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2022 Kentucky Derby Prep Race Betting Odds & Picks: Smile Happy Gives Mattress Mack Favorite in Risen Star Stakes (Feb. 19)

2022 Kentucky Derby Prep Race Betting Odds & Picks: Smile Happy Gives Mattress Mack Favorite in Risen Star Stakes (Feb. 19) article feature image
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Horsephotos/Getty Images. Pictured: Jockey Corey Lanerie will ride favorite Smile Happy in Saturday’s Risen Star Stakes.

  • Horse racing takes a big step toward putting together its Kentucky Derby field Saturday with the running of the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans.
  • Smile Happy, the son of 2015 Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Runhappy (owned by sports bettor Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale), is the 7-2 morning-line favorite.
  • Handicappers Andie Biancone and Jeremy Pond break down the 10-horse field and deliver their best bets for the race.

Life on the long road to the Kentucky Derby takes a massive step Saturday, with 100 points on the line in the $400,000 Grade III Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans.

The winner of the 1 1/8-mile race on the dirt track lands 85 points, which essentially guarantees the horse and its connections a spot in the starting gate for the 148th edition of the annual “Run for the Roses” on May 7 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Looking to build on their red-hot form, TVG analyst Andie Biancone and Action Network handicapper Jeremy Pond are back, searching for more fortune and wins. Biancone nailed longshot winner White Abarrio in the Holy Bull Stakes, plus she and Pond each connected on the Daily Double tied to the race at Gulfstream Park that paid $129.40 on a $2 ticket.

Pond added to the winning card the duo produced by hitting the Holy Bull exacta and trifecta wagers, closing out the strong showing.

Mattress Mack – aka Jim McIngvale – put $10,000 on Smile Happy in the first pool of the @KentuckyDerby Future Wager. He plans to do similar for Pool 2, which opens Friday.https://t.co/P8sqZtwzTT

📸: Gallery Furniture pic.twitter.com/iXSirPSIye

— Horse Racing Nation (@HR_Nation) January 20, 2022

As for this latest Derby prep event, Smile Happy has been tabbed the early favorite at 7-2 odds. Jim McIngvale, better known as “Mattress Mack” in the bedding and sports-betting world, reportedly placed a $10,000 bet on Smile Happy in the first Kentucky Derby futures wagering pool.

McIngvale has a connection to the rising 3-year-old colt. Runhappy, the horse’s champion sire who won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, is owned by McIngvale and now stands at stud at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky.

That said, Biancone and Pond have taken a deep look at the Risen Star field, featuring 10 entrants, and deliver their best bets and exotic wagers.

Tune in to TVG for coverage of the Risen Star Stakes and the entire racing card at Fair Grounds, which will also feature Biancone delivering analysis for the Gulfstream Park slate of races.

2022 Risen Star Stakes (Grade III) Odds

*Latest Odds via TVG

PP | HORSE ODDS (MORNING LINE) JOCKEY
1 — Pappacap 4-1 T. Gaffalione
2 — Russian Tank 50-1 C. Vega
3 — Trafalgar 10-1 C. Hernandez
4 — Tawny Port 12-1 F. Geroux
5 — Epicenter 4-1 J. Rosario
6 — Pioneer of Medina 10-1 L. Saez
7 — Zandon 9-2 J. Ortiz
8 — Smile Happy 7-2 C. Lanerie
9 — Bodock 10 M. Pedroza, Jr.
10 — Slow Down Andy 9-2 M. Gutierrez

Race Information

Date | Post Time: Saturday | 6:58 p.m. ET

Distance | Surface: 1 1/8 miles | Dirt

Location: Fair Grounds Race Course | New Orleans

.@ScottTVG & @TVGJoaquin join us live on-site from @fairgroundsnola for Risen Star Weekend! Get a look at the field for tomorrow's Derby prep.

Tune-in now for coverage at https://t.co/nBYFHj6ufh pic.twitter.com/zNwspGithn

— TVG (@TVG) February 18, 2022

Risen Star Top Picks & Longshots

Andie Biancone

No. 8 Smile Happy (7-2): This horse is the obvious choice of the favorites. Not only did he beat Classic Causeway in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club, but he beat him by 3 1/2 lengths and drew away with ease.

Classic Causeway went on to obliterate what turned out to be a very salty field in last week’s Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, going away by nearly four lengths and finishing the final furlong in 12 seconds with his ears pricked.

