After being caught on the wire in the Jan. 22 Lecomte (G3), Epicenter moved forward with a massive performance in Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds, dominating the 85-point Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifier on the lead.
Smile Happy, the 2-1 favorite, rallied well for second in the final furlongs while never a threat to the winner, winding up a half-length better than Zandon, who made up a lot of ground late after missing the break.
The only drama surrounded the minor awards after Epicenter drew off by about five lengths in upper stretch, and the Not This Time colt won geared down in the end. Joel Rosario was up for Winchell Thoroughbreds and Steve Asmussen.
Off as the 7-2 third choice among 10 runners, Epicenter outsprinted Pioneer of Medina to the front, leading by about a length through opening splits in :23.79, :47.97, and 1:12.25. The bay sophomore was just cruising through the far turn, and when Rosario asked for run while straightening for home, Epicenter powered his way to a commanding margin.
He finished the 1 1/8-mile trip in 1:49.03. A convincing maiden winner in his second start at Churchill Downs in mid-November, Epicenter romped by 6 1/2 lengths in the Dec. 26 Gun Runner S. at Fair Grounds before recording a head second in the Lecomte at short odds.
The competition got tougher on Saturday, and Epicenter passed the test with flying colors.
The first qualifier in the Championship Series, the Risen Star awarded points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four.
Seventh midway on the far turn, Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner Smile Happy sustained his first setback while finishing with good energy in the stretch. Zandon took the overland route to edge Pioneer of Medina by a head for third. Tawny Port came next in fifth, and Slow Down Andy, Trafalgar, Pappacap, Bodock, and Russian Tank rounded out the order.
A $260,000 yearling at the 2020 Keeneland September sale, Epicenter was bred in Kentucky by Westwind Farm. He’s out of the stakes-winning Candy Ride mare Silent Candy.
Epicenter has now earned $410,639 from a 5-3-1-0 record.