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NEW ORLEANS, LA – Fair Grounds’ Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) kicks off this Saturday evening with a loaded field of 11 in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3). The race has produced several Derby trail stars in recent memory, including the 2019 winner War of Will, who later took home the Preakness Stakes (G1). This year’s event is scheduled as race 13 on a loaded Saturday card that also features 4 other stakes. Local post time for the Lecomte is 5:49 PM.
The likely favorite post time will be the Brad Cox-trained Mandaloun, who has won both starts up to this point and recently conquered a tough allowance race at Churchill Downs going 7 furlongs. He drew post 10 for this event and will have regular rider Florent Geroux aboard.
“He’s trained very well at Fair Grounds since we got here,” Cox said. “We’ve always felt he was cut out to be a two-turn horse based on his physical make-up and how he trains. It shows how much talent he’s got, to be able to win his first 2 races at sprint distances, and now we’re going to do what we’ve thought he’s wanted to do all along, and that’s go long.”
Another established entry is Midnight Bourbon. The Steve Asmussen trainee has hit the board in 2 straight stakes after breaking his maiden at second asking at Ellis Park. He was recently third in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park behind stablemate Jackie’s Warrior. Asmussen’s top rider, Ricardo Santana Jr., is aboard as he breaks from the rail.
One up-and-comer to watch is Manor House, who recently dominated a maiden special weight at Laurel Park. This would be jumping into the deep end of the pool – if he runs here. He’s also entered in an allowance on this card, making it unknown at this point where he’ll ultimately run. If he does run in this race, he’ll break from post 9, with Adam Beschizza aboard.
The full field from the rail out: Midnight Bourbon, Arabian Prince, Beep Beep, Proxy, Game Day Plan, Santa Cruiser, Red N Wild, Manor House, Mandaloun, and Dyn O Mite.
#10 Mandaloun – Of the entries with more than 1 victory, there’s no question that this one looks the best. His race replays don’t blow you away, but you have to respect anything out of the Cox barn. He’s the deserving favorite and squarely the one to beat.
#9 Manor House – This guy showed some major talent on debut at Laurel Park, destroying a maiden special weight field by over 12 lengths. He showed solid early speed, but he might be better off stalking the pace with a lot of other speed signed on to run. If he can do that successfully, then he’ll have a big shot, but win or lose (or scratch), this one is worth watching as we move down the Derby trail.
#3 Beep Beep – In a field where most of the experienced horses look a bit skeptical on paper, it’s always a good thing to give some up-and-comers a long look. Beep Beep fits that category after an impressive debut victory at Churchill Downs. His speed figure from that race matches up with these and his connections are strong. Hopefully, he runs in this spot and not in the allowance he’s also entered into earlier on the card.
#1 Midnight Bourbon – From an experience standpoint, this colt should have an advantage, with this being his third start against stakes company. He was second in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) before finishing third in the Champagne Stakes (G1) last time out and his speed figures seem similar to this group as well, making him a logical contender.
#4 Proxy – He’s ready to take on stakes company after 2 straight victories over this track. He broke his maiden going gate to wire and repeated that last time out in an allowance event going this distance. The pace setup looks different in this spot, though, which might make things a bit more difficult for him.
#2 Arabian Prince – This kind of seems like the typical Dallas Stewart runner who is going to be around at the end. He’s coming into this spot off of a solid third-place running in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), which might be pretty similar to this field. He’s a good candidate to hit the board at a price.
#7 Santa Cruiser – He seems to be improving with each race, something often seen from a young Keith Desormeaux trainee. Last time out, he took a solid maiden special weight field gate to wire at Churchill Downs, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. If he continues to improve, then he could upset at a decent price.
#11 Dyn O Mite – He broke his maiden on the turf at Golden Gate 2 starts back, then won an off-turf allowance over this track last time out. This is a tougher challenge, though, so we’ll take a wait-and-see approach with him.
#5 Regular Guy – It took this horse a while to break his maiden, but he did it impressively and in his first try going this same 1 1/16-mile distance. He could be developing well, but this seems like too much, too soon for him.
#6 Game Day Plan – He was victorious in the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park last time out after running poorly in the Kip Deville Stakes. It was a nice bounce-back effort, but this is the toughest field that he’s ever faced.
#8 Red N Wild – This colt had a nice season at Remington Park, capped off with a third-place effort in the Remington Park Springboard Mile last time out. However, he wasn’t close to the winner in that race, and the waters only get deeper here.
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