defeated by three-quarters of a length. He earned a career-best 96 Equibase Speed Figure in the Lecomte and, although he has established a tendency to run well without finishing the deal in his route races, Pappacap must certainly be respected as a win candidate in the Risen Star, especially if jockey Tyler Gaffalione can orchestrate another good ground-saving trip. Gaffalione gets aboard Pappacap for the first time Saturday; he and Casse teamed to win the 2019 Risen Star with eventual Preakness Stakes winner War of Will.


2. Russian Tank (50-1)

Jockey: Jose Vega

Trainer: Gennadi Dorochenko

Owner: Glockenburg LLC

Career record: 8 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $39,160

Earnings per start: $4,985

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Tourist – I Think So, by Proud Citizen

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: In addition to having a name that is more than a little disquieting in light of current events, Russian Tank is up against it in a stacked edition of the Risen Star and stands a good chance of carrying odds in the 70-1 range or higher when the race begins Saturday evening. He’s shown some ability on turf (one win and one second in three starts) but has been completely overmatched in his three efforts on dirt. His two most recent starts came in races that were moved from turf to dirt at Fair Grounds, and he finished a combined 19 ½ lengths out of first in them. In Russian Tank’s two prior starts, both going one mile on turf, he took big leads early and held on to win one while settling for second in the other. Look for this colt to contest the pace in the Risen Star and start backtracking somewhere around the far turn. Trainer Gennadi Dorochenko has one graded stakes win in his career – a 109.40-1 upset in the 2012 Louisiana Derby with Hero of Order.


Coady Photography

3. Trafalgar (10-1)

Jockey: Colby Hernandez

Trainer: Al Stall Jr.

Owner: Columbine Stable

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $125,060

Earnings per start: $31,265

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91

Kentucky Derby points: 1

Pedigree: Lord Nelson – Southern Drifter, by Dixie Union

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Trafalgar enters the Risen Star off of a not-bad fourth-place finish in the Lecomte Stakes, where he made a belated rally in the stretch to finish 4 ¼ lengths behind longshot winner Call Me Midnight. He’ll need to improve substantially to have a shot at winning Saturday’s race, as Epicenter and Pappacap were both more than three lengths clear of him in the Lecomte and shippers Smile Happy, Zandon, and Slow Down Andy pose big win chances as well. Still, this son of sprinter Lord Nelson has shown two-turn talent in his young career, gamely winning a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional-claiming race Dec. 2 at Fair Grounds in his race prior to the Lecomte. If he can take another step in speed figures and ability Saturday, Trafalgar could hit the board at good odds, and trainer Al Stall has added blinkers for Saturday’s race. Jockey Colby Hernandez is seeking his first win in the Risen Star; he leads the rider standings by both wins and earnings during the current Fair Grounds meet as of Feb. 13.


Coady Photography

4. Tawny Port (12-1)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Peachtree Stable

Career record: 2 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $75,600

Earnings per start: $37,800

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 90

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile – Livi Makenzie, by Macho Uno

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Tawny Port is an intriguing contender in the Risen Star as he ships in from Turfway Park, where he won both of his career starts on a synthetic Tapeta Footings main track. He rallied from off the pace both times in one mile, two-turn races, most recently winning an allowance optional-claiming race by a neck on Jan. 7. The big question is, of course, whether this son of Pioneerof the Nile can transfer his synthetic form to dirt against a field that is significantly tougher the ones he faced at Turfway. He’s worthy of consideration as a trifecta filler at the very least, in part based on his connections. Reigning two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox won the Risen Star last year with Mandaloun, and Florent Geroux was in the irons. The pair also won one of the two divisions of this race in 2019 with Mr. Monomoy, and Geroux has a third Risen Star win on his résumé with the great Gun Runner in 2016.


