Keying the Favorites in the Lecomte Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 10th, 2018

Fair Grounds’ Road to the Kentucky Derby will kick off this Saturday with the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at 8.5 furlongs, and although the race attracted fifteen entrants, narrowing down the field might be easier than it appears at first glance.

For starters, at least two horses—#3 Wonder Gadot and #11 Ciaran—are expected to scratch. Secondly, two of the other horses—#10 Instilled Regard and #12 Principe Guilherme—appear to stand above the others in talent and potential.

In terms of form lines, Instilled Regard might be the horse to beat. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the California-based colt has held his own against some of the most promising young runners on the West Coast, and last time out he crossed the wire less than a length behind the talented pair of Solomini and McKinzie in the Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I). He earned a 100 BRIS speed figure for that effort, and when you throw in the fact that he was bumped around close to the finish and placed second via disqualification, that performance becomes even more impressive.

But despite Instilled Regard’s obvious talent, he seemed to be flattening out at the end of the Los Alamitos Futurity, and I’m inclined to give a slight edge to Principe Guilherme for the top spot. Hailing from the barn of Steve Asmussen, Principe Guilherme opened his career with a pair of easy victories at Churchill Downs and Fair Grounds, winning a maiden race by 6 ¼ lengths and an allowance race by 11 lengths, seizing the lead and going gate-to-wire on both occasions. While he doesn’t have the same level of experience as Instilled Regard, Principe Guilherme appears to be among the most promising colts on the Derby trail and catches a field without much early speed, which should help him work out an ideal trip setting or stalking a modest pace.

Trainer Larry Jones has won the Lecomte three times and will send out three colts in the 2017 renewal, those being #5 Kowboy Karma, #6 Believe in Royalty, and #13 Prince Lucky. Of the trio, I’m most interested in Kowboy Karma, who finished a strong fourth in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) last year against a tough field that included the future graded stakes winners Good Magic and Enticed. Last time out, Kowboy Karma rallied to finish second in the James F. Lewis Stakes sprinting six furlongs at Laurel, after which he had throat surgery to correct a breathing issue. It’s possible that this could yield a much-improved effort from Kowboy Karma, allowing him to finish off his late run with greater strength.

Let’s see if we can nail down a big score in the exacta and trifecta:

$5 exacta: 10,12 with 10,12 ($10) $3 exacta: 10,12 with 5 ($6) $2 trifecta: 10,12 with 10,12 with 5,6,13 ($12) $1 trifecta: 10,12 with 5,6,13 with 10,12 ($6) $1 trifecta: 12 with 10 with 1,5,6,8,13,14 ($6)

Good luck!