Risen Star Stakes Predictions, Odds, Picks (Fair Grounds)

Risen Star Stakes Post Position and Odds

Odds for the race taken from TVG. If you’re looking for a great horse racing betting app then TVG betting might be the option for you.

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
T Gaffalione M Casse
J Vega G Dorochenko
C J Hernandez A Stall Jr
F Geroux B Cox
J Rosario S Asmussen
L Saez T Pletcher
7 ZANDON 4/1
J Ortiz C Brown
C Lanerie K McPeek
9 BODOCK 20/1
M Pedroza Jr B Cox
M Gutierrez D O’Neill

Best Bets for the Risen Star Stakes

Here are my plays ($50 in total)

$10 Exacta Box – Slow Down Andy and Smile Happy = $20

$5 Exacta Box – Slow Down Andy and Zandon = $10

$5 Exacta part wheel – Slow Down Andy over Smile Happy, Zandon, Epicenter and Pappacap = $20

If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick Slow Down Andy (4/1).

Risen Star Stakes

A loaded field of ten 3-year-olds, headed by the highly regarded and unbeaten Smile Happy, will battle it out on the Kentucky Derby trail when they meet in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

A very impressive debut winner at Keeneland, Smile Happy parlayed that victory into an even more impressive score in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in late November. The Kenny McPeek trained son of Runhappy will make his season debut on Saturday, but has seen his stakes win flattered when three of the horses he beat, Classic Causeway, White Abarrio and Call Me Midnight all came back to win graded stakes after finishing behind him in Louisville.

Chief among his rivals will be a pair of stakes experienced colts from opposite coasts. Slow Down Andy is a 2-for-3 lifetime and comes in off an impressive victory over the highly regarded Messier in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity. Meanwhile, Zandon has only made two career starts but gave Mo Donegal everything he wanted in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes last time at Aqueduct.

Two others who deserve respect on Saturday include the stakes winners, Epicenter and Pappacap. The pair dueled down the Fair Grounds stretch last time before being passed late to finish second and third place in the Grade 3 Lecomte on January 22.

Contested at 1 1/8-miles, the Risen Star serves as a key prep for the rich Louisiana Derby on March 26, but will also offer Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a scale of 50-20-10-5.

Risen Star Stakes Predictions

Smile Happy

This son of Runhappy has only run twice, but he left an impression in both. Coming from off the pace in both, he rolled to victory in both a Keeneland maiden event in October, before doing much the same in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs four weeks later. That win has since been validated by several strong performances from horses that finished behind the Kenny McPeek trainee. Having said that, this field might be even stronger than that one, as he makes his first start in nearly three months. Drawn towards the outside, it looks like he will drop off the pace perhaps farther than ever before, and he will need a strong closing kick to pass all the talented horses that will be ahead of him early. Off his only two previous starts, he looks to be the one to beat, but there is one other colt that I like even better.

Slow Down Andy

After three very solid efforts at three different tracks in Southern California, this son of Nyquist looks to prove that he can take his game to other parts of the country, and in this edition of the Risen Star, he has certainly found a legitimate test. Of course, the best of his first three races came last time when he put away the very talented Messier in the late stages of the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity. Trained by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill, this one has good tactical speed which should serve him well as he breaks from the outside post in the field of ten. Tracking the early leaders from the outside will likely keep him out of traffic that others may find. I believe he is a major talent who has the best shot of winning this loaded race. He is the top pick.


This Chad Brown-trained son of Upstart is the only horse in the field to have been the 9-furlong trip before and looked good doing it when he just missed to the highly regarded Mo Donegal in Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Remsen. Having only had a winning 6-furlong maiden sprint going into that race, it was an excellent performance, especially considering he fought on gamely while pinned down in tight quarters on the rail. Things do not get any easier here, but any improvement at all in his third career start makes him a major contender. With pretty good tactical speed, he should be able to get himself in the race early and then have every shot when the talented field turns for home.


