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Lecomte Stakes News and Notes

Fair Grounds Race Course
Photo: CDI

Citrus Kid, a regally-bred 3-year-old prospect scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning for Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, worked five furlongs handily in 1:00.85 at South Florida’s Palm Meadows training center Tuesday morning before leaving for New Orleans later in the day to participate in the local Road to the Derby program.


Citrus Kid is a sophomore son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, and one of two East Coast-based invaders for Saturday’s $100,000 Lecomte, the first leg of Fair Grounds’ three-race sophomore series that concludes with the March 27 Grade II Louisiana Derby.


“He went very easy this morning,” said trainer John Terranova II, speaking over the phone from South Florida shortly after the Tuesday morning move. “He’s doing great all winter and will be leaving tonight for New Orleans and will be stabled in (trainer) Al Stall Jr.’s barn. 


“He will be accompanied by my assistant Reynaldo Abreu, who joined our stable in December,” Terranova said. “Reynaldo was a longtime assistant to (Hall of Fame trainer) Nick Zito, and then went out on his own to train some horses for Mary Lou Whitney. I may or may not make it to Fair Grounds this weekend depending on a couple of things that are going on back here. I’ve never been to Fair Grounds, and I was looking forward to it. There’s still some chance I can be there this weekend.


“This is a big raw colt who is still developing,” said Terranova of Citrus Kid, who won last October’s $75,000 Dover Stakes at Delaware Park and then finished third in Aqueduct’s Grade II Remsen in his most recent trip to the post Nov. 28. 


“He’s ready to run right now after his two bullet breezes down here, and we wanted to keep giving him experience around two turns,” Terranova said. “That’s why we didn’t keep him down here in South Florida. The Lecomte fits his schedule perfectly. He’s been training beautifully, looking better and better each time.”


Citrus Kid is owned by Golden Goose Enterprises, James Covello, Mike Imperio and Nick Sallusto.


“Nick is the guy who purchased the colt for us,” Terranova said. “Mike Imperio is an old friend of mine. My father was involved in horse racing and had horses with Dominic Imperio – Mike’s father.”


Terranova, 39, was born in Syosset, New York and still resides there He saddled Shadow Caster to win the Grade II Forego Handicap at Saratoga at odds of 50-1, and in 2000 saddled Gander to finish second in Belmont’s Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup and third in the Grade I Woodward Stakes.


Maximus Ruler Drills Half-Mile in :48 2/5

Don Benge’s Maximus Ruler, the morning line 4-1 second choice for Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes, drilled four furlongs in :48 2/5 on Tuesday morning with Francisco Torres up.


“I was happy and Cisco was happy,” trainer Clark Hanna reported shortly after the work. “Seemed like he had a ton of horse left and did it in a fashionable time. He cooled out well, didn’t drink much water. A lot of things can change, even from now until Saturday, but for right now all is well.”


The breeze was tied for fourth-fastest of 43 half-mile works at Fair Grounds on Tuesday. Hanna likes what he has seen from Maximus Ruler in recent weeks and expects a good effort in the featured event on Fair Grounds’ Road to the Derby Kickoff Day with six stakes on a 13-race card with an early first post of 12:10 p.m.


“I think he’ll break good and it’ll be up to Cisco from there,” Hanna said. “I don’t think he’ll be on the lead. I hope he’ll show some tactical speed and rate like he has in his two previous races. He’s so big, he’s not going to be a go-getter coming out; I just hope he’ll relax and have something to finish with.”


The presence of Torres aboard Maximus Ruler on Saturday is especially significant, seeing as the jockey also rode 5-1 morning line co-third choice Worldly in the A.P. Indy colt’s last three starts.


“That horse has graded money earned and was third to a serious Derby contender, Super Saver, so yes, I’m happy that Cisco’s sticking with us,” Hanna said.


Maximus Ruler, who broke his maiden in a first-level allowance at Churchill Downs in November, could be the best horse Hanna has ever trained. A native of McKendree, Ill., Hanna started working on the backside for trainer Carl Delcambre as a teenager and has been in the sport full-time in various capacities since 1985.


“My operation has always been kind of small,” Hanna said. “He’s the best horse that I’ve been around in a long time.”


Hanna currently has 17 horses stabled at Fair Grounds and will be seeking his first win of the season on Saturday. His only career stakes winner is Wise River, the 7-year-old Grade III winner who hit the board in two Fair Grounds turf stakes last season and finished sixth in the Dec. 26 Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap. Wise River also is owned by Benge, a Waxahachie, Texas, resident retired from the steel fabrication business.


“I talk to Mr. Benge three or four times per day, and it’s always been like that,” Hanna said of his primary owner. “He’s more than a client. He had one horse with Jeff Jacobs when I worked for Jeff and when I went on my own I had his number and I decided to call him and ask about going into a partnership on a horse. That’s what started the whole thing.”


Ten years later, Hanna and Benge are heading down the Road to the Derby.


“I don’t feel that we have to win [in order to continue on to the Feb. 20 Risen Star],” Hanna said. “We’re looking at it one hurdle at a time. Let’s see how he runs this race and then we’ll take it from there.”


Worldly Readies for Lecomte with Easy Final Breeze

Jay Em Ess Stable’s Worldly completed his preparations for Saturday’s Lecomte on Monday by breezing an easy four-furlongs in :51 1/5 with new jockey Robby Albarado up.


“Robby was on him and he was real pleased with him,” trainer Paul McGee said. “He’s coming back off three weeks’ rest so I told Robby just to go an easy half and that’s just what he did. I’m pleased with the way the horse is doing and Robby felt he breezed well so I feel like we’re all set.”


Worldy, by A.P. Indy out of Urbane, is a full brother to Suave, a multiple graded stakes winner with more than $1.3 million in earnings. Suave’s biggest victories came in long-distance routes, like the 1 ¼-mile Grade II Saratoga Breeders’ Cup Handicap in 2005 and the 1 3/16-mile Washington Park Handicap in 2006.


“We think he’s a stakes-caliber horse,” McGee said of Wordly, who earned black type in his only stakes try, November’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. “He’s a quality horse—he showed that when he was third in the graded stake at Churchill and I think he showed it breaking his maiden. We’ll stick him in there and see what happens.”


Worldly finished second in his last start, a two-turn entry-level allowance at Fair Grounds on Jan. 3 won by Stay Put, a colt that Worldly had beaten previously in his maiden score.


Worldly can be seen on the track most mornings “early, between 6-7 a.m.,” McGee said.


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