Photo by NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand
The first Kentucky Derby prep race of the season in Louisiana will be held on January 16th, that being the $200,000 LeComte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds.
The one-mile and seventy-yard race, which offers a total of 17 qualification points to the top four finishers, has drawn an overflow field of fifteen up-and-coming Derby contenders. As a result, the race promises to be an excellent early indicator of the quality of the three-year-olds at Fair Grounds, in addition to being a top-notch betting race.
In terms of reputation, the best-known runners in the race are Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready, who finished 1-2 in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 1st. Both colts returned to run in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II), in which Mo Tom finished third and Tom’s Ready eighth, and while Mo Tom has been resting since then, Tom’s Ready came back to finish a close second in an allowance race at Fair Grounds last month.
However, due to the conditions of the race, it’s possible that Tom’s Ready may not get to run. Since both Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready are owned by G M B Racing, Tom’s Ready has been made the also-eligible among the fifteen entries and will only be able to start in the event that there is a scratch.
Trainer Mike Stidham will send out two starters in the LeComte, including Pinnacle Peak, who won the allowance race in which Tom’s Ready finished second. Stidham’s second starter, Noble Thought, won a maiden race at Fair Grounds on December 4th.
Another trainer with two runners is Joe Sharp, who is just getting started in his third year of training. His most prominent runner is Dolphus, who broke his maiden at Fair Grounds with an impressive late run before finished third in Pinnacle Peak’s allowance race. A half-brother to 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, Dolphus will be joined in the LeComte by stablemate Tiznoble, who won a Fair Grounds allowance race by a head on December 28th.
Destin, runner-up in an allowance race at Gulfstream last month, will represent the powerful Todd Pletcher stable. Steve Asmussen, another trainer with a large group of Derby contenders, will send out Battle Tap, who finished fifth in the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes last time out. D. Wayne Lukas, who has won four Kentucky Derbies and fourteen Triple Crown races overall, trains Zayat Stables’ Z Royal, who broke his maiden at Churchill Downs on November 14th.
The complete field for the LeComte Stakes is as follows:
LeComte Stakes (gr. III)
PP – Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1 – Riding in the Wind, J. Vargas, J. Lopez
2 – Fish Trappe Road, Robby Albarado, Bret Calhoun
3 – Uncle Walter, Miguel Mena, Mike Maker
4 – Z Royal, Victor Espinoza, D. Wayne Lukas
5 – Dolphus, Brian Hernandez Jr., Joe Sharp
6 – Noble Thought, Colby Hernandez, Mike Stidham
7 – Mo Tom, Corey Lanerie, Tom Amoss
8 – Battle Tap, Patrick Valenzuela, Steve Asmussen
9 – Indygo Breeze, M. Murrill, J. Haran
10 – Pinnacle Peak, Florent Geroux, Mike Stidham
11 – Tiznoble, Jose Valdivia Jr., Joe Sharp
12 – Mending Fences, Richard Eramia, D. Pish
13 – Destin, Julien Leparoux, Todd Pletcher
14 – Tarpon Bay Road, James Graham, J. Baker
AE – Tom’s Ready, Shaun Bridgmohan, Dallas Stewart
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to sign up for email newsletters and special offers from The Turf Board!