Risen Star Stakes 2022 Entries: Chad Brown's Zandon shows promise

Trainer Chad Brown ships in Zandon to compete against a well-matched field in the Risen Star on Saturday. See what his colt's chances look like in this Runners Guide, below ...
Trainer Chad Brown ships in Zandon to compete against a well-matched field in the Risen Star on Saturday. See what his colt's chances look like in this Runners Guide, below ...
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Race 13: 1 1/8th (Dirt), Risen Star Stakes (G2), Purse $400k, 3 (Saturday)

The Grade II Risen Star at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans offers an integral test for Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Most importantly, the race boasts points that equate to 50-20-10-5 for those that finish in the top 4 positions. Much is at stake, including a hefty prize money package.

Roughly 2 years ago, the 2020 edition was drawn. It was before the Pandemic, in a time where hope and prosperity reigned. So many entrants put their names in the hat, the Fair Grounds decided to split the contest into a pair of divisions. Both were nicely drawn fields.

Once the dust settled, it was Brad Cox’s Mr. Monomoy and Bill Mott’s Modernist. The former never ran again and was retired that December, while the latter made a rather inauspicious run through the summer, capped off with a try in the Belmont Stakes.

In 2021, the contest pitted some salty rivals against one another. It was another battle royal between Brad Cox’s Mandaloun and Steve Asmussen’s Midnight Bourbon. The 2 wonderful runners are still duking it out to this day. Clearly, the Risen Star has a double meaning … named for a famous Triple Crown Trail runner (Preakness and Belmont winner in 1988), and a current horse that is on a meteoric rise.

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Pappacap (Jky: T. Gaffalione/Trn: M. Casse):

Mark Casse’s hard-knocking colt by Gun Runner keeps showing up at the post, ready to run. His West Coast swing back in the late summer and through the fall was impressive. He took on challenges, and garnered Derby Points left and right. Near the top of that current Leaderboard, he is trying to elevate once more. Last out in the Lecomte S. (G3), he acquitted himself yet again, dueling to the end with long shot Call Me Midnight and Epicenter #5. With talent that is undeniable, he gets a rider upgrade this time around. Tyler Gafflione paired with Casse on War of Will a couple of years ago, and they won the Preakness. He can make a major difference in the saddle. Stay tuned …

Grade: B+


#2 Russian Tank (Jky: J. Vega/Trn: G. Dorochenko):

I am not sure that this son of Tourist has what it takes to game with the favorites that are drawn in here. To be honest, this is probably a turf horse to his core. Still, the Dorochenko Barn is going to take their chances. Jose Vega does have 4 wins to his credit during the FG Meet. That must stand for something … I suppose. Running in OC50k, and not even being in-the-money … not a good sign.

Grade: C


#3 Trafalgar (Jky: C. Hernandez/Trn: A. Stall):

Here is a colt that is battle-tested, and ready for action again in the LA Series. Al Stall has deep experience when it comes to running in situations like this, but of late, he does not seem to have the same zip on his fastball that he once did. The wonderful sire Lord Nelson gave him a solid runner though, and with Leading Rider Colby Hernandez at the controls, his chances improve. This 3-yr-old just never seemed to be in the hunt last time in the Lecomte (G3), but he did flash some talent down the lane. Going with “Blinkers On,” Stall clearly thinks that will assist with focus. Maybe one to consider putting on your tickets … underneath that is. 

Grade: B-


#4 Tawny Port (Jky: F. Geroux/Trn: B. Cox):

The Fair Grounds’ greatest trainer, Brad Cox, has a pair of runners that are ready to do battle in the Risen Star. Peachtree Stable spent a bundle on this son of Pioneerof the Nile #4 … how about $430k? In a pair of preps for this spot, Cox chose to bring this one along up at Turfway in the bitter cold. He won both of those races exhibiting a solid kick towards the end of each race. Both those efforts were around 2-turns, and that means he should be ready to take on the long stretch in New Orleans. I liked that his speed figs rose, and did not fall. Cox has his go-to rider aboard in Florent Geroux. Based on breeding, this one is a cinch, but he is going to have to raise his game on this occasion. Still, a top pick for me …

Grade: A-


#5 Epicenter (Jky: J. Rosario/Trn: S. Asmussen):

Steve Asmussen’s best 3-yr-old colt in training right now is this Winchell-owned runner. The son of Not This Time is incredibly classy after scores in a high-level MSW120k at Churchill in November, and in the Gun Runner $100k in late December at the “other” CDI track in S. Louisiana. What a pity … Joel Rosario just missed with him in the Lecomte S. (G3) last month. He just did not have enough in the end to cross the line 1st. I don’t know how to interpret that miss. On the one hand, you could say that it means nothing … a bright future in the here and now. Or you could argue that running out of steam at a 1 1/16th means that going 1 1/8th will be just too tough. We will know … Saturday. I am inclined to support the latter premise. With Rosario back aboard … I could be flat wrong.

