Lecomte Ahead On Saturday
Lecomte tops Fair Grounds stakes bonanza
Eleven colts and geldings will attempt to raise their profile for this year's classics in Saturday's $100,000 Lecomte S. (G3) at Fair Grounds, one of six stakes on a marathon 13-race program dubbed the "Road to the Derby Kickoff" card. Now run at a mile and 40 yards, the Lecomte serves as a stepping stone to the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star S. (G3) on February 20 and the 1 1/8-mile Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 27.
Vying for favoritism in the Lecomte will be the Clark Hanna-trained MAXIMUS RULER (Roman Ruler) and CITRUS KID (Lemon Drop Kid), who invades from his Palm Meadows base in Florida for trainer John Terranova. Maximus Ruler missed by a head in his debut at Churchill Downs on November 14, but returned two weeks later to graduate against first-level allowance company going a one-turn mile at the same track. Citrus Kid earned his diploma at Delaware Park in his second start on September 26, and was back two weeks later to land the 1 1/16-mile Dover S. by five lengths. He was a fading third to Buddy's Saint (Saint Liam) in the Remsen S. (G2) in his juvenile finale after setting a pressured pace.
Only two others in the field have stakes wins to their credit. TURF MELODY (Maria's Mon) was just up in time to take the December 13 Springboard Mile at Remington Park at one mile, his first stakes appearance on dirt following three added-money losses on turf and synthetic. COOL BULLET (Red Bullet) enters the Lecomte undefeated over the Fair Grounds strip having taken the six-furlong Sugar Bowl S. last month by a hard-fought head, which followed a maiden win for a $50,000 tag.
Others of interest include WORLDLY (A.P. Indy), a distant third in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) two back and second in a January 3 allowance/optional claimer in his seasonal debut; RON THE GREEK (Full Mandate), a wide-trip fourth in the Springboard Mile following two earlier wins; and CALLIDE VALLEY (Indian Charlie), a Churchill allowance winner who dons blinkers after a disappointing fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club.
The $100,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley H. (G3) for older horses on turf is the card's only other graded event. EL CABALLO (El Corredor), who missed upsetting last year's Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial H. (G2) by a heart-breaking nose, should go favored despite not having raced since winning an allowance/optional claimer at Churchill on June 7.
PRINCEVILLE CONDO (Morluc), a gem of consistency who has yet to finish out of the money in 10 starts, enters off a head victory in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial H. over the Bradley distance of about 1 1/16 miles. Also joining him from the Diliberto are third-placer SWAINS NEWS (Swain [Ire]) and fifth-placer GET RICK QUICK (Seeking the Gold).
TYBALT (Storm Cat), who was off more than a year after a narrow loss in the 2008 Oak Tree Mile (G2), is eligible to move forward off his Keeneland comeback, while VANQUISHER (Gulch) has run well on occasion against graded quality runners. TEND (Dynaformer), the older half-brother to the noted Grade 2 winner Blame (Arch), would be making his first start on turf in the Bradley should he choose this race over the Louisiana H., for which he's been cross-entered.
The $75,000 Tiffany Lass S., the filly counterpart to the Lecomte, features the exciting QUIET TEMPER (Quiet American), who broke her maiden in taking the Delta Princess S. (G3) by nearly eight lengths two back. The Dale Romans pupil returned earlier this month to waltz around the Fair Grounds strip in taking a first-level allowance by 1 1/4 lengths while under the mildest encouragement from Robby Albarado. VISAVIS (Indian Charlie) and SHEER BEAUTY (Mizzen Mast), second and third, respectively, in the Letellier Memorial S., might have the strongest chance at an upset.
Perhaps the most anticipated race on the undercard, the $75,000 Louisiana H. at 1 1/16 miles, features a meeting of former classic candidates FRIESAN FIRE (A.P. Indy) and GENERAL QUARTERS (Sky Mesa). Friesan Fire went favored in the Kentucky Derby (G1) last year following his sweep of the Lecomte, Risen Star and Louisiana Derby, but beat only one of his rivals over the sloppy Churchill strip and didn't fare a whole lot better two weeks later in the Preakness S. (G1). Also far back in the first two classics was General Quarters, who took the Blue Grass S. (G1) and Sam F. Davis S. (G3) prior to the Run for the Roses.
Both Friesan Fire and General Quarters enter the Louisiana off allowance/optional claiming losses. Friesan Fire was six lengths third to reigning Louisiana H. winner GOOD AND LUCKY (Wild Rush) on December 3, while General Quarters fell short by just a half-length in his six-furlong comebacker the day after Christmas. In addition to Tend and Good and Lucky, who went on to capture the Tenacious H., the Louisiana has also attracted SECRET GETAWAY (Skip Away), a notable stakes performer at Fair Grounds whose scorecard includes a second to Macho Again (Macho Uno) in last year's New Orleans H. (G2).
A strong field of older sprinters will dash six furlongs in the $75,000 F.W. Gaudin Memorial S. EUROEARS (Langfuhr), undefeated in three prior stakes engagements over the track, should have his hands full with the lightly-raced four-year-old CASH REFUND (Petionville), whose only loss in four starts was to Capt. Candyman Can (Candy Ride [Arg]) in the Matt Winn S. last May. GRAND TRAVERSE (Pioneering) exits a win in the grassy Bonapaw S., while Fair Grounds lover SOK SOK (Trippi) hopes to rebound to the form that saw him win the Duncan F. Kenner S. last spring over dual Eclipse Award nominee Kodiak Kowboy.
Among the 12 fillies and mares in the $75,000 Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial S. at about 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf are COY CAT (Hold That Tiger) and LADY CHACE (Tiznow), the one-two finishers of the course-and-distance Bienville S. last March, and TRUSTY TEMPER (Successful Appeal), last seen taking the Jostle S. in June over recent American Beauty S. winner Northern Belle (Northern Afleet).
There is an early post time of 12:10 p.m. (CST) on Saturday.
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