Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen will send a trio of 3-year-olds for the $200,000 Gr. III LeComte on Saturday, Jan. 13 at the Fair Grounds, the first of three local preps on Churchill Downs' Road To The Kentucky Derby which awards the Top 4 finishers on a 10-4-2-1 scale.
Heading the Asmussen threesome is Three Chimneys Farm's Principe Guilherme, who was made the 5-2 morning line choice by Fair Grounds clocker and odds maker Mike Diliberto. While the son of leading North American sire Tapit only has two starts on his record, both were eye-opening efforts. Principe Guilherme won his career debut over the Churchill Downs main track on Nov. 10 by 6¼ lengths, which was followed by an 11¾-length victory at the Fair Grounds against allowance company on Dec. 17.
“Principe Guilherme is out of a Grade I (2013 Humana Distaff) winner (Aubby K) and I think he shows some tendencies with her speed,” Asmussen said. “We're just trying to get him to relax and use it effectively with his acceleration and his quickness is obvious.”
Principe Guilherme drew post 12 for the LeComte and will be guided by Florent Geroux.
“I think the LeComte will be a very good test for him with him drawing (post) twelve,” Asmussen said. “I think that will put a lot of questions of how effective he can be at a two-turn race that obviously has plenty of pace in it.”
Asmussen also will send out Jackpot Ranch's, Zing Zang, who broke his maiden at third asking on Dec. 16 over the Fair Grounds main track in his most recent outing. Like stable mate Principe Guilherme, he also is by Tapit. Asmussen knows a thing or two about training progeny of the stallion having successfully conditioned many of his offspring, one of which was 2016 Gr. I Belmont Stakes winner Creator. He believes that Zing Zang has some similarities to Creator and is already looking forward to being able to stretch him out in distance later in the year.
“With Zing Zang, I must admit, the Tapit in him I see as hopefully Creator,” Asmussen said. “He has a lot of disposition as well as his style and how he trains and he's never tired and the more you ask him to do, the happier he seems. I think, to put him in the LeComte is to get him in a rhythm. Just like Creator, it's going to take races for him to step up his game and kind of get his attention. He's young minded and very playful, but he's got a ton of ability.”
Zing Zang will break from post eight at odds of 20-1 under Shaun Bridgmohan.
The last of Asmussen's threesome of sophomores is Snapper Sinclair who is looking for his first victory on dirt. Owned by Bloom Racing Stable LLC, the son of City Zip broke his maiden on the Saratoga lawn on Aug. 14 before winning the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Juvenile Stakes at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 6. His last start took place in the Gr. I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar where he was 12th beaten 10 ¼ lengths behind Mendelssohn. His career debut was his only start on the main track, where he was sixth in a Belmont Park maiden event in July.
“(Snapper Sinclair) is obviously a very talented horse,” Asmussen said. “We're just trying to get him to transfer his obvious ability on turf to the dirt. This is an opportunity early in the year to see if his form will transfer over or if we need to isolate him to turf races.”
Jockey Adam Beschizza has the mount where he will break from post two at odds of 20-1.
With Ciaran officially scratched from the Gr. III Lecomte, also-eligible entrant Trigger Warning will now draw into the mile-and-70-yard event, according to his Turf Paradise-based trainer Joe Lejzerowicz.
A son of Candy Ride (Arg), Trigger Warning last ran at his home base in the Lost In The Fog Juvenile, where he was third beaten two lengths as the lukewarm favorite. Fitness is the furthest thing from an issue for Trigger Warning according to Lejzerowicz, who has the horse gallop three miles every morning.
“People look at him and he goes three miles and just gets stronger and stronger and stronger,” Lejzerowicz said. “The farther he goes, the stronger he gets and the stronger he gets, the faster he goes. He doesn't want to be on the lead so if he can just sit right off of them and keep going…the other horses are going to quit. He only wants to get by, he doesn't want to go blazing so if he can just relax and sit right off.”
Lejzerowicz describes Trigger Warning as a “spinning image” of his sire Candy Ride.
“When you see him in the paddock, you'll see that he's a short and compact horse,” Lejzerowicz said. “Let me put it in this context: If you put up a picture of him and Candy Ride side-by-side, you'll say, 'I know who his daddy is,'”
Sophie Doyle will be aboard Trigger Warning, who will break from the outside at odds of 20-1.
In other LeComte-related news, trainer Larry Jones sent out his trio of contenders for the event to the main track on Sunday morning for their final works for the race. Daniel McDonnell's Prince Lucky worked a five-furlong bullet in 1:00.20 while Brereton Jones, William L. Mack and Robert C. Baker's Believe In Royalty and Kowboy Karma, owned by Michael Pressley in partnership with Jones and wife Cindy, worked 1:00.80 and 1:01.40, respectively. Lone Sailor worked a half-mile in :49.80 for trainer Tom Amoss.
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