Grade: B+


#6 Pioneer of Medina (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: T. Pletcher):

Another Pioneerof the Nile graces the stage in New Orleans, and here is yet another entry with potential. HOF trainer Todd Pletcher knows a bit about prepping for the Derby, and he made a shrewd move with this one … send him to the Fair Grounds for an OC50k prep. On 22 Jan., his colt did all the work up front, enroute to a wire-to-wire score. Florent Geroux was at the controls, and he staved off a late charge at odds of 7/1. Now, the real test is headed this team’s way, but instead of Geroux, the colt gets Luis Saez. I think that is a bit of an upgrade when it comes to the style that this runner displays. It will be telling how they respond. If he can get loose on the lead, control the fractions up front, then maybe, Saez can have enough of a kick to get home. That isn’t easy on a track like this one, but this is Pletcher we are talking about …

Grade: B


#7 Zandon (Jky: J. Ortiz/Trn: C. Brown):

We have shippers from SoCal, Florida, and Kentucky, so naturally it makes sense that one should come from New York. The last time we saw this Chad Brown runner, it was when he was dueling at Aqueduct against Todd Pletcher’s highly-prized Mo Donegal. Even though he got jostled around at the end, and probably fouled, he was certainly game with HOF rider John Velazquez in the irons. A 2nd place in the Remsen (G2) was excellent, even though owner Jeff Drown was mad as hell. Since then, we have been waiting to see where he would appear next. Headed to a new track, he gets expert traveler Jose Ortiz … what an addition! With good works at Payson Park in Florida, I think he could be a major player in the end. Off-the-bench … only a mild concern when it comes to this one.

Grade: A-


#8 Smile Happy (Jky: C. Lanerie/Trn: K. McPeek):

The folks at Lucky Seven Stable are probably itching to see their colt back in action on Saturday. Mattress Mack has placed his bets during the Future Wager windows, and even though he took a loss on the Bengals, still probably has something in reserve to bet on this one. The 3-yr-old is probably Run Happy’s most successful progeny to-date … and we all know what a promoter Mack is, when it comes to that sire that is standing at Claiborne. I really respect trainer Kenny McPeek, but I have little interest in backing this colt. The KY Jockey Club (G2) win was impressive … there is little doubt … but I think that he will just have too much rust on him. Sure, Classic Causeway (Sam F. Davis @TAM), and White Abarrio (Holy Bull @GP) have already come back and won. I am still against this one, and we shall see how Corey Lanerie rides him. Sharp? Maybe … maybe not …

Grade: B


#9 Bodock (Jky: M. Pedroza/Trn: B. Cox):

The other half of the Brad Cox uncoupled entry, is this Calumet homebred by Street Boss. Unlike his stablemate, he has not been around 2-turns, but he does have a race over this surface. That 6F sprint was sharp, and he won by more than a length. The 2x Eclipse trainer gets Marcelino Pedroza back aboard, in hopes that he can get this one revved up for 1 1/8th. His dam side speaks to being able to handle that kind of target, even if the sire is more of a sprinter (in my mind). Cox knows how to get them ready, but this is going to be a significant obstacle before him.

Grade: C+


#10 Slow Down Andy (Jky: M. Gutierrez/Trn: D. O’Neill):

Reddam Racing sends a filly out to New Orleans to run in the Rachel Alexandra, but also will enter this son of Nyquist in the Risen. I was pretty happy to see Doug O’Neill’s colt best Bob Baffert’s heavily-favored Messier in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) back in early December. This horse was absolutely ready to fire when the stretch began to unfold. Mario Gutierrez gave him the cue, and the then-2-yr-old responded in-kind. At odds of 5/1, he rewarded the bettors that stood by him. After a break, and series of works, he now ships to the Fair Grounds in hopes of victory. Gutierrez is tagging along, and it will be interesting to see how he responds against this well-matched field. I would not be surprised if he hit-the-board, but I am not sure he can win. O’Neill is an amazing trainer, but this might be a tall order.

Grade: B-


Join us Saturday for all of our Risen Star Day selections! Should be a great set of races from the Fair Grounds! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter … Horseracing_USA !!!

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