It’s time to start paying attention to the 3-year-olds and Saturday’s LeComte S. at the Fair Grounds is the latest Derby trail race with Kentucky Derby points at stake. The good folks down in Louisiana have had a rough go of it lately with an equine virus causing a quarantine limiting most of the races to the horses on the grounds.
One unfortunate horse in the quarantine is Gun Runner, who was expected to run in next weekend’s Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream, but is confined to his Louisiana stall due to the quarantine.
Surprisingly, the LeComte has 12 entries looking to capitalize on the 10-4-2-1 Derby points available to the top four finishers. The full field will go a mile and 70 yards over the dirt at the Fair Grounds in the first Derby prep race at the Louisiana track. The last Classic winner to win the LeComte was Oxbow in 2013 who went on to win the Preakness. Hard Spun won the 2007 edition before he went on to a number of solid showings in the classics and Breeders’ Cup.
There are six races remaining after the LeComte over the next five weeks which will then wrap up the Prep Season and move to the Championship Series when the points escalate. The points increase to 50-20-10-5 on Feb. 25 right here at the Fair Grounds for the Risen Star, the prep for the Louisiana Derby.
Here’s a look at the entries for the LeComte (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Phat Man (Sharp, McMahon 12-1). The Munnings colt comes out of a maiden claimer win to move up in class in the Grade 3 LeComte. He won that race on an off track by 12 lengths, so his connections will be doing the rain dance on Saturday morning.
2 – Arklow (Cox, Court, 10-1). Still a maiden after three Fair Grounds starts, the son of Arch will have to step up his game to compete at this level. The Donegal-owned colt has the pedigree to improve as the distances stretch out, but he needs to show something sooner than later.
3 – Totality (Asmussen, Flores 12-1). Son of Tapit makes his first appearance at the Fair Grounds after breaking his maiden at Churchill in his first race. He comes out of a decent effort at Remington where he earned a decent speed figure in a non-graded stake. Interesting.
4 – Shareholder Value (Amoss, Bridgmohan, 6-1). On inauguration weekend, what a hunch play. Obviously Chris Collins will be aboard (inside Buffalo joke). He has raced at all of the big tracks against solid competition. He was handed his bridle when beaten badly by the highly regarded McCracken at Churchill. Amoss won this race last year with Mo Tom. Don’t take this one lightly.
5 – Untrapped (Asmussen, Santana, 9-2). The Hall of Fame trainer puts forth the son of Trappe Shot who broke his maiden impressively at Churchill during the Fall meeting. His only loss came to Uncontested, who won the Smarty Jones on MLK day, earning 10 Derby points at Oaklawn Park.
6 – Marco Mischief (Gabriel, Pedroza, 20-1). Big-priced son of Into Mischief broke his maiden in a huge closing effort on the home track. Third-place horse in that race came back to win last out. If there’s a pace meltdown, he could pick up the pieces. He could be a nice play underneath regardless, at a price.
7 – Tip Tap Tapizar (Asmussen, Graham, 12-1). Has six races under his belt already, hitting the board in five of those races. Was not a factor in the Delta Jackpot down the road in November and his speed figures are less than ordinary. Has faced top competition, but not sold he can turn back this group.
8 – Guest Suite (Howard, Albarado, 5-1). Top notch connections, and a big win at Churchill on closing weekend last fall. The son of Street Sense has some decent speed numbers and has the pedigree to continue to stretch out. Contender.
9– Running Mate (Jones, Saez, 10-1). Successful sprinter to date will need to show that he can do it around two turns against quality competition. Has a couple of bullet workouts on the track coming into the race, but his ability to route is the biggest question on his resume. Another inauguration weekend hunch play.
10 – Takeoff (Casse, Geroux, 6-1). Takeoff is another son of Arch, who broke his maiden at the Fair Grounds over the 2 horse. A couple solid workouts and improving speed figures is cautioning me not to discount his chances. Using underneath in the exotics.
11 – Pat On the Back (McPeek, Davis, 12-1). First-time lasix for colt who is 3-for-6 lifetime which includes wins at Saratoga and Belmont Park. Didn’t fire at Delta, but that is a quirky track that’s more of a bullring compared to where he has had success. Making him the longshot play.
12 – Saint’s Fan (Stewart, Hernandez, 5-1). Lots of hype surrounds Dallas Stewart’s son of Tale of Ekati. Second-place finisher in his last non-graded stake win came back to win last out and he’ll look to win his third straight. Outside post could impede his chances, but will include in exacta. [UPDATE: Scratched]
Post Time Outlook: 1 – Pat on the Back; 2 – Guest Suite; 3 – Untrapped; 4 – Running Mate
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.