Ivan Dalos’s Avie’s Quality
and Travis Morgeson V’s Circle Unbroken
, each with two clear-cut victories in their young careers, may vie for favoritism when they face each other and seven others in Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes on Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
As the first local prep for this year’s 100th anniversary edition of the $1 million Grade II Louisiana Derby March 30 and, hopefully, a subsequent Triple Crown campaign, the $200,000 Lecomte at a mile and 70 yards is the centerpiece event among three stakes slated for Saturday’s expanded 13-race Road to the Derby program. First post is 12:30 p.m. General Admission is $5 and Clubhouse Admission is $10.
Avie’s Quality, who tallied by 1 1/4-lengths in his last start Dec. 1 in Woodbine’s $150,000 Display Stakes, has been installed as the slight 5-2 choice and will be ridden by Fair Grounds’ two-time defending jockey champion Rosie Napravnik. Josie Carroll trains the Elusive Quality colt.
Circle Unbroken, who breezed a bullet five furlongs in 59.40 at Fair Grounds last Sunday and won the Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs last June, has been pegged as the 7-2 second choice in the early Lecomte line. Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame jockey Mark Guidry is slated for the saddle on the Garry Simms trainee.
Expected to provide strong competition for the top two are Mary Grum’s Malibu High
, undefeated in two starts including one that came at Fair Grounds Dec. 28, and Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul
, who broke his maiden with an eye-opening 7 1/4-length tally on Dec. 30 at the local oval. Miguel Mena gets the mount on Malibu High and Brian Hernandez Jr. rides Golden Soul. Both of those colts are the co-third choices at 5-1 in the early line.
Completing the Lecomte field with respective riders is Frank Irwin’s Fear the Kitten, Shaun Bridgmohan (8-1); Bluegrass Hall’s Oxbow, Jon Court (8-1); Rowell Enterprises’ Heitai, Richard Eramia (10-1); Matthew Bryan’s Ive Struck a Nerve, Kent Desormeaux (12-1); and Shadwell Stable’s Hawaakom, Leandro Goncalves (20-1).