Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
The Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds in New Orleans features a field of nine 2014 Kentucky Derby hopefuls vying for the first Derby Points being offered this year down on the bayou. The group is headed by Gold Hawk for Steve Asmussen and I believe he is a legit and deserving favorite. You never know this time of year though, newly turned 3 year olds have a tendency to jump up and improve out of nowhere. I believe there are a few candidates in here that may improve in such a manner. Let’s dig into this thing. Here is my opinion on the pace, and a look at the players…
Pace – I expect there will be no free rides up front today. I see Roman Unbridled, Albano, and Vicar’s In Trouble all up close vying for the lead, while Smarty’s Echo pressing closely behind those three. I expect this to be won from off the pace by a presser or stalker.
1 – Roman Unbridled – I view this colt as a pace factor only. He got a real easy lead in his last in the Big Drama Stakes at Delta Downs and crushed that field. I do not see him getting the same trip today, especially with a pair of sprinters stretching out. He does own a win on dirt, around two turns, which not a lot of his foes can bolster. I just think with today’s pace scenario and no work on the tab since his last race, I will have to pass on him today.
2 – Rainbow Trip – This gelding owns two wins from seven starts, both of them on soft turf. I am going to pass on this one. He does have some dirt experience, with his best finish being a third in a 5 ½ furlong maiden dash at Louisiana Downs. I will use him underneath only. He might be able to round out a Tri or Super at a nice price.
3 – Got Shades – This one is kind of tricky. He drops out of the Grade 1 BC Juvenile Turf and makes his first start on dirt. He gets the services of Robby Albarado and has been working nicely for this. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if he won, but I will side against him since he’s never raced on the main. I will limit his use underneath in exotics.
4 – Gold Hawk – I really liked his last win. He stalked an average pace then took command in the lane. He owns a win over this strip at today’s distance. He is a very logical and legit favorite in my opinion. He is two for two lifetime and I believe he has an excellent chance for the hat trick. He should get a nice trip behind the pace, which I think will be contested. I expect him to run big and I assume he will be finishing strongly in lane. He is a strong win candidate in my eyes.
5 - Smarty’s Echo – I found this guy to be pretty interesting. He comes into this off of a layoff and is dropping out of the Grade 1 BC Juvenile. In that race, he had some trouble and never really had a shot. He adds blinkers for this and has been working really well for his 2014 bow. I thought his second place finish in the Grade 1 Breeder’s Futurity at Keeneland was pretty nice. He had a tough post that day, was steadied early, and he also had a wide trip. I know that was on polytrack and his only dirt start was poor, albeit with a troubled trip in a high class race. If he takes to the dirt like his works suggest, he has an upset chance in my opinion. He is a contender in my eyes.
6 – Albano – I am going to have to pass on this one simply for the fact this is his first route and I am not so sure he will take to it. I also do not think the pace will be in his favor this afternoon either. He could win, I would not be shocked at all, but he is not for me. He is two for two at the Fair Grounds and I do respect Larry Jones, but I will let him beat me today.
7 – Vicar’s In Trouble – This one is another tricky call. If you watch the replay in his last he was definitely visually impressive. Rosie popped him once with the stick and he absolutely took off in the lane. He looked like he got a turbo boost or something. It was very impressive to the eye. But, and it’s a big but, that was on an off track verse state-bred maidens. Did he just like the off going ground against lesser foes, or is he really that legit? I am siding against today, but I must admit I will be a little bit nervous. Another thing that makes me a little uneasy about siding against is that Rosie Napravnik opted to stay here. She rode two others in here and decided to stay put on this guy. Ultimately though, the fact that this is his first time verse winners, routing, and on dry dirt lead me to side against. I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if he pulled this out though.
8 – Silent Ruler – I am against this maiden. I won’t go into too much detail here, I just cannot endorse on the win end. I do think he has a slim chance to round out the Tri or Super, however. But to win, I would be totally shocked.
9 – Plug Catcher – This Bret Calhoun charge ran well enough in his last start while racing wide. He did flatten out in the lane, but that could have been because of said wide trip. He ran into Gold Hawk that day so it might not have mattered anyway if he had a better trip. He takes the blinkers off for this and gets a jockey switch to Miguel Mena. He may improve second off the layoff, but I still think he is a cut below. In my opinion, he has a small shot on the win end, but I will limit his use underneath.
The Play – If I were playing the multi-race exotics I think you could pretty confidently single Gold Hawk. If he steps forward, which he very well could, he is going to be very tough to beat. To spice things up, I would maybe throw in Smarty’s Echo if I could afford it. Intra race, I will play an exacta keying off Gold Hawk and Smarty’s Echo on top, with those two and Vicar’s In Trouble, and Plug Catcher.
As always, I hope I helped you guys sure up your own opinion or turned you onto something you may not have thought of. I wish you the best of Luck in The LeComte, and on the 2014 Kentucky Derby Trail in general. Have a winning day, folks.