Fair Grounds’ “Road to the Derby”
series gets underway this weekend in New Orleans when Sugar Bowl Stakes winner Cool
Bullet and local buzz horse Maximus Ruler get their stiffest tests
to date – facing two stakes winners based on the East Coast as well as seven
others in the Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes.
As the first local Grade II Louisiana
Derby prep, the $100,000 Lecomte is the centerpiece event among six stakes
races Saturday. However, also highlighted is the Grade III Col. E. R.
Bradley for older horses on the Stall-Wilson turf course, the $75,000 Louisiana
Handicap for older horses on the main track, and the $75,000 Tiffany
Lass Stakes for 3-year-old fillies as the initial leg of the series that
leads to the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks. Two $75,000 sprint stakes, the Gaudin
Memorial on the main track and the Dr. Leggio Memorial on the
grass, complete the stakes portion of the 13-race program.
Nevertheless, it is the 3-year-olds that
are the stars of the show leading up to the $750,000 Louisiana Derby March 27
and the Kentucky Derby five weeks later. The Lecomte precedes Fair
Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes Feb. 20, which in turn previews the
richest running of the Louisiana Derby ever scheduled.
Priscilla Graham’s Turf Melody,
trained by Graham Motion, shipped from his Maryland
headquarters to capture Remington’s $200,000 Springboard Mile in his last start
Dec. 13 and has been installed as the tepid 7-2 morning line choice in the
Lecomte. The son of Maria’s Mon also boasts third-place finishes in Woodbine’s
$150,000 Swynford and Arlington’s
$50,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes last year. Jose Valdivia Jr. is named to
ride Turf Melody, who breezed five furlongs in 1:02 at Maryland’s
Fair Hill training center Jan. 15.
Don Benge’s Maximus Ruler, who broke his
maiden against winners in his last start Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs, breezed
five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Fair Grounds in December and has been the buzz of
the backstretch ever since. The Roman Ruler colt is the 4-1 second choice in
the morning line for trainer Clark Hanna with Francisco Torres
slated for the saddle.
Winmore LLC’s Cool Bullet, undefeated in
two starts for trainer Steve Margolis at Fair Grounds this season, won
the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes in his last start Dec. 19 and is the co-third
choice at 5-1 in the Lecomte morning line with Brian Hernandez Jr. in
Also pegged at 5-1 in the Lecomte is Jay
Em Ess Stable’s Worldly, second by a length behind Risen Star candidate Stay
Put in his local bow Jan. 3. Worldly, trained by Paul McGee and a
son 1992 Belmont Stakes winner A. P. Indy, was third in Churchill’s Grade II
Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 28 and will be ridden by Robby Albarado.
Citrus Kid, winner of Delaware’s
$75,000 Dover Stakes and third in Aqueduct’s Grade II Remsen in his last start
Nov. 28, is owned by Golden Goose Enterprises et al., trained by John
Terranova II and will be ridden by Miguel Mena Saturday after
working one more time at South Florida’s Palm Meadows Tuesday before shipping
to New Orleans. The Lemon Drop Kid colt is 8-1 on the morning line.
Completing the Lecomte field is Third
Street Partners Depaul, Shane Sellers, 20-1; Gary
and Mary West Stables’ Callide
Valley, Corey Lanerie,
10-1; Richard Hessee’s B’wanagoldmine, Eddie Martin Jr., 15-1; Bob
Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Letsgetitonmon, Shaun Bridgmohan, 10-1; Stacey
Moak’s Rock Hard, Jamie Theriot, 30-1; and Jack Hammer’s Ron the
Greek, James Graham, 8-1.