Lecomte kicks off Fair Grounds' Road to the Kentucky Derby
|Avie's Quality will be making his U.S. debut in the Lecomte
(WEG/Michael Burns Photography)
Fair Grounds' Road to the Kentucky Derby will begin on Saturday when a field
of nine sophomores line up in the Grade 3, $200,000
going a mile and 70 yards over the Crescent City oval.
A number of contenders will be looking to solidify their status as Kentucky
Derby hopefuls, including Avie's Quality and Oxbow as well as maiden winners
Golden Soul and Malibu High.
Avie's Quality will be making his first start outside of Woodbine in the
Lecomte for trainer Josie Carroll. The Elusive Quality colt took three tries to
break his maiden, but finally got the job done on November 14 going 1 1/16 miles
on the Polytrack. He followed up that five-length victory with a 1 1/4-length
score in the Display, for which he earned a field-best 100 BRIS Speed rating,
and gets hot-riding Rosie Napravnik in the saddle for his Fair Grounds debut.
Oxbow broke his maiden at Churchill Downs on November 25, then shipped
cross-country to Hollywood Park for his stakes bow in the Grade 1 CashCall
Futurity. The D. Wayne Lukas pupil was a one-paced fourth in that 8 1/2-furlong
event at 60-1 and will need to show marked improvement if he hopes to be a
legitimate Derby horse. The bay son of Awesome Again will have Jon Court in the
Golden Soul just missed by a head in his career debut under the Twin Spires
in mid-November, but the Perfect Soul chestnut returned on December 30 at Fair
Grounds to romp by 7 1/4 lengths while going 1 1/16 miles for trainer Dallas
Stewart. He's posted just one work since then, speeding four furlongs in :48 2/5
on Sunday in preparation for his first stakes try in the Lecomte. Brian
Hernandez Jr. was aboard for Golden Soul's impressive maiden win and retains the
|Circle Unbroken will compete beyond six furlongs for the first time on Saturday
(Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography)
Malibu High brings a perfect two-for-two mark into the Lecomte but will have
a jockey switch to Miguel Mena after regular rider Calvin Borel was sidelined
with a broken left wrist earlier this month. The Cecil Borel-trained son of
Malibu Moon will also be stretching out past six furlongs for the first time in
Fear the Kitten was in the same situation as Malibu High when starting in the
Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club last out on November 24, making his stakes bow
while holding an unbeaten record. The Kitten's Joy bay was unable to keep his
mark perfect, rallying to be fifth in that 8 1/2-furlong contest, and will be
saddled by new trainer Mike Maker for the first time in the Lecomte.
Circle Unbroken, a Broken Vow three-year-old, just missed keeping his mark
perfect when a neck second in the Mountaineer Juvenile on August 4, and will be
returning off that six-furlong contest in this spot. The Garry Simma pupil
captured the Grade 3 Bashford Manor prior to his last one.
Ive Struck a Nerve and Heitai are the most experienced runners in the Lecomte.
The former has started seven times, including a runner-up effort in the Sugar
Bowl over the local dirt on December 22, while Heitai boasts a 2-2-2 mark from
six starts. He has been close in his past three stakes races against fellow
Hawaakom, a maiden winner over track and distance on December 15, completes
the Lecomte field.
Earlier on the card, eight older runners will go in the $100,000
Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, including last year's Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and
Grade 2 Risen Star runner-up Mark Valeski.
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