It is now less than 10 days until Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Jan. 18 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots but at this early juncture the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, showcase race of that gala afternoon, is looking like it may end up as a duel of wills between Brereton Jones’s Albano and Winchell Thoroughbreds’Gold Hawk.
That’s not to say it will be a two-horse race, but it is to say that
those two newly-turned sophomores each have eye-opening races over the
local course and both are on schedule for the $200,000 Lecomte at one
mile and 70 yards on the third Saturday in January. For the benefit of
the more uninitiated Fair Grounds fans, the Lecomte serves as the first
step on the road that will conclude with the 100th renewal of the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 29.
Albano, trained by Larry Jones, broke his maiden here Nov.24 and came back to take down winning honors on Santa Super Saturday Dec. 21 when
he drew off by 1 ¼ lengths in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes at six
furlongs. The Lecomte would be the Istan colt’s first effort around two
“He worked Monday (going five furlongs in 1:03.40) and we were
pleased with that,” said Jones Thursday morning during training hours.
“He came out fine from that work the other day and we’ll work him again
this Monday (Jan. 13).”
Gold Hawk broke his maiden at first asking Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs
but was very impressive here in his local bow around two turns when he
tallied by 3 ½ lengths on Dec. 27.
“What really impressed me about this horse is the way he was stretching out at the end of that last race,” said Ricardo Santana Jr., the jockey aboard Gold Hawk in both his starts. “He really wanted to go longer.”
A third 3-year-old with a particularly impressive New Orleans debut this season is JMJ Racing Stable’s Unknown Road, but
that son of Preakness winner Bernardini who broke his maiden by 11 ¾
lengths Dec. 19 in the waning days of his juvenile campaign is being
preferred for a first level allowance race in lieu of the Lecomte.
“What’s the rush?” said trainer Al Stall Jr. when
asked about Unknown Road going in the Lecomte. “There’s no point in
running him in that spot just yet unless an easier race doesn’t
Others with definite designs on the Lecomte include trainer Danny Pish, who plans to send Dennis Foster’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf contestant Got Shades as well as Cesar Parra’s Rainbow Trip from his Retama base of operations in central Texas.
“It’s hard to find races going two turns on the main track in this
part of the country,” said Pish, “which is why Got Shades has only run
on the grass so far. But this is a horse who wants to go long. He’s
had some nice works on the main track out here (most recently five
furlongs in 59.60 Jan 3 at Retama) and I don’t see any reason he won’t
be able to run on the main track.
“The other horse (Rainbow Trip) just continues to improve and I
figure he deserves this chance against this kind of competition,” said
Pish. “He had a nice race going seven furlongs on the main track at
Louisiana Downs and he’s gotten a lot better since then. Both horses
are leaving here (Retama) for New Orleans (Friday) morning.”
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Vicar’s in Trouble, a Mike Maker-trained Louisiana-bred who broke his maiden with a 13-length romp in state-bred company here on Louisiana Champions Day Dec. 14 also appears headed for the Lecomte after working five furlongs in 1:01.60 last Saturday.
Michelle Brown’s Roman Unbridled, not an early-bird nomination to the Louisiana Derby but a Lecomte nomination by last Saturday’s deadline, is trained by Chad Cook and appears headed for this first leg of Fair Grounds sophomore series.