Instilled Regard Demonstrates California's Strength in Lecomte Stakes
In recent years, California-based three-year-olds have proven dominant in the Triple Crown races and the prep races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.Certainly the West Coast held a clear edge in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016, when horses like I’ll Have Another, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist, Exaggerator, and Bodemeister rose to prominence, and early evidence suggests that California could have the advantage again in 2018.
The first sign came when the California-based Greyvitos shipped to the Midwest to win the Remington Springboard Mile last month in decisive fashion. But it was the victory by Instilled Regard in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) on Saturday at Fair Grounds that really hints that California has a lot of depth and talent this year.
Coming off of a strong finish in the Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I), in which he crossed the wire less than a length by the talented pair of Solomini and McKinzie, Instilled Regard found the competition much easier in the Lecomte and won the race with authority. Showing speed under jockey Javier Castellano, Instilled Regard settled a few lengths behind fractions of :23.48 and :47.52 while racing wide, then smoothly moved up to challenge around the far turn and seized command in the homestretch, gradually drawing off to win by 3 ¾ lengths in the solid time of 1:42.59 for a mile and seventy yards.
Left in Instilled Regard’s wake was a talented field that included the previously unbeaten Principe Guilherme and the stakes winners Snapper Sinclair, Analyze This Jet, Kowboy Karma, Night Strike, and Prince Lucky. Though Instilled Regard was much the best on the day, credit must also be given to Principe Guilherme, who was stepping up sharply in class and received a tough trip rating off the pace for the first time in his life while racing very wide. Under the circumstances, I thought he ran very well to rally and finish second.
Instilled Regard and Principe Guilherme could meet again in the February 17th Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds, a race that could also draw the exciting Florida-based Mask, setting up a showdown between some of the best colts from three different regions of the country. But for the time being, Instilled Regard’s powerful finish and authoritative victory in the Lecomte has stamped him as a clear Top 10 Kentucky Derby contender and a horse to be excited about this winter.