Bluegrass Hall’s Oxbow
, conditioned by D. Wayne Lukas, put that Hall of Fame trainer solidly into the Kentucky Derby picture once again this year with a dominant 11 1/2-length victory in the Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds during Saturday’s Road to the Derby Kickoff Day program at the Crescent City oval.
“You like to see a horse handle the situation that you put him in,” said Lukas, speaking over the phone from Oaklawn Park shortly after the Lecomte. “We took all the worst of it shipping in yesterday and taking on your local guys all coming out of their own stalls and having works over the racetrack. So we took all the worst of it today and still got along pretty good. Now we’re a little tighter and in a little better shape if we come back to the Risen Star.”
The Grade II Risen Star Stakes will be run at Fair Grounds on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 23, and the local series for 3-year-olds with designs on a Triple Crown campaign later in the spring will conclude with the 100th running of the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 30.
On Saturday, Oxbow broke in stride to contest the early pace under jockey Jon Court, carved out early fractions of 24.44 and 48.58, began to draw off after being set down for the drive and increased the margin significantly in the late stages.
“I actually thought I’d be one-two-three, but Wayne said don’t be surprised if you find yourself on the lead,” said Court. “He said to be relaxed and he wanted to see him happy with a smile on in the bit and he can win this race and that’s exactly how it turned out.”
Oxbow, a bay colt by Awesome Again, returned mutuels of $11.20, $6 and $4.60 as the third choice of the fans, toured the mile and 70 yard-distance in 1:43.30 and increased his career earnings to $217,500 with his second win in six lifetime starts.
Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul finished second, paying $5.60 and $3.80, while finishing third a length and a half farther back was Frank Irvin’s Fear the Kitten, who returned $4.20 to show.
The Lecomte is part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series, a 36-race series awarding points to the top four finishers in each race.
Point totals will be used to determine spots in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. The Lecomte is worth 17 points: 10 to the winner, four to the runner-up, two to the third- place finisher and one to the fourth-place runner.
Only Oxbow had previously earned points entering the Lecomte with one point for his fourth-place finish in the Grade I CashCall Futurity and now has 11-points total.