Not only is the Grade 2 Risen Star the main event at the Fair Grounds on Saturday, it is also the first 50pt race on the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ and an enormously intriguing affair, with future-book favourite Smile Happy taking on strong opposition – Slow Down Andy, Zandon, Pappacap, Epicenter – as he bids to cement his spot at the head of the Derby standings.
Win and you’re in. Those are the stakes in a fascinating Risen Star, the feature at the Fair Grounds on Saturday, with the winner awarded 50 points in the ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’ series and thus a near-automatic place in the gate at Churchill Downs.
This will hopefully be the most informative Derby prep so far, with current future-book joint-favourite Smile Happy bidding to underline the red-hot form of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November, in which he comfortably outran impressive recent Derby prep winners Classic Causeway and White Abarrio.
He drew away through the stretch to score by three and a quarter lengths, and considering that was just his second start there is unlimited scope for improvement. The form couldn’t be stronger in any case and Smile Happy is the horse to beat, although there are big names queuing up to try their luck.
California shipper Slow Down Andy did not look hugely impressive when beating Messier by a length in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity, but when the runner-up returned in a Derby prep and laid waste to the opposition to the tune of 15 lengths he made Slow Down Andy look pretty good too. His outside draw is not an advantage, but there is guaranteed pace in the race and he should be able to play a stalking role.
That pace will come from Epicenter, who made a bold bid to wire the field in the Grade 3 Lecomte over a mile-sixteenth here but was collared right on the wire and beaten a head. He had earlier gone gate-to-wire in a stakes here at the same distance, bolting in by six and a half, and will be the one to catch at the top of the stretch. Pappacap was three-quarters of a length behind Epicenter when third in the Lecomte and the extra half-furlong will help him, although he has drawn the rail and is prone to finding one or two too good, while Trafalgar was fourth, beaten another three and a half lengths on his stakes debut.
On a tangled line through White Abarrio, the Grade 2 Remsen runner-up Zandon is well held by the favourite, but that’s much too simple a treatment. Zandon ran a very promising race in the Remsen – only his second start – and the margin of a nose might have gone the other way if Mo Donegal hadn’t roughed him up in the final furlong. The winner ran a very encouraging race when third behind White Abarrio last time out and Zandon is a big player here, the only one proven at the distance.
|Horse||Jockey||Horse Racing Odds courtesy of JazzSports|
|Russian Tank||Jose L. Vega||+5000|
|Trafalgar||Colby J. Hernandez||+1000|
|Tawny Port||Florent Geroux||+1200|
|Pioneer of Medina||Luis Saez||+1000|
|Zandon||Jose L. Ortiz||+450|
|Smile Happy||Corey J. Lanerie||+350|
|Bodock||Marcelino Pedroza, Jr.||+1000|
|Slow Down Andy||Mario Gutierrez||+450|
Betting Prediction for The Risen Star is a blockbuster of a Derby prep with five possible winners, but ZANDON was an unlucky loser last time out and is a surefire improver after just two starts.
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