By Ryan Martin —-
NEW ORLEANS (January 9, 2018) – A cast of 14 3-year-olds will begin chasing their Kentucky Derby dreams in the Grade III $200,000 LeComte Stakes on Saturday, Jan. 13 – the first of three local preps on Churchill Downs’ Road To The Kentucky Derby which awards the Top 4 finishers based off of a 10-4-2-1 scale. The mile-and-70-yard event run over the main track tops a six-stakes card for the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots’ Road to the Derby Kickoff Day presented by Hotel Monteleone.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will send three from his barn for the event including Three Chimneys Farm’s Principe Guilherme, who is slated as the 5-2 morning line favorite by Fair Grounds’ clocker and odds maker Mike Diliberto. The son of leading North American sire Tapit will break from post 11 under Florent Geroux, following the scratch of Donegal Racing’s Ciaran, and is unbeaten in two starts. His career debut took place in a maiden event over the Churchill Downs main track on Nov. 10, which he won by 6 ¼ lengths, which he followed with a 11¾-length romp in a one-mile-and-70-yard allowance optional claiming race at the Fair Grounds. Principe Guilherme was a lucrative $600,000 purchase at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton November Sale and is the first foal out of Grade I winning broodmare Aubby K.
Asmussen also will be represented by Snapper Sinclair (post two, Adam Beschizza, 20-1) will be in search of his first victory over the main track. Owned by Bloom Racing Stable LLC, the son of City Zip broke his maiden at second asking over the Saratoga turf on Aug. 14 and then made a jump to stakes company to win the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile Stakes at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 6. Snapper Sinclair’s most recent start took place in the Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 3, where he was 12th beaten 10 ¼ lengths by Mendelssohn. The last of Asmussen’s trio of sophomores is recent Fair Grounds maiden victor Zing Zang who broke his maiden third time out on Dec. 16. Owned by Jackpot Ranch, the son of Tapit will break from post eight at morning-line odds of 15-1 and will be guided by current Fair Grounds leading rider Shaun Bridgmohan.
Trainer Larry Jones will also send out a threesome for the LeComte. Breaking from post five under Brian Hernandez, Jr. as the co-third choice at 6-1 morning-line odds is Kowboy Karma, who is owned by the trainer in partnership with wife Cindy and Michael Pressley. The son of Kodiak Kowboy was an emphatic winner of his career debut at Delaware Park when he took a six-furlong maiden event by 12½ lengths. Such an effort was followed by a stakes victory at the Delaware oval in the Strike Your Colors Stakes on Aug. 10, which was his last victory. Since then, he finished second in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sept. 2 behind multiple stakes winner Bal Harbour. His next outing was a close fourth-place finish in the Gr. I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 7 behind Firenze Fire, Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic and Nov. 25 Gr. II Kentucky Jockey Club winner Enticed. Last out, he was second beaten two lengths in Laurel Park’s James F. Lewis III Stakes on Nov. 11.
Breaking just to the outside of Kowboy Karma from the six-hole at odds of 15-1 is regally-bred stable mate Believe In Royalty. Owned by Brereton Jones, William Mack and Robert Baker, the son of Tapit is out of 2012 Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can who also was trained by Jones and prepped for her Oaks triumph at the Fair Grounds. Believe In Royalty broke his maiden second time out over a sloppy going at Laurel Park on Oct. 9 and returned to victory around the Maryland oval next out in a one-mile allowance event on Nov. 19. Following his pair of Laurel triumphs, he shipped to Oklahoma to face stakes company for the first time in the Remington Springboard Mile on Dec. 17, but was a troubled sixth and finished 14 lengths behind winner Greyvitos. Jockey Robby Albarado was aboard for that effort and will return to the irons for the LeComte.
The last of the Jones trio is Pennsylvania-bred Prince Lucky who breaks from post 12 under Julien Leparoux at 8-1 odds. Owned by Daniel McConnell, the son of Corinthian made his career debut a winning one over Delaware Park’s main track in an Aug. 28 maiden event which he won by 5¾ lengths. Next out, he returned to racing action over the Delaware oval but was handed the only loss of his career in the First State Dash Stakes. His next two starts resulted in trips to the winner’s circle and took place at Laurel Park in a six-furlong allowance race which he won by 3¾ lengths and followed that win with a stakes victory against fellow Pennsylvania-breds in the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes on Dec. 2.
