On the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, all roads lead to Louisville. There are, of course, different ways for a 3-year-old to get there and on Saturday, the Louisiana route opens with the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. The Grade 3 Lecomte will ultimately lead to the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby and then, for the fortunate ones who prosper in the months ahead, perhaps a ticket to Kentucky
1. Midnight Bourbon (7-2): He ran into a buzzsaw back in October at Belmont Park when he finished a little more than 14 lengths behind stablemate Jackie’s Warrior in the Champagne Stakes. He’s been rested since then and given his highly successful connections, he should be on edge for a solid effort like his second-place finish in the Iroquois Stakes Presented by Ford in September.
2. Arabian Prince (6-1): He’s well-tested at the distance with a third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes and a fourth in the Street Sense Stakes. He seems to be getting better with each start and if he can continue his upward swing, he’ll be a main contender here.
3. Beep Beep (12-1): Looked good in his debut, winning by 3 ½ lengths at seven furlongs. The final time was promising but it’s hard to gauge how he’ll handle the improved competition.
4. Proxy (6-1): He hasn’t been tested in a stakes but he’s definitely a horse for the course. He’s won both of his starts at Fair Grounds in front-running fashion, capped by an allowance win at the Lecomte’s distance. He faced only three rivals last time out and will get considerably more pressure on the lead here in a 11-horse field, but he seems talented enough to be a factor throughout.
5. Regular Guy (10-1): He needed four tries to break his maiden, but he notched that win in his first race at Fair Grounds. Given how that time seems slow in comparison to the others in the field, we’ll pass on him.
6. Game Day Play (20-1): As a minor stakes winner from a sharp barn, he cannot be overlooked. He’s handled increasingly longer distances in his four races and while his speed figures are on the low side, a sharp bullet work over the track bodes well for his chances.
7. Santa Cruiser (6-1): He took a nice step forward last time out. Making his third start, he broke his maiden by showing keen early speed for the first time and wiring the field. He set some fast fractions that day and is bred to handle two turns, making him an intriguing possibility.
8. Red N Wild (20-1): He has plenty of stakes experience as the Lecomte will be his fourth try in a stakes. One of them was a loss by a head to Game Day Plan in the Clever Trevor Stakes. He’s coming off a fourth in the Remington Springboard Mile, where he was hampered by a wide trip. In a competitive field, he cannot be ignored.
9. Manor House (8-1): Though he has only one start under his belt, it was a dazzler. He won by a little more than 12 lengths in a Laurel Park maiden race for Michael Stidham, who also trains Proxy. He should be part of a contested early pace and could be talented enough to be right there at the finish. He’s also entered in an allowance race earlier on Fair Grounds’ Jan. 16 card so it will be interesting to see where he shows up.
10. Mandaloun (3-1): He’s a perfect 2-for-2 for trainer Brad Cox and has the breeding to handle the stretchout to two turns with aplomb. While there’s enough early speed in the race to enhance his late speed, his post could pose a problem. If jockey Florent Geroux does not get caught racing wide, he should be tough to beat.
11. Dyn O Mite (30-1): He’s the most experienced entrant with seven starts to his credit. He was ambitiously placed in two Grade 1 stakes, where he was a well-beaten fifth each time. But other than that, in maiden and allowance races, he’s never been worse than second in five starts. He’ll be chasing a third straight win here, but the post could be a hinderance. It’s also worth noting that he’s trained by Keith Desormeaux and was ridden by James Graham last time out. In today’s race, Graham opted to ride Desormeaux’s other starter, Santa Cruiser.
THE PICK: Mandaloun
LIVE LONGSHOT: Arabian Prince