Lou Hodges, Jr. /Hodges Photography

5. Epicenter (4-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $170,639

Earnings per start: $42,660

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby points: 14

Pedigree: Not This Time – Silent Candy, by Candy Ride

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Epicenter is a leading win candidate in the Risen Star and will seek to bounce back from a start in the Jan. 22 Lecomte Stakes in which he did everything right but reach the winner’s circle. Coming off of a visually impressive 6 ½-length score in the Dec. 26 Gun Runner Stakes, Epicenter set the early pace under Joel Rosario in the Lecomte and then dueled gamely with Pappacap in the stretch only to be passed at the finish by longshot closer Call Me Midnight, who rallied to the outside of Epicenter and Pappacap and picked them both off. Epicenter paired 97 Equibase Speed Figures in the Gun Runner and Lecomte and, if he can bump that number up by about 10 points Saturday, he can move up from his current second-place spot and claim a lofty perch on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Look for Rosario to place Epicenter among the top three or four horses early on and to get him into a good position to make a bid for the lead on the far turn. Rosario, who received the 2021 Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey last week, has not won the Risen Star but he did win last year’s Louisiana Derby on Hot Rod Charlie. Trainer Steve Asmussen has won this race twice, with Pyro in 2008 and Gun Runner in 2016. Winchell Thoroughbreds owned Pyro and co-owned Gun Runner, and Winchell and Asmussen finished third in last year’s Risen Star with Midnight Bourbon.


6. Pioneer of Medina (10-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owner: Sumaya U.S. Stables

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $65,350

Earnings per start: $16,338

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Pioneerof the Nile – Lights of Medina, by Eskendereya

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: While Zandon, Smile Happy, and Slow Down Andy have garnered the majority of attention as out-of-state shippers for this year’s Risen Star based on their success in graded stakes, Pioneer of Medina enters Saturday’s race as an under-the-radar contender who nonetheless has some appeal as a longshot. He ran decently in his first two starts last fall, finishing second in his debut at Monmouth Park and then third on Gulfstream Park’s Tapeta Footings synthetic track. He then broke his maiden in his final 2021 start when taking a one-mile and 40-yard race on dirt at Tampa Bay Downs by 1 ½ lengths. Pioneer of Medina shipped to Fair Grounds for his 3-year-old debut Jan. 22 on the Lecomte Stakes undercard and won again, controlling the pace in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional-claiming race and scoring by 1 ¾ lengths. Intriguingly, he’ll be ridden by Luis Saez in the Risen Star, as Gulfstream Park’s leading jockey travels to New Orleans to pick up the mount. Saez is one of the best pace riders in the business, and it would not be surprising to see him put Pioneer of Medina on the early lead. He’s paired 90 Equibase Speed Figures for his two dirt victories, and that number must improve against a field far tougher than he’s previously faced. Still, he’s a good candidate to use in exotic bets and, if can shake loose and set easy fractions, he could hang around for a long time in the stretch. Todd Pletcher has enjoyed prior success in the Risen Star with horses shipped in from elsewhere, scoring in 2010 (Discreetly Mine), 2012 (El Padrino), and 2014 (Intense Holiday).


Chelsea Durand/NYRA

7. Zandon (9-2)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Chad Brown

Owner: Jeff Drown

Career record: 2 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $99,500

Earnings per start: $49,750

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby points: 4

Pedigree: Upstart – Memories Prevail, by Creative Cause

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Anticipation is high for Zandon’s first 2022 start. He was one of the top 2-year-olds on the New York circuit last fall, winning his debut in a six-furlong race at Belmont Park by 1 ½ lengths in October, and then moving up in class and stretching out in distance and running very well in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes Dec. 4 at Aqueduct. In the Remsen, he sat a stalking trip and took a brief lead at the top of the stretch, only to be joined by Mo Donegal. The pair dueled gamely to the finish and Mo Donegal won by a nose while bumping Zandon late, both finishing more than nine lengths clear of the third-place horse. After a stewards’ inquiry, the result stood, but Mo Donegal’s jockey was suspended afterward for his Remsen ride and one in another race. Zandon has been training well for Chad Brown in Florida and, if he shows expected progression from 2 to 3, he’ll be a main win threat Saturday. He’s already got a race at 1 1/8 miles under his belt and gets top jockey Jose Ortiz to accompany him from Florida and ride him for the first time. Look for Ortiz to position Zandon in midpack through the backstretch and then urge him into contention through the far turn.


Coady Photography

8. Smile Happy (7-2)

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owner: Lucky Seven Stable

Career record: 2 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $284,810

Earnings per start: $142,405

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 10

Pedigree: Runhappy – Pleasant Smile, by Pleasant Tap

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Like Zandon and Slow Down Andy, Smile Happy enters the Risen Star with a high degree of excitement surrounding his sophomore debut. He hasn’t raced since posting an emphatic 3 ¼-length win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 27 at Churchill Downs, which followed a similarly dominant 5 ½-length win in his debut at Keeneland in October. Both of those wins came going two turns in 1 1/16-mile events, and he earned impressive Equibase Speed Figures in both (95 in his maiden win, 100 in the Kentucky Jockey Club). In addition, the two horses nearest to Smile Happy in the Kentucky Jockey Club, Classic Causeway and White Abarrio, came back this month to win the Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Holy Bull Stakes, respectively. Those credentials place Smile Happy high in most analyst’s rankings of Kentucky Derby contenders, and he just closed as the 8.90-1 favorite among individual horses in Churchill Downs’ third Derby Future Wager pool. He’s been stabled in Florida over the past couple of months and has posted swift workouts for Ken McPeek in advance of Saturday’s race, and his stalking running style is also perfectly suited for a race that has drawn both speed horses and closers. Smile Happy will probably be the post-time favorite in a competitive edition of the Risen Star, and if he takes another step forward in development based on his 2-year-old résumé he'll be tough to beat. McPeek won the 2002 Risen Star with Repent.


Coady Photography

9. Bodock (10-1)

Jockey: Marcelino Pedroza Jr.

Trainer: Brad Cox

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 2 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $52,200

Earnings per start: $26,100

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 87

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Street Boss – Floating Island, by A.P. Indy

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: The second Brad Cox trainee lined up for the Risen Star enters off of a win in a six-furlong allowance optional-claiming race at Fair Grounds on Jan. 15. He stalked the early pace and shot clear in the stretch under Marcelino Pedroza to win by 1 ¼ lengths on a sloppy track. That win followed a maiden score going 5 ½ furlongs at Indiana Grand last November. Bodock figures to be one of the higher-odds horses in the Risen Star as his best Equibase Speed Figure of 87 is lower than those of most of his opponents and he’ll also be stretching out in distance for the first time Saturday. His sire (father), Street Boss, was a highly-rated sprinter but Bodock does get a stamina boost on his dam’s (mother’s) side through her sire (Bodock’s maternal grandfather), A.P. Indy. This colt is a full brother to Sunland Derby winner and $900,000 earner Hence and there are some other good route horses in his female family. He should be running late and filling out the superfecta is not out of the question. Cox won last year’s Risen Star with eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up Mandaloun and also won a division of the race in 2019 with Mr. Monomoy. Brad Kelley's Calumet Farm owned 2018 Risen Star winner Bravazo.


Eclipse Sportswire

10. Slow Down Andy (9-2)

Jockey: Mario Gutierrez

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Owner: Reddam Racing LLC

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $249,850

Earnings per start: $83,283

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 95

Kentucky Derby points: 10

Pedigree: Nyquist – Edwina E, by Square Eddie

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This Southern California-based contender joins Zandon and Smile Happy to make it a trifecta of accomplished out-of-state shippers contesting the Risen Star. He’s all set for a 3-year-old debut that aims to build off of a successful juvenile campaign that featured three starts at different tracks, starting with a 4 ¾-length debut win last October in a 5 ½-furlong sprint restricted to California-breds at Santa Anita Park. Slow Down Andy stayed in the state-bred ranks for his next start and finished second by a half-length in a listed stakes at Del Mar, but then moved into open company and also up in class for a start in the Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 11. In that race, he sat last of five early on, made his move on the far turn, and then dueled with favored Messier in the stretch and bumped him. Both horses recovered to re-engage, but Slow Down Andy had too much stamina and fight in the end and prevailed by a length. Messier recently came back to dominate the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, which flatters Slow Down Andy’s form to say the least. That being said, Saturday’s Risen Star field will be the toughest this son of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist has faced so far in his career. He is a must-use in exotic bets and a solid win candidate, but far from a lock. Doug O’Neill has had success shipping horses from his California base to Fair Grounds; he won the 2007 Risen Star with Notional and last year’s Louisiana Derby with Hot Rod Charlie. Jockey Mario Gutierrez, on the other hand, rides for O’Neill regularly in California but has only made two prior starts at Fair Grounds.

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