International Star and an Eagle landing in New Orleans

January 15, 2015 10:42pm
International Star wins 2014 Grey Stakes.
Photo: WEG/Michael Burns


Before we fast forward to the big one in the big easy, the $750,000 Louisiana Derby on March 28, a strong field of sophomores are ready to kick things off in the 71st running of the Lecomte Stakes (G3), the first of three qualification prep races from Fair Grounds. Some expectations at this stage of the three-year-old season are prevalent in this field of 11. We begin with one of the most obvious questions.  


Who’s On the Leaderboard?


We begin with horse that has scored the most, International Star, owned by Kenneth Ramsey and trained by Mike Maker. The son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus proved his potential in the Juvenile season. Following a pair of runner-up finishes in the Rockville Centre and With Anticipation Stakes, International Star made a 10 point splash his next time out.


The win in the Grey Stakes (G3), on the synthetic surface at Woodbine kept the options open for his connections. But, the surface questions were still undecided after a hard fought 9th place finish, just over 3 lengths back, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf next time out. To conclude the 2014 freshman campaign the NY bred was sent back to the dirt where he would gain another point with a 4th place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2).


International Star’s attempt to conquer the dirt is the only chance Ken Ramsey and Mike Maker have at repeating their win in this race last year (Vicar’s In Trouble). This will be the debut mount for jockey Miguel Mena aboard International Star. 


Next on the board with two points is, Eagle, the horse that easily got the best of International Star in the Kentucky Jockey Club but missed the front end by less than a length. Though he scored very few points and raced in only one graded stakes race as a Juvenile, the son of Candy Ride is actively becoming an eye-catching Kentucky Derby contender.


Last July, Eagle broke his maiden in his first attempt at Ellis Park before racing second in his debut around two turns his next time out. Concluding his preliminary stakes races on the Kentucky circuit was a solid allowance win at a distance of 1 1/16 mile. 


A few things that stand out for this Neil Howard trainee begin with his strong close down the stretch in the Kentucky Jockey Club along with his pedigree for the distance. As you will notice on Saturday, in case you haven’t already, are the matching silks to his maternal grandsire Mineshaft, also trained by Neil Howard and owned by William Farrish. The 2003 Horse of the Year was a natural around the track at the classic distance of 1 ¼ miles, so until we see proof of anything different, I have no problem with the assumption that Eagle is also capable of following suit.


Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr. returns to the saddle for the 5th time in as many starts. The biggest obstacle the tag team will face on Saturday is the outside post position 11.  


Who’s Ready to Score?


Like International Star, a trio of entries is also the son of a former Triple Crown winner. Runhappy, the disciple of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, is fresh off an impressive 8.5 length win in his career debut at Turfway Park on December 28. A bump in class and distance will be at the forefront of his challenges. Four Leaf Chief, a Louisiana Bred by Lookin at Lucky, will be the home team play in the Lecomte Stakes. In 5 career starts, all in Louisiana, Four Leaf Chief scored on two occasions in his Juvenile season – Louisiana Juvenile Cup Juvenile Stakes, Louisiana Legacy Stakes. The latter was raced at a distance of one mile.  


Another Lemon Drop, by 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, opens the three-year-old season after a juvenile year that could be described as interesting more than glamorous. He had zero graded stakes starts but still gets credit in the class department with a third place finish to the eventual Los Alamitos Futurity winner Dortmund in a one mile allowance race.


Trained by Phillip Bauer and owned by Rigney Racing, Another Lemon Drop returns to the Fair Grounds where he won last time out. Aboard for the score over one mile in the slop was Calvin Borel, and he will resume his duties when they break from post 10.   


Believe or not, even the best of the best haven’t won them all. Todd Pletcher is still shooting for his first career Lecomte Stakes win. His hopes lie with Savoy Stomp, owned by Team Valor International. The son of Medaglia d’Oro scored in his career debut but has since been scrambling to find the winner’s circle. The most notable contender he raced against in his Juvenile season was El Kabeir, recent winner of the Jerome Stakes.


War Story, undefeated in two starts late in the Juvenile season will be making his graded stakes debut for trainer Tom Amoss. Tiznow R J, by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, was victorious once in three starts last year. The Steve Asmussen trained colt enters after scoring his first last out, a hand ride win over this same distance, at Fair Grounds in early December. 


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About Me

Meet Bryan Brinkmeyer  


Growing up across the river from the Bluegrass State, I was able to spend a lot of summer days at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. It was there that my attraction to the Sport of Kings began. In the spring of 2000, I made my inaugural Kentucky Derby appearance, and the tradition continues annually because there is no other city in the racing world like Louisville, Ky., on Derby Day.

Although the story of a Kentucky Derby winner is legendary, a champion's trail is what The Kentucky Derby Post is all about. It begins when 2-year-olds hit the track & continues until the field is set, the picks are in, and the roses are awarded. 

Twitter: @thederbypost

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