Head to head: Handicapping the 2021 Lecomte Stakes

Head to head: Handicapping the 2021 Lecomte Stakes
Photo: Ryan Thompson/Gulfstream Park

The Fair Grounds opens the gates Saturday on the first leg of three prep races for the 2021 Kentucky Derby with the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes. Eleven 3-year-olds will contest the distance of 1 1/16 miles. The top four finishers will earn Derby qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

Track bias: The last six Lecomte Stakes were won by horses who sat in third place or farther back at the second call.

Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast sort out the contenders from the pretenders. 

ASHLEY

LAURIE

1. MIDNIGHT BOURBON

Already a black-type runner, Midnight Bourbon just needs to break through for that first graded win. So far he has not been out of the money in graded company, however, he also has not posed a big threat either. I think we will see this one develop given some time. Use in exotics.

Midnight Bourbon meets softer company after facing the swift Jackie’s Warrior and Sittin On Go. The half-brother to Grade 1 winner Girvin and Grade 3 winners Cocked and Loaded and Pirate’s Punch is bred to go long and to progress with age. Steve Asmussen hasn’t seen the winner’s circle of the Lecomte since 2008. This is a good starting point for Midnight Bourbon, who must show improvement to be a win contender.

2. ARABIAN PRINCE

Arabian Prince strikes me as a one-paced, grinder type. That run style does him no favors now, but later on down the road when the distances get longer, he could make some real noise. For now, I expect that he could pick up a minor award, but unless there’s a complete pace meltdown, don’t look for him in the winner’s circle.

Arabian Prince’s Brisnet speed figures advanced in each of his three starts. He was stuck in traffic for much of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) but kept plugging away and got up for third place. The Dallas Stewart trainee is one-paced but can be counted upon to mow down tired runners in the stretch. Three of the last six Lecomte winners placed third or fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. By second-crop sire Mshawish (Medaglia d'Oro) out of a daughter of Malibu Moon, Arabian Prince should improve with distance and maturity.

3. BEEP BEEP

A debut winner for owner/breeder Marylou Whitney Stables, Beep Beep has not yet raced going two turns. Sire Tapizar was best up to a mile, while his dam Speedy Bird appears to come from speed as well. It is possible Beep Beep can stretch it out here, but when the distances get longer, it may be best to go for the sprints rather than the Derby trail.

The cleverly named Beep Beep easily bested a group of maidens traveling seven furlongs in his debut, but what did he beat? The second through fourth runners haven’t returned, so it’s anyone’s guess. He eyeballed and put away the second-place finisher in the stretch, so that is a good sign, and the son of Tapizar earned a middling 83 speed figure. With second-time starters, Norm Casse wins at a 21-percent clip and finishes in the money 36 percent of the time.

4. PROXY

A homebred for Godolphin, Proxy is riding a two-race win streak, with both victories coming over the Fair Grounds main track. Speed figures leave some to be desired, but I do like experience over the given track. The pedigree suggests talent, as does this colt’s precociousness. A must include.

Proxy is a neck shy of an unbeaten record. In his last start, Proxy faced only three rivals. The Michael Stidham trainee was green but game, swerving away from the whip and into competitors and racing down the stretch on his left lead. The bay son of Tapit is a half-brother to Grade 1-placed turf router Micheline and is a son of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Panty Raid. Proxy has been winning on talent alone, and we haven’t seen his best. Lots of promise here, and if he can keep it together, he could surprise. 

5. REGULAR GUY

A half-brother to Carpe Diem, Regular Guy did not appear to appreciate the Saratoga track at all. Switching to a new locale earned him a good second at Churchill Downs followed by a victory at Fair Grounds. The pedigree says “it” is there, but I need more than one win for proof. Maybe.

It took four attempts for Regular Guy to find the winner’s circle. Stretching to 1 1/16 miles was the key. A half-brother to Grade 1  winners Carpe Diem and J. B.’s Thunder and multiple Grade 2 winner Farrell, Regular Guy could be improving at the right time. His speed figures are slow, but perhaps the lightbulb has come on, and he can grab a minor award. 

6. GAME DAY PLAY

This son of Violence owns the fastest speed figure in the field, but I trust it about as far as I can throw it due to it coming at Lone Star. Game Day Play earned a black type win last year, but that came at Remington. There are so many question marks here that I have to pass.