Gary Barber’s Wonder Gadot is the lone filly entered in the LeComte, but has been cross-entered in the $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes on the same day. The Ontario-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro last saw racing action when she won the Gr. II Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 2 by 3¾ lengths for trainer Mark Casse. She won her career debut in her native Canada over the Woodbine turf against allowance company by four lengths and then returned to the Toronto oval to finish third in the Gr. I Natalma Stakes on Sept. 17, where she was beaten three-quarters of a length. Next out, she switched surfaces to run over Woodbine’s Polytrack in the Gr. III Mazarine Stakes, which she won by six lengths before a sixth-place finish in the Gr. I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar. Should she opt to race against the boys, she will break from post three at 6-1 odds and receive the riding services of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who also is named her rider in the Silverbulletday.
Lone Sailor breaks from the rail under Miguel Mena at odds of 15-1 and will be in search of his first win since an 11-length romp against maidens over the Saratoga main track on Sept. 3. Owned by G M B Racing – the racing stable of New Orleans Saints’ owner Tom Benson’s wife Gayle – the son of Majestic Warrior will take a stab at his first graded stakes victory. His last three outings were stakes caliber starts and took place in the Gr. I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity where he was third beaten 6 ½ lengths behind Free Drop Billy, followed by a narrow second in Churchill Downs’ Street Sense Stakes on Oct. 29. In his most recent start, he was a troubled fifth in the Gr. II Kentucky Jockey Club around the Louisville oval.
Bossci Stable’s Zeke is unbeaten in both of his career starts for trainer Mike Stidham. He broke his maiden over a fast main track at Laurel Park on Oct. 14 and then won off of a two-month layoff in a Fair Grounds allowance race over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course on Dec. 10. The son of Gio Ponti will be ridden by Joe Bravo, who was aboard for his most recent victory. Zeke will break from the nine-hole at odds of 15-1.
Ebben (post 13, Corey Lanerie, 20-1) was a 4 ¼ length winner of a one-mile Churchill Downs allowance race on Nov. 25, which he won following a string of three well-beaten stakes efforts – a sixth in the Ellis Park Juvenile on Aug. 20, a fourth in the Gr. III Iroquois at Churchill Downs on Sept. 16, and a sixth in the Street Sense Stakes on Oct. 29. Owned by Craig Aguilar, the son of Trappe Shot broke his maiden second time out at Indiana Grand on July 20 for trainer Steve Margolis.
OXO Equine LLC’s Instilled Regard ships to the Fair Grounds from the barn of California-based Jerry Hollendorfer and will break from the ten-hole under Javier Castellano as the morning line second-choice at 4-1 odds. The son of Arch was purchased for $1,050,000 from the Ocala Breeders’ Sale in March 2017 and is out of Enhancing whose dam is Eclipse Award winner Heavenly Prize. In his career debut, Instilled Regard was second beaten a half-length behind the full-brother of Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh, St. Patrick’s Day at Del Mar on Sept. 2. Next out, he ran third behind graded stakes-placed Mourinho at Santa Anita on Sept. 30 before stretching out to a mile-and-a-sixteenth and breaking his maiden by 4¼ lengths. In his most recent outing, he was third in the Gr. I Los Alamitos Futurity, but was elevated to second after the winner Solomini disqualified and placed third for interference in the stretch.
Analyze This Jet (post three, Sasha Risenhoover, 30-1) invades from Texas and will look to rebound following a well-beaten seventh in Remington Park’s Clever Trevor Stakes on Nov. 3. Trained by Terry Eoff and owned by the trainer in partnership with Johnnie Evans, the son of Overanalyze broke his maiden sixth time out at Remington Park by 6¼ lengths before winning the El Joven Stakes over the Retama Park turf by 1¼ lengths.
Also-eligible entrant Trigger Warning will draw into the LeComte following the scratch of Ciaran and will break from post 14 under Sophie Doyle at morning line odds of 20-1. Owned by Brinley Enterprises LLC, the Turf Paradise-based son of Candy Ride (Arg) was a most recent third in the Lost In The Fog Stakes for trainer Joe Lejzerowicz. He broke his maiden at third asking over the Arizona oval by one length on Nov. 20.
Completing the field is Erich Brehm’s Night Strike (post seven, Calvin Borel, 30-1) will seek redemption following a well-beaten fourth in the Remington Springboard Mile on Dec. 17. Trained by Bret Calhoun, the Oklahoma-bred son of Liason broke his maiden in the Don C. McNeil Stakes over the Oklahoma oval by three lengths.
The LeComte is the ninth of 13 races for Saturday’s card and has a scheduled post time of 5:03 PM central time.
About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the nation’s third-oldest racetrack, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN); it also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 11 off-track betting parlors throughout southeast Louisiana. The 146th Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 105thrunning of the Louisiana Derby – will run from November 18, 2017 through March 31, 2018. More information can be found online at www.FairGroundsRaceCourse.com.