Recent trends in the Risen Star Stakes

February 16th, 2022

The Kentucky Derby (G1) prep season gets kicked up a notch this week when Saturday's $400,000 Risen Star S. (G2) at Fair Grounds serves as the first race in this year's Road to the Kentucky Derby series to offer 50 qualifying points to the winner, which is tantamount to an automatic spot in the May 7 classic at Churchill Downs.

In the coming weeks we'll explore notable trends, betting or otherwise, for each of the remaining domestic Kentucky Derby preps. The focus will generally be on what's happened in each of them since 2010.

Here are three things to know about the recent history of the Risen Star:

Favorites making their season debut are winless

Current Kentucky Derby favorite Smile Happy will be having his season debut in this week's Risen Star, and that's not been a good position to be in since 2010.

During that span, six Risen Star favorites have lost while attempting to win the race in their first start of the year. Rogue Romance (2011) fared best of all, finishing third at 2-1.

The remainder all finished unplaced at even lower odds. Normandy Invasion (2013), Imperia (2015), and Mo Town (2017) all finished fifth at 3-2; Airoforce (2016) was 10th at odds of 17-10, and Anneau d'Or finished ninth in the second division of the 2020 Risen Star as the even-money choice.

Actually, the only horse since 2010 to win the Risen Star in his season debut was Gun Runner (2016), a future older champion and Horse of the Year.

The Lecomte is a so-so prep for the Risen Star

In the 13 runnings of the Risen Star since 2010 (there were two divisions in 2020), only five winners last raced in the Lecomte (G3).

Since this year's Lecomte winner Call Me Midnight was not entered in the Risen Star, it's more specific to note that only three horses that lost the Lecomte since 2010 have come back to win the Risen Star.

Ive Struck a Nerve, a distant fourth in the 2013 Lecomte, was an extreme longshot when he won the Risen Star in his final career start and paid $272.40. The other two were the Brad Cox-trained Mr. Monomoy (2020 first division) and Mandaloun (2021), both of whom finished third in the Lecomte.

Previous stakes success has not been crucial

International Star (2015) and War of Will (2019), the only two horses since 2010 to win both the Lecomte and Risen Star, have actually been the only prior stakes winners to win the Risen Star during the span in question. Every other winner, including Gun Runner and future Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) hero Mucho Macho Man, counted the Fair Grounds fixture as their first black type success.