Saturday’s $200,000 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds will be run under the lights, which shouldn’t bother presumptive favorite Instant Coffee. The Brad Cox-trained colt proved a popular winner in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), held after sunset at Churchill Downs Nov. 26, and will look to earn his second Kentucky Derby (G1) prep win in the Lecomte.
The 1 1/16-mile Lecomte, which has attracted a field of eight, caps a marathon 14-race program at 7:30 p.m. ET. Derby qualifying points of 20-8-6-4-2 will be awarded to the top five finishers.
The Kentucky Jockey Club, which Instant Coffee won by 1 1/4 lengths at approximate odds of 3-2, was his second win in three starts. The son of Bolt d’Oro’s lone setback to date occurred in his stakes debut, the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, but that proved a tough spot as division leader Forte and the Cox-trained Loggins finished seven lengths clear of Instant Coffee.
Cox could also be represented in the Lecomte by Tapit’s Conquest, who was last seen winning a Churchill Downs maiden by more than three lengths on Oct. 1. However, that colt was also cross-entered in an allowance earlier on Saturday’s card, which also features Godolphin’s promising colt Banishing.
Echo Again, highly impressive winning on debut at Saratoga last summer, has underwhelmed in two subsequent stakes appearances. A tiring seventh as the odds-on choice in the Iroquois (G3) in September, the Steve Asmussen charge next faded to third in the Remington Springboard Mile to close out his juvenile campaign.
Two Phil’s relished the slop when taking the Street Sense (G3) by more than five lengths on Oct. 30, while Denington adds blinkers after running fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club and a distant third in the Smarty Jones S. on New Year’s Day. Confidence Game was last seen taking an allowance on Churchill’s Stars of Tomorrow II card for Keith Desormeaux, who saddled Call Me Midnight to an upset score in the 2022 Lecomte.
A pair of Paulo Lobo trainees round out the field. Bromley stretches out after two sprint wins in Kentucky, the latter over Turfway Park’s Tapeta surface, while maiden winner Itzos is a Bolt d’Oro half-brother to 2009 Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame filly Rachel Alexandra.
The $150,000 Silverbulletday S., the filly counterpart to the Lecomte, has attracted a field of seven, led by the Cox-trained Chop Chop. The City of Light miss ran so well in the Alcibiades (G1) last October, missing by a nose to Wonder Wheel, that she was favored to reverse form with that rival in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). In the event, Wonder Wheel dominated that championship event by three lengths, while Chop Chop never factored and trailed the field of 13.
“In that race, she went wide throughout and didn’t get a favorable trip,” Cox said. “It’s tough to win when you’re not in position turning for home going one mile and a sixteenth at Keeneland.
“We backed off a little bit after the Breeders’ Cup but she never left the barn. Her works have been phenomenal, so I think she’s ready to run a big race.”
In addition to Chop Chop, Cox also saddles The Alys Look, a clear but distant second to Pretty Mischievous in the Dec. 26 Untapable S. The limited amount of speed in the Silverbulletday might help Hayunevano improve on her fourth-place run in the Untapable, while second-time starter Forest Chimes looms a threat off of a 7 1/2-length debut win on New Year’s eve for trainer Jason Barkley.
Contested at one mile and 70 yards, the Silverbulletday offers Kentucky Oaks (G1) qualifying points of 20-8-6-4-2 to the respective top five finishers.