There is other speed in this race, but this son of Not This Time looks like the best bet to go out after the early lead. That’s rarely a bad place to be, and coming off two sharp stakes efforts over the track, the Steve Asmussen trainee must be respected. After breaking his maiden nicely at Churchill Downs in his second start, he was an impressive winner of the local Gun Runner Stakes in December before just getting caught in the final stages of the Grade 3 Lecomte last time. Now 2-for-4 lifetime, he will need to carry that speed an extra sixteenth of a mile on Saturday, coming out of those two 1 1/16-mile stakes races. He’s an obvious threat, but with all the talent coming in the task looks even tougher than last time.


Easily the most experienced of the bunch in graded stakes racing, this son of Gun Runner was a close third as a slight favorite in the Lecomte but was never able to get by Epicenter while battling up the rail. Trained by Mark Casse will have a new rider this time in Tyler Gaffalione. The talented jockey will try to break through on the colt who has not won since last summer’s Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar, but continues to run very good races, including a second-place effort in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to end his 2-year-old season. Drawn the rail, he will need to work out a good trip on the rail, but anything other than another solid performance would be a surprise.

Pioneer of Medina

This son of Pioneerof the Nile is 2-for-2 since adding blinkers for his red-hot Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. The second of those wins came over the Fair Grounds main track, where he went wire-to-wire. It also came on the Lecomte undercard and was a full second slower than the afternoon’s feature. Now four races into his career, he is clearly a colt on the improve who is deserving a shot against graded stakes company. The problem is, I don’t see him as the fastest horse in the race, plus he has found a very difficult sport for his stakes debut. I wouldn’t at all be surprised by a nice effort, but there are too many in here to like better.


This son of Lord Nelson will add blinkers as he takes another shot against graded stakes company in New Orleans. Trained by Al Stall, Jr. he brought a two-race winning streak into the Lecomte, and while he was not embarrassed, he could do no better than fourth. My feeling is that the added distance of the Risen Star is not going to make things any easier, not to mention the three talented favorites being added to the mix. He looks like a horse who will have a solid future, but being in serious contention for a victory on Saturday is a little bit more than I am expecting.

Tawny Port

Way back early in his career debut eleven weeks ago, he unleashed an eye-catching rally to roll by the field and win going away in a maiden race on the synthetic main track at Turfway Park. He came back at the same one-mile distance there to improve his record, this time in a hard-fought contest in an allowance race. A son of Pioneerof the Nile, and trained by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox, he’ll look to prove that he can step up into serious stakes company, and get it done on dirt in the Risen Star. It seems like a tall task, but this one does seem to have the potential to be a very nice horse. My guess is that this will be tough to pull off considering his experience, but I cannot completely throw him out either.


The second of two from the barn of Brad Cox, this son of Street Boss is also unbeaten in two career starts. Both came in sprints, as he won his debut in a 5 ½ furlong maiden race at Indiana Grand, before proving best in a local 6-furlong allowance race. Both were solid stalking wins, but neither suggest that he is ready to win a major Kentucky Derby prep. Still, he is in good hands and it’s never easy to discount the undefeated horse. I like others better as he moves way up in both class and distance, but he could be a horse to watch out for down the road.

Russian Tank

The son of Tourist has only won once in eight career starts, and that win came on the turf. Coming off a pair of well-beaten performances in local allowance races, he looks solidly overmatched as he moves up into graded stakes racing on Saturday. His trainer has pulled off a few big surprises in the past, but this one looks hard to recommend, having never before finished in the money on dirt. Perhaps he shows early speed, but I cannot like his chances when the real running begins.

How to watch the Risen Star Stakes

Risen Star Stakes Race Information
What Risen Star Stakes (Grade 2)
Location Fair Grounds
Time Saturday, February 19 — 6:58pm Eastern time
How to Watch TVG
Purse $400,000

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Brian Zipse

Expert on Horse Racing

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

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