Saturday’s $200,000, Grade 2 Lecomte Stakes is a stepping stone to the Risen Star Stakes and the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby on Fair Grounds’ Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve qualifying points series of races. As is usually the case for newly turned 3-year-olds in early Kentucky Derby preps, few of the 11 horses entered have run in stakes at this point in their careers.
Of those with stakes credentials, Midnight Bourbon might be most notable as he finished second in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes Presented by Ford last September then third in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes in October. Game Day Play won the Clever Trevor Stakes in October and is trying two turns for the first time. Red N Wild missed by a head in the Clever Trevor and then two races later finished third, beaten 9 ½ lengths, in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes. Arabian Prince is another who has made a mark in stakes races, albeit a small one, finishing third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at the end of November. Lastly among those with stakes experience, Dyn O Mite finished fifth in the Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity and Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes last year as a maiden. He has won two races in a row since then. Among the horses stepping into the stakes ranks for the first time, Beep Beep, Manor House, Regular Guy and Santa Cruiser exit maiden races all won in visually impressive fashion, while Mandaloun and Proxy earned wins in their most recent starts in first-level allowance races.
I’m going to start my list of horses I think can win the Lecomte Stakes with Regular Guy. This Bernardini colt didn’t run well at all in his first two starts, both of them sprints and both last summer, finishing ninth and then sixth. Given two months off to mature Regular Guy stretched out to a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs and finished second behind Santa Cruiser (see below), earning a stellar 96 Equibase Speed Figure. That is the second best speed figure earned by any horse in this field. Making his first start at Fair Grounds and first start around two turns four weeks ago, Regular Guy didn’t run as fast but he won fairly easily against eight opponents. I expect logical improvement in his second two-turn race and second at the Fair Grounds meet, and Regular Guy also put in a very strong five-furlong workout in 1:00.4 on Jan. 8 at Fair Grounds, which was the third best of 37 on the day. That total likely included a number of older and more seasoned horses. Even better, Regular Guy has the breeding to be something special as a STATS Race Lens pedigree query reveals that his dam (the Unbridled’s Song mare Rebridled Dreams) has produced two exceptional 3-year-olds in her short breeding career. One was Farrell, who earned over $1 million and won the 2017 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks, and the other was Carpe Diem, winner of $1.5 million including the Tampa Bay Derby and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes in 2015. As such, I expect Regular Guy to take a big step forward just as his siblings did during their 3-year-olds campaigns and post the upset win in this year’s Lecomte Stakes.
Santa Cruiser hasn’t been seen since winning at a mile in November and beating Regular Guy by 1 ½ lengths. That effort earned a 98 figure, which is the best earned by any horse in the field. I don’t think the time off is of any concern particularly as Santa Cruiser has put in three straight workouts at Fair Grounds in preparation for this race. Trainer Keith Desormeaux (who also saddles Dyn O Mite) has had his share of success on the “Road to the Derby,” sometimes at high odds (such as 135.20-1 Ive Struck a Nerve in the 2013 Risen Star Stakes). Therefore, if Desormeaux thinks Santa Cruiser is ready for this level of competition – and considering how highly I think of Regular Guy – I must give Santa Cruiser a strong look as a contender in this race.
Mandaloun is two-for-two in his career to date, winning with a nice rally from ninth in his debut in October then improving to win a first-level allowance race at seven furlongs in late November. He improved to a 94 Equibase Speed Figure with that win – the third best in the field – and Mandaloun is on a pattern for even better in the Lecomte provided he runs as well in his first route. That shouldn’t be an issue as he’s a son of Into Mischief, who has produced some top 3-year-olds in recent years including Authentic, Audible and Owendale. Trainer Brad Cox is already off to a sparkling start at the Fair Grounds meeting, winning 24% (13 of 55) of his starts through last weekend, and jockey Florent Geroux rides Mandaloun again after being aboard for his first two wins.
Midnight Bourbon, like Santa Cruiser, has “Road to the Derby” breeding to go along with stakes quality form. His dam, the Malibu Moon mare Catch the Moon, produced 2015 Iroquois Stakes winner Cocked and Loaded as well as one of the top 3-year-olds in 2017, Girvin, who won the Risen Star, Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, and the betfair.com Haskell Invitational leading to $1.6 million in career earnings. Midnight Bourbon finished second in last year’s Iroquois Stakes after making the lead and opening up with an eighth of a mile to go, earning a 91 figure which, if improved upon Saturday, is definitely competitive with the main contenders. Drawing the ground-saving rail and also getting trainer Steve Asmussen’s number one jockey in Ricardo Santana to ride for the first time helps Midnight Bourbon round out a strong quartet of win contenders in the Lecomte Stakes.
The rest of the Lecomte Stakes field, with their best Equibase Speed Figures, is Arabian Prince (87), Beep Beep (91), Dyn O Mite (84), Game Day Play (80), Manor House (87), Proxy (85) and Red N Wild (91).
Win Contenders, in preference order: