February 22, 2024

Pappacap heads nine-horse Lecomte; six fillies vie in Silverbulletday

Pappacap becomes Gun Runner's first graded winner in the Best Pal at Del Mar (Benoit Photo)

Lecomte S. (G3) — Race 14 (7:20 p.m. ET)

Pappacap, who entered the new year atop the Road to the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard, will look to maintain that position on Saturday when he faces eight rivals under the lights at Fair Grounds in the $200,000 Lecomte S. (G3).

The finale on a marathon 14-race card, the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte offers Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the respective top four finishers.

Pappacap convincingly won his first two starts, including the Best Pal (G2), but proved second best to Corniche in the American Pharoah (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in his final two starts of the season. With Corniche ineligible to accumulate Derby points from those two races, Pappacap’s tally of 12 was highest among all juveniles last season. Pappacap is trained by Mark Casse, who won the Lecomte in 2019 with War of Will and in 2020 with Enforceable.

Epicenter, who dominated the inaugural Gun Runner S. by 6 1/2 lengths last month, seeks to give owner Ron Winchell and trainer Steve Asmussen their second consecutive victory in the Lecomte. Midnight Bourbon, entered in the Louisiana S. (G3) earlier on Saturday’s card, scored for the team last year.

Others likely to attract some play are Trafalgar and Cyberknife, both of whom are making their stakes debuts. Trafalgar won an allowance in early December for trainer Al Stall, while the erratic Cyberknife earned a belated maiden victory on the Dec. 26 card and will add blinkers for the Lecomte.

The undefeated Unified Report returns to open company after beating Louisiana-bred stakes foes at Delta Downs and Fair Grounds in his last two starts, while Surfer Dude has improving to do after finishing a distant third in the Gun Runner. The field is rounded out by Presidential, a three-quarter brother to champion Classic Empire, Blue Kentucky, and Call Me Midnight.

Silverbulletday S. — Race 11 (5:52 p.m. ET)

Six Kentucky Oaks (G1) prospects will get their chance for points earlier in the card over one mile and 70 yards in the $150,000 Silverbulletday S.

Few in the field have much in the way of positive stakes experience. The lone exception is Fannie and Freddie, who was caught late by North County in the inaugural running of the Untapable S. last month, losing by a neck after building up a lead in the stretch.

Sweet as Pie finished fourth in her stakes debut, the Nov. 5 Tempted S. at Belmont Park, but has the pedigree to potentially improve. By Tapit, she descends from the blue hen Better Than Honour, the dam of 2007 Kentucky Oaks and Belmont S. (G1) winner Rags to Riches. Sweet as Pie’s fourth dam was Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride.

Finishing ahead of Sweet as Pie in the Tempted was fellow Todd Pletcher trainee Nest, who returned to win the Demoiselle (G2) over Tempted runner-up Magic Circle.

Another with an intriguing pedigree is La Crete, a Medaglia d’Oro half-sister to last year’s Rachel Alexandra (G2) winner Clairiere. La Crete won at first asking by 2 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs in November for owner-breeder Stonestreet Stables and trainer Steve Asmussen.

Also exiting an impressive maiden win, by 2 1/4 lengths at Fair Grounds on Dec. 20, is Bernabreezy, a daughter of the late Bernardini.

The Silverbulletday will award Oaks qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers, respectively.