- Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes is the first major Kentucky Derby prep race of the year
- Run for the Roses favorite Smile Happy is the favorite in New Orleans
- Where can we find betting value in the Bayou on Saturday afternoon?
The road to the Kentucky Derby heats up on Saturday with the first prep race that is worth 50 qualifying points to the winner. Ten horses are entered in the mile-and-an-eighth Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Louisiana. They include current Run for the Roses favorite Smile Happy.
There are lots of ways to measure who you are most interested in when it comes to the Triple Crown, and knowing some of the Kentucky Derby betting trends is helpful. Smile Happy is two-for-two and has been flattered by beating horses who have gone on to win other significant races. Does that make him a cinch on Saturday? Hardly. If you can find an alternative, the winning price will be fruitful.
Let’s look closely at the odds and field and consider our wagering options.
2022 Risen Star Stakes Odds
|Slow Down Andy||+600|
|Pioneer of Medina||+1500|
Odds as of February 17th
While there have been Derby qualifying races taking place since September, nearly all of them have awarded 10 points to the winner, four points to the runner up, two points for finishing third and one point to the fourth place horse. The Risen Star has as 50-20-10-5 structure. With big points come serious contenders, and the field is indeed strong and horses look to improve their Kentucky Derby odds.
There are a lot of different ways that you can bet on the ponies, and understanding horse racing bet types is important so that you not only handicap effectively but then maximize your potential profits.
Post time is slated for 5:58 pm EST in the Big Easy. Temperatures are expected to be in the high 50’s with no rain. TVG has television coverage. The Risen Star is the last of four graded stakes races on a high-end Fair Ground card.
Smile Happy the Favorite
Smile Happy has run twice, and each race has ended with a convincing victory. He debuted at Keeneland in October, and then returned to beat what has turned out to be a strong field at Churchill Downs in late November.
Three horses that finished behind Smile Happy three months ago have returned to win Derby points qualifying races recently. It is interesting, Smile Happy was considered a Derby hopeful after winning last time out, but because of how his rivals have faired, now is one of the top choices in futures action.
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Zandon and Epicenter Among Contenders
Zandon could easily be two-for-two. After winning a sprint race at Belmont Park in October, neither had very good racing luck nor got the benefit of the doubt from the stewards in a two turn stakes race in New York in December.
Losing to fellow Derby hopeful Mo Donegal is not an awful thing, and Zandon went wide on both turns in that race. It looked like a fairly significant bump Zandon received going down the stretch from his top foe, and Mo Donegal could have been disqualified but was not. Without the interference, Zandon may have won.
Epicenter has two victories in four starts and last time out ran a close second in the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds.
The Lecomte has legitimized Call Me Midnight as a Derby contender. Epicenter was right there in that event, and had to deal with significant pace pressure.
Slow Down Andy was impressive last time out in the Los Alamitos Futurity.
Going up against Messier, who was an enormous favorite, and subsequently ran a very impressive Derby prep two weeks ago, Slow Down Andy rolled down the lane to victory. He was +520, because while he ran well in his first two races, they were against strictly other horses bred in California.
The favorite in the Lecomte Stakes, that Call me Midnight won, and Epicenter finished second in, was Pappacap. His first race in two-and-a-half months resulted in a third place finish. Pappacap twice finished right behind Corniche last year including in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. He should improve after getting his 2022 debut under his belt four weeks ago.
Risen Star Stakes Longshot and Best Bet
Tawny Port is a complete wildcard. Trained by top notch conditioner Brad Cox, and purchased for over $425,000, he has run both of his races on a synthetic surface at Turfway Park. So far, so good.
How will Tawny Port respond to a dirt course and strong competition? The price is right if you have an inkling he’ll respond positively.
When predicting a winner of the Risen Star Stakes there is significant value on Zandon. Had he won his last race, he might be the co-favorite or close to it here. Each of his races have been impressive. Zandon is a well-bred horse with top human connections, trainer Chad Brown and rider Jose Ortiz. These are young unproven horses, and taking +165 on a question mark is not a great option, particularly with a very good alternative available at a decent number.
Pick: Zandon (+450)