The 76th running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Saturday is a race that will start to sift out the contenders from the pretenders on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. Half of the 14 entrants come into the race off a graded stakes try. The best finish among that group belongs to Finnick the Fierce, runner-up at odds of 87.90-1 in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, in which fellow Lecomte starters Enforceable finished fourth and New Eagle checked in fifth. Another who has run at the level is Scabbard, having finished second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special Stakes and in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes before a fourth-place effort in the Grade 1 TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile. A pair of Lecomte entrants recently won non-graded stakes and may fit at the level. They are Jack the Umpire (Jean Lafitte Stakes) and Halo Again (Coronation Futurity).
One horse who has yet to race in stakes competition may go to post as one of the favorites – Mr. Monomoy, a half-brother to champion Monomoy Girl who recently missed by a neck at Fair Grounds in his first try around two turns. Lynn's Map was the winner of that race in his two-turn debut, and he has potential to run even better in the Lecomte, as does Silver State, who missed by a neck in his first route at the end of November. Recent allowance winners Perfect Star and Sycamore Run both earned their victories leading from start to finish, and Shashashakemeup led from the opening bell in his debut win in November before a fourth-place effort in the Sugar Bowl Stakes last month. Those three, as well as Bango, who stretches out after finishing second in an allowance race in November, all figure to vie for the lead early so the pace may be faster than average. Excession, who finished third behind Lynn's Map and Mr. Monomoy recently, rounds out the field. The Lecomte Stakes offers qualifying points for the May 2 Kentucky Derby to the top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
Silver State makes his third career start, and his two races to date have been exemplary. He won his debut on Sept. 27 by nearly 10 lengths in a dead heat at Churchill Downs. Then, two months later, he improved a ton when missing by a nose in a one-mile race at Churchill. That second effort earned Silver State a 99 Equibase Speed Figure, which is tops in the field, and he's likely to improve off the effort nicely in his third career start. Additionally, that figure was far better than the 92 figure earned by Silver Prospector later on the same day over the same track in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. It’s likely there will be a very hot early pace in this year's Lecomte. Bango, Shashashakemeup and Sycamore Run all have early speed and will be stretching out from outside posts, which will force their jockeys to go fast early to gain good position before the turn. Silver State should be in a similar position in the early stages as in his most recent start when he was fifth after three quarters of a mile, with some tiring targets in front of him. Of the three horses in this year's Lecomte trained by Steve Asmussen (the other two being Halo Again and Excession), Silver State is the one who gets the trainer's #1 rider in Ricardo Santana Jr. This colt has posted two excellent workouts at Fair Grounds in recent weeks, and Silver State appears to be holding top physical condition. He is my top pick to win this year's Lecomte Stakes.
Finnick the Fierce was disregarded by bettors in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at the end of November, going to post at odds of 87.90-1. In spite of that, he nearly posted the upset as he rallied from seventh of eight in the early stages to miss by just three quarters of a length at the end. He improved to a 91 Equibase Speed Figure in his first route from 85 in his previous start. Finnick the Fierce gets the advantage of the ground-saving rail post position in the Lecomte from which to launch his late bid. With room to improve in his second route and third start off a layoff, and also likely to benefit from a faster than average early pace, Finnick the Fierce should be respected as a contender to win this race as well.
Lynn's Map has a win at Fair Grounds, and it came around two turns, which may give him an experience edge over some of the other horses in this year's Lecomte. Lynn's Map was racing around two turns for the first time in that race last month, and he showed a good deal of maturity rallying from third at the top of the stretch to win by a head over Mr. Monomoy, who was also making his third career start and first in a route. Both horses earned 87 figures for the effort, less than their previous races, but both have room to improve off the experience and neither would be a surprise winner of Saturday’s Lecomte.
The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures, is: Bango (93), Enforceable (87), Excession (87), Halo Again (92), Jack the Umpire (75), New Eagle (88), Perfect Star (92), Scabbard (96), Shashashakemeup (95) and Sycamore Run (98).
Top win contenders:
Finnick the Fierce
Second-tier win contenders: