Led by Joseph W. Sutton's Scabbard, the maximum number of 14 three-year-olds are programmed to leave the starting gate in Saturday's $200,000 Lecomte (G3), one of six stakes to be run on “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day presented by Hotel Monteleone”. Now run at 1 1/16 miles, the Lecomte offers 10-4-2-1 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve.
Doors will open at 11 a.m. CT, early first post at noon CT for the 13-race card. General admission is $5.00, $10.00 admission to the clubhouse, and children 12 and under are free. Tickets and box reservations may be made in advance at www.fgno.com and clubhouse dining reservations may be made by calling 504-943-2200.
Installed as Mike Diliberto's lukewarm 7/2 morning-line favorite from post four, the Eddie Kenneally-trained Scabbard (formerly known as Noose) was second in both the Saratoga Special (G2) at Saratoga and Iroquois (G3) at Churchill in advance of a fourth place run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita, a race in which he was the 5/1 third choice.
“He didn't care for the surface too much,” Kenneally said of Scabbard's Breeders' Cup run. “He's a closer and that track wasn't playing well to closers that day. He fought on and ran his race and got up for fourth.”
A son of More Than Ready, Scabbard has trained at Palm Meadows in Florida in advance of the Lecomte. Corey Lanerie, who was aboard in the colt's first three races, will be reunited with him on Saturday.
“We gave him (Scabbard) a little freshening after that race (the Breeders' Cup Juvenile),” Kenneally said. “He's been training really well and is coming into this race sound and feeling good. We chose the Lecomte because we think he'll enjoy the long stretch. He loves Churchill Downs and I think the Fair Grounds surface is somewhat similar so I think he'll handle the ground.”
“You never know for certain with these young horses how far they'll want to go,” Kenneally continued. “With his running style, he seems like the further the distance gets the better he will be. You never know for sure until it happens, but I the way he finished in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile the further the better for him. There are (Kentucky) Derby points available (in the Lecomte). We knew it would be a full field but we think he fits with those horses and if he runs his race he'll do well.”
Trainer Mark Casse, who won the 2019 Lecomte (G3) with eventual Risen Star (G2) and Preakness (G1) champ War of Will, has a potential pair of aces for Saturday's edition in John C. Oxley's Enforceable (15/1 ML, post 10) and HRH Prince Sultan Bin Mishal Al Saud's Lynn's Map (5/1 ML, post 14). The connections are “happy” with post 10 for Enforceable, who has already negotiated two turns four times from six career starts. Third in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland in advance of a fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill, the three-year-old son of Tapit returns to the races off a quartet of local works. Julien Leparoux is named to ride. According to assistant trainer David Carroll, post 14 for Lynn's Map isn't as bad as it looks.
“I think if it were one mile and seventy yards (previous distance) it would be much worse,” Carroll said of Lynn's Map's post. “It looks like there will be some speed towards the inside. I'd imagine we'll just have to break well and drop in somewhere and try to get a good trip going into the first turn.”
While out on his own, Carroll won the 2004 Lecomte with Fire Slam.
“My first thought was, man, not the fourteen.” Carroll continued. “But he's been training forwardly and is an improving horse. You want to see improvement every race and even with this post I think we'll be fine. Miguel (jockey Mena) will work out a trip and we'll see what happens. The main thing is the horse is doing awfully well and we're excited about his condition and what he's shown us. We'll find out what direction we'll go from this race.”
A maiden winner at second asking over a one-turn mile at Churchill on November 8, the son of Liam's Map passed his first two-turn test in fine fashion in a follow-up allowance race at Fair Grounds, defeating the champion Monomoy Girl's highly regarded half-brother and Lecomte rival Mr. Monomoy (post two with Florent Geroux).
“We were a little bit afraid once Mr. Monomoy opened up that we weren't going to get it,” Carroll said after the race. “But Corey [Lanerie] said he really accelerated and rode through the wire and I'm glad we got the win. I think this will turn out to be a very important race.”
Trainer Brad Cox was admittedly disappointed that Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, and Doheny Racing's Mr. Monomoy lost that race and he openly questioned the son of Palace Malice's want for added distance. Three weeks later, he is a bit more optimistic.
“His two works since the race have been very, very good (with) great gallop outs,” Cox said. “I'm hoping he needed the two-turn experience. He got beat by a horse (Lynn's Map) who had a one-turn mile race under his belt. I think the draw (post two) is ok. There is some speed outside of him. We can kind of sit from the inside, save some ground around the first turn and see what happens. I think he can step up and he's going to have to. We're going to find out a lot, most importantly, should we keep pointing for the first Saturday in May?”
Florent Geroux has the return call aboard Mr. Monomoy.
A sharp debut sprint winner on December 21 at Fair Grounds, Scott and Evan Dilworth's Sycamore Run garnered quite of bit of respect on Mike Diliberto's morning line at 6/1. He drew post 13 with Adam Beschizza up for trainer Joe Sharp.
“Physically he looks a little more like a sprinter, but he's very mentally stable,” Sharp said last week. “He's got a lot of gears. In those big fields, having tactical speed is always important for position, but also the ability to shut off and save something for the end is crucial. I think he has those qualities. Whether he's going to be a 1 ¼ mile horse down the road remains to be seen, but I think in the early stages of his road to Louisiana Derby, I think this step should be well within his scope.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who enters the day's action with 999 career stakes victories, counts the Lecomte as two of them (2008 with Z Fortune and 2002 with Easyfromthegitgo). He has three horses entered in this year's renewal — Calumet Farm's Excession (post five with Colby Hernandez, 12/1 ML), and a pair for Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing in Halo Again (post seven with Joe Talamo, 15/1 ML) and Silver State (post nine with Ricardo Santana, Jr., 5/1 ML).
Rounding out the field (with jockey/trainer, post and ML odds) for the Lecomte (race 13 at 5:55 p.m. CT): Arnaldo Monge and Rey Hernandez's Finnick the Fierce (post one, Leon/R. Hernandez at 15/1); Anton Kubacak's Perfect Star (post three, Albarado/Gelner at 30/1), Calumet Farm's New Eagle (post six, G. Saez/Maker at 20/1), P. Dale Ladner's Jack the Umpire (post eight, S. Bridgmohan/Brinkman at 20/1), Tamaroak Partner LLC's Bango (post 11, M. Pedroza/G. Foley at 20/1), and Calumet Farm's Shashashakemeup (post 12, Graham/Desormeaux at 20/1).
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