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Photo courtesy of Michael Burns/WEG

The $200,000 LeComte Stakes (G3) is the first of two graded prep races on the road to the March 23, $1 million Louisiana Derby (G1), the next being the Risen Star Stakes (G2) five weeks from now on Feb. 23. The LeComte brings together a field of nine up-and-coming 3-year-olds, led by Avie’s Quality, who is going for his third straight win and second in a stakes race after a victory in the Display Stakes last month. Louisiana Futurity runner-up Heitai is another with positive stakes experience as well as positive experience around two turns that should prove beneficial, having finished second in the Louisiana Legacy Stakes at Delta Downs in November. Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) winner Circle Unbroken returns from more than five months on the shelf and is also proven at the level, having missed by a neck in the Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes before going on the sidelines. He may need a race before showing his best following the lengthy time off. Ive Struck a Nerve finished second in the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds in his most recent effort but that was a sprint (under a mile) and his two route (a mile or more) efforts to date have not been encouraging. Golden Soul just broke his maiden (won for the first time) last month, but it was in a two-turn race like the LeComte and on the Fair Grounds main track, so he could be a factor. Malibu High ran well over the track when winning a sprint last month as well and attempts to run around two turns for the first time, while Fear the Kitten was last seen finishing fifth of 13 in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) in November. Oxbow has a good deal of early speed and should be the early leader, while Hawaakom is yet another lightly raced colt, having only started twice in his career, his most recent effort a victory at the one-mile-and-70-yard LeComte distance at Fair Grounds. 

Avie’s Quality ran the fastest of any of the LeComte entrants in his most-recent race, earning a 103 Equibase Speed Figure when victorious in the Display Stakes at Woodbine on Dec. 1. He won prior to that as well, both wins coming around two turns and both victories coming after blinkers were added, helping him to focus on the task at hand. Having improved his Equibase Speed Figure in each start since his debut (from 59 to 84 to 98 to that last race 103), proven around two turns and with Fair Grounds leading jockey Rosie Napravnik assigned to ride, Avie’s Quality appears to be the one to beat in the LeComte. He could move on to the next leg of preps for the Louisiana Derby with his third victory in a row.

Heitai has done little wrong in six career starts to date, with two wins, two runner-up finishes and two third-place efforts. Like Avie’s Quality, Heitai has improved in his last three races, from an 81 Equibase Speed Figure when second in the Louisiana Legacy Stakes to an 85 figure when third (beaten by only three-quarters of a length) in the Louisiana Juvenile Stakes to a last-race 100 figure when second and only a half-length from victory in the Louisiana Futurity. Heitai has two-turn experience others in here lack, with his Louisiana Legacy effort coming at the distance of a mile, which is another reason this son of 2000 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Fusaichi Pegasus could run well enough to win this race.

Golden Soul may be only a last out maiden winner but recently turned 3-year-olds have the potential to make the jump from maiden to stakes at this time of year. Golden Soul finished second, beaten by a head, in his debut, a one-turn mile race in November. When stretched out to two turns for his second career effort Dec. 30, Golden Soul won easily by 7 1/4 lengths at Fair Grounds. Having improved to an 88 figure with that win and noting that Heitai improved from an 85 figure one before last to a 100 figure last time out, Golden Soul has potential to leap forward in form and post the mild upset in the LeComte.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Circle Unbroken (91), Fear the Kitten (89), Hawaakom (81), Ive Struck a Nerve (86), Malibu High (92), and Oxbow (93). 

My Selections:

Avie’s Quality


Golden Soul

$200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3)

Saturday, Fair Grounds, Race 10, post time 5:55 p.m. EST

One Mile and Seventy Yards, 3-year-olds







Malibu High (KY)

M. Mena


C P Borel


Heitai (LA)

R.E. Eramia


S Breaux


Fear the Kitten (IL)

S. Bridgmohan


M J Maker


Oxbow (KY)

J.K. Court


D W Lukas


Hawaakom (KY)

L.R. Goncalves


D C Peitz


Avie's Quality

R. Napravnik


J Carroll


Golden Soul (KY)

B.J. Hernandez Jr.


D Stewart


Circle Unbroken (FL)

M. Guidry


G W Simms


Ive Struck a Nerve (KY)

K.J. Desormeaux


J K Desormeaux

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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