Winner of the Clever Trevor Stakes in his last outing, Game Day Play has a good/bad cycle developing. The son of Violence out of a stakes-winning sprinter has a sprinter/miler pedigree, and he will face his first two-turn test. The Bret Calhoun trainee’s closing kick earned him a 92 late-pace speed figure, the second-highest in the field. Another plus is that Game Day Play worked a pre-race bullet five furlongs.

7. SANTA CRUISER

Though never off the board, Santa Cruiser has only gotten better as the distances got longer, with a trio of starts ending in a first win when going a mile. Regular rider James Graham stays aboard this front-runner.

Santa Cruiser finished 4 1/2-lengths behind our likely 2020 2-year-old champ Essential Quality in their debuts. However, Santa Cruiser had a good excuse, breaking slow, bottled up until late stretch, and bumping with other rivals. Once in the clear, he gained on the second-place finisher, missing by a half-length. The Keith Desormeaux trainee switched to front-running tactics last out and repelled a couple of bids by Regular Guy. Santa Cruiser’s second dam is a half-sister to Travers (G1) hero Colonel John. By Dialed In, Santa Cruiser should love the extra distance and is a win contender.   

8.  RED N WILD

Like Game Day Play, Red N Wild hails from the southern midwestern states. His speed figures have been more consistent overall but lacks the standout race that his fellow competitor had. Aside from in his two wins, this colt has not been well bet either. Pass.

Red N Wild has been facing lesser company at Remington with mixed success. A winner of two from six starts, he missed by a head to Game Day Play in the Clever Trevor Stakes. The Terry Eoff trainee’s speed figures are on the low side, and he’ll have to bring his A-game to be a contender.

9. MANOR HOUSE

Speedy Manor House drilled his competition to the tune of 12 lengths in his one and only race. His on-the-lead style might be hindered by drawing post nine in the field of eleven. The move from Laurel Park to Fair Grounds will test his mettle competition-wise.

Manor House was a flashy 12-length winner in his debut a Laurel in a one-mile maiden event, and he earned an 85 speed figure. Since then, he has recorded two top-10 works at the Fair Grounds. The son of Upstart should enjoy the extra distance. Michael Stidham has a 23-percent win and 49-percent in-the-money rate with second-time starters.

10. MANDALOUN

Undefeated thus far, Mandaloun will be looking to add to the legacy of the late Prince Khalid bin Abdullah and Juddmonte Farms. Regular jockey Florent Geroux has retained the mount despite having options, telling me all I need to know.

By Into Mischief out of an Irish Group winner by Empire Maker, this Brad Cox trainee could make headlines on the Derby trail. Despite his stellar turf pedigree, Mandaloun is ready for his class test after succeeding against maiden and allowance types on the main track.

11. DYN O MITE

It took him a little bit to figure out, but once Dyn O Mite found the winner’s circle, he found it twice in a row on two different surfaces. However, his final times, of which he was part of the pace, were pedestrian. Colby Hernandez, who has the call for the first time, should not expect those types of splits here. With the far outside post, I’ll pass.

It took Dyn O Mite six starts to blast his way to the winner’s circle in a turf event at Golden Gate. After his initial win, he gained confidence and beat winners at the Fair Grounds in an off-the-turf allowance. His speed figures are at the lower end, and I do not see him as a factor. 

Final Thoughts

Laurie: Favorites have won or placed in four of the last five editions of the LeComte. Mandaloun has the window of opportunity here. He is one of the best bred, conditioned by one of the leading trainers, and the one to beat – which I will try to do with Proxy, the quirky son of Tapit. Why? Mandaloun knows how to win, yet he has had to work hard in both starts, while Proxy is winning easily on class. Santa Cruiser has plenty of upside and should not be ignored.

Ashley: For me, this is quite a mediocre field. Laurie is absolutely correct in the Mandaloun is the one to beat. As dull as it sounds, I will also be trying to beat the likely heavy favorite with Proxy, mostly because I love his easy wins on this very track. 

SELECTIONS

Ashley

Laurie 

#4 Proxy (6-1)

#4 Proxy (6-1)

#10 Mandaloun (3-1)

#10 Mandaloun (3-1)

#7 Santa Cruiser (6-1)

#7 Santa Cruiser (6-1)

#5 Regular Guy (10-1)

#1 Midnight Bourbon (7-2)



Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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