Currently, Classic Causeway is at the top of the Derby leaderboard, so the fact Smile Happy beat him with ease in the Jockey Club is a huge testament to his talent. This horse is unbeaten and obviously proven going the distance. The biggest question mark will be his time off, but trainer Kenny McPeek has decent stats following the layoff.

No. 5 Epicenter (4-1): This horse finished a game second in the Lecomte Stakes, so I’m excited to see how he will handle the distance.

I have always liked this horse a lot just based on his physical appearance from what I’ve seen in his previous races. In each race he runs, Epicenter looks like a bold-lettered word on a page compared to his competition.

This horse has always shown a lot of speed in the past, which is my only concern since there are quite a few other speed horses entered in this race. If he ends up forwardly placed and Joel Rosario can get him to settle a half length off some of the other speed, I think this horse could be impressive.

I also like the timing between the Lecomte and Risen Star, so this horse will be fit coming into this spot.

Longshot — No. 4 Tawny Port (12-1): Tawny Port is going to be my longshot in this large field.

He’s is a deep closer, and with all the speed in this race, there’s decent potential for it to set up nicely for a horse like this to come from behind and take a piece of the cake.

Honestly, the Risen Star isn’t the saltiest of Derby preps that we’ve seen so far; it really is anyone’s race. This horse has been impressive enough in both his first two starts, and even though this will be his first start over the main track, he is bred top and bottom for the dirt.

I also can’t knock the trainer Brad Cox-jockey Florent Geroux pairing, either.


Jeremy Pond

Best Bets

$10 Win | Place | Show: No. 8 Smile Happy (7-2)

$4 Exacta: 5-7-8 over 1-3-5-7-8-10

$1.50 Trifecta: 5-7-8 over 1-3-5-7-8-10 over 1-3-5-6-7-8-10

3-year-old fillies in the spotlight @fairgroundsnola as a talented field of 11 are set to compete for 50 points on the #RoadtotheOaks in the G2 Rachel Alexandra Stakes!

Catch live on-site coverage on @TVG!
Saturday Race 12, 6:25PM ET @SpendthriftFarm pic.twitter.com/Cuz74VAteC

— TVG (@TVG) February 18, 2022

Exotic Wagering

(Races 12-13)

Biancone’s Daily Double

Rachel Alexandra Stakes | Risen Star Stakes

1-2-7-9-11 | 4-5-7-8

Pond’s Daily Double

Rachel Alexandra Stakes | Risen Star Stakes

1-5-7-9-11 | 4-5-7-8


Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby

DATE STAKES RACE (GRADE) TRACK (POINTS) OR WINNER
Jan. 22 Lecomte (Grade III) Call Me Midnight
Jan. 29 Southwest (III) Newgrange
Feb. 5 Holy Bull (III) White Abarrio
Feb. 5 Withers (III) Early Voting
Feb. 6 Robert B. Lewis (III) Messier
Feb. 12 Sam F. Davis (III) Classic Causeway
Feb. 12 El Camino Real Derby Blackadder
Feb. 19 Risen Star (III) Epicenter
Feb. 26 Rebel (II) Un Ojo
March 5 John Battaglia Memorial Turfway Park (10-4-2-1)
March 5 Fountain of Youth (II) Gulfstream Park (50-20-10-5)
March 5 San Felipe (II) Santa Anita Park (50-20-10-5)
March 5 Gotham (II) Aqueduct (50-20-10-5)
March 12 Tampa Bay Derby (II) Tampa Bay Downs (50-20-10-5)
March 26 UAE Derby Meydan Racecourse (100-40-20-10)
March 26 Louisiana Derby (II) Louisiana Downs (100-40-20-10)
March 27 Sunland Derby (III) Sunland Park (50-20-10-5)
April 2 Florida Derby (I) Gulfstream Park (100-40-20-10)
April 2 Arkansas Derby (I) Oaklawn Park (100-40-20-10)
April 2 Jeff Ruby Steaks (III) Turfway Park (100-40-20-10)
April 9 Wood Memorial (II) Aqueduct (100-40-20-10)
April 9 Blue Grass (II) Keeneland (100-40-20-10)
April 9 Santa Anita Derby (I) Santa Anita Park (100-40-20-10)
April 16 Lexington (III) Keeneland (100-40-20-10)

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