Trainer Neil Howard had indicated that Gaillardia Racing’s
Wilkinson may have been a
little flat when he finished third in his last race at Fair Grounds on
New Year’s Day, but the sophomore son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner
Lemon Drop Kid was sharp as a sword Saturday afternoon
at the New Orleans oval when he captured the Grade III Lecomte Stakes by a head from the game pacesetter
Pants On Fire, Aqueduct’s Count Fleet Stakes winner owned by George and Lori Hill.
Garrett Gomez, Wilkinson
was allowed to settle early along the inside, responded to the urgings
of 2009’s Eclipse Award-winning jockey in the late stages while still
along the rail and got up in the last strides
in the highlight of Fair Grounds’ Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone.
Fair Grounds three-race sophomore series will continue with the
Grade II Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 19 and conclude with the 98th running of the $1 million
Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 26.
think all of us with these 3-year-olds are thinking about those races,”
said Howard in the winner’s circle after Wilkinson’s score when asked
about the rest of the local series. “If the colt keeps doing well I am
sure we would like to (go on to the Louisiana Derby). I’d say we are
pointing to it but I will talk to Mr. Gaylord (owner of Gaillardia
Racing) and we’ll figure out what we want to do.”
toured the mile and 40-yard distance of the Lecomte in 1:40.97,
increased his career earnings to $105,490 with his second win in five
lifetime starts and returned mutuels of $8, $3.40 and $4.60 as the
third choice of the fans.
still learning how to run but he pays attention,” said Gomez. “Neil
just told me to have confidence in this horse so I did.”
On Fire was gallant in defeat, establishing early fractions of 24.82
and 48.94 and finishing five lengths in front of third-place runner
Action Ready, owned by Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch.
“Honestly, I take my hat off to (Wilkinson),” said Pants On Fire’s jockey
Joe Bravo. “That was a lot of effort. My horse was there and he ran hard. It was a great horse race.”
Pants On Fire paid $3.20 and $4.80 and Action Ready returned $6.20 to show. Even-money favorite
Justin Phillip, owned by Zayat Stables, bobbled at the break, was somewhat rank during the running and faded at the top of the stretch.