Head to Head: Handicapping Fair Grounds' 2022 Lecomte Stakes

Head to Head: Handicapping Fair Grounds' 2022 Lecomte Stakes
Photo: Carolyn Simancik/Eclipse Sportswire

The Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes closes out a stakes-filled Saturday at Fair Grounds. The second of four Fair Grounds qualifiers for the 2022 Kentucky Derby, the Lecomte attracted a field of nine who will contest 1 1/16 miles.

We sort out the contenders from the pretenders.

ASHLEY

LAURIE

1. Surfer Dude 15-1

It took Surfer Dude five tries to figure out how to get to the winner’s circle, and once he did, he then placed third in the Gun Runner Stakes behind Epicenter. A son of Grade 1 winners Tiz Miz Sue and Curlin, Surfer Dude is bred to get better with age. So look out for him down the road, but this might not be the best spot for him this early on. Perhaps exotics. 

Despite a classic distance pedigree (by Curlin out of a Tiznow mare), Surfer Dude looks pretty one-dimensional: go to the lead and stay there for as long as you can. He has failed in both attempts around two turns. Dude, you need to relax! Pass.

 

2. Unified Report 15-1

Though not as regally bred as stablemate Surfer Dude, Unified Report's dam Closing Report was a filly I really liked during her brief career. So far, the colt is undefeated in three career starts, though that has come in restricted/state-bred company. The colt's speed figures are not great, and additionally, this will be Unified Report's first attempt at a route race. Outclassed.

Unified Report is ready to step up and stretch out after three perfect starts against state-breds. His dam's half-brother Axtecutive is multiple graded placed, so there is some class in the family. The Dallas Stewart trainee has tactical speed and can sit where Corey Lanerie puts him, as the pace dictates. Exotics.

 

3. Pappacap 8-5

When Corniche is away, Pappacap will play? By Gun Runner, Pappacap won his first two starts, including the Best Pal (G2). He then finished an uncharacteristic fourth in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) before stringing together back-to-back runner-up efforts to close out his juvenile year in the American Pharoah (G1) and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He owns the fastest last race speed figure and the highest speed figure period in the field. He seems to have taken to Fair Grounds quite well if his morning works are a good indicator. Win contender.

The Best Pal (G2) winner gets away from the west coast in search of victory. Pappacap does not have to win the Lecomte, and he may not be 100-percent fit for the race. However, the Mark Casse trainee is the class of the race and could just be better than the rest. Win contender.

 

4. Trafalgar 5-1

Named for the site of a naval battle where Nelson’s British fleet defeated Napoleon’s fleet, Trafalgar was second upon debut before winning his next two outings, including an optional claimer at Fair Grounds at the LeComte distance of 1 1/16-mile. Trainer Al Stall Jr. gets 24-percent winners with charges that won their last race, and while Trafalgar’s speed figures are not stellar, they could be enough to help him earn a minor award. Exotics.

The cleverly named Trafalgar beat a decent group of optional claimers here in December, and Lord Nelson's son answered the two-turn question.  Three contenders in the six-horse field won or placed in their next start. Trafalgar harassed the pacesetter, putting him away in the stretch, then dug deep to hold off a late charge by a head. The remarkable note is that each quarter was faster than the previous. All Stall Jr.'s charge had plenty of time to recover, and we will see how he stakes up against Pappacap and Epicenter. Win Contender.

5. Epicenter 9-5

Epicenter was far from the center of attention when he debuted in September. Still, the son of Not This Time stamped himself as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender with dominating wins in his second outing and then in the Gun Runner Stakes. While his best speed figure is five points off Pappacap’s, he should still give the favorite a good run for his money. Win contender.

Epicenter played "catch me if you can" in the Gun Runner Stakes here in December. They tried, and they couldn't as Not This Time's son opened up by 6 1/2 lengths. The Steve Asmussen trainee could offer Pappacap his greatest challenge if he is not hounded by all the other speed types. Win contender.  

 

6. Cyberknife 6-1

Out of the multiple graded-stakes-placed mare, Awesome Flower, Cyberknife debuted a winner but was placed second through disqualification. He missed the win in his second outing before finally getting his picture taken in start three, which came here at Fair Grounds at the Lecomte distance. Trainer Brad Cox puts the blinkers back on, an angle at which he gets a whopping 40-percent winners. Look for this colt to give the big two a hard time. Definitely exotics.

The third time was the charm for Cyberknife when he held off a late charge by a half-length. The Brad Cox trainee was a touch green in the stretch, drifting in response to the crop, so Cox will outfit Cyberknife with a shiny new set of blinkers. According to StatsRacelens, Cox has a 21-percent win rate with the maiden-to-graded-stakes angle. Exotics.

 

7. Blue Kentucky 20-1

This son of Include has won just two of his six starts and never attempted a route. His best speed figure is below the best in this field, and he is going to encounter quality speed on the lead. Pass.

Blue Kentucky had a wide trip in the Sugar Bowl Stakes and ran evenly down the stretch to gain third place. However, Wayne Catalano's charge has won two of six starts, both times on the lead. He'll have to deal with other speed types in the Lecomte while stretching out from another wide post. Pass.

8. Call Me Midnight 20-1

Start number five finally found Call Me Midnight in the winner’s circle. With the monkey finally off his colt’s back, trainer Keith Desormeaux threw him into the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) where he finished seventh at long odds. Pass.

After winning his fifth start, Call Me Midnight bounced in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2). However, before that he faced some nice horses. He beat Epicenter, Surfer Dude, and finished a fast-closing 3-lengths behind Giant Game, who returned to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Additionally, if you toss his last start, Call Me Midnight's speed ratings fit here. The Keith Desormeaux trainee has been training forwardly at Fair Grounds, and he is a one-run closer in a race filled with speed. Live longshot Exotics.

9. Presidential 20-1

Presidential graduates from maiden $34,000 company at Indiana Downs, where he posted speed figures of 59 and 82. 20-1 is a complete underlay. Pass.

Presidential hasn't been seen since he dominated maidens at Indiana last August. As Ashley noted, his speed ratings were meh. But Presidential is by Pioneerof the Nile out of a stakes-winning half-sister to 2016 Champion 2-year-old Classic Empire, and he has been training steadily for Asmussen. This is a huge jump, and I want to see what he can do. Pass.

 

Final Thoughts

Laurie: In the last decade, three favorites have won the Lecomte, and four have placed. Only one pacesetter has prevailed but five pace pressers have won, while closers claimed four victories.

There is a lot of early speed in this year’s Lecomte, so will the speedy types get into a duel setting it up for a one-run closer?

Mark Casse has the horse to help him pull off the Lecomte hat trick, but as the leading points qualifier for the Kentucky Derby, Pappacap just needs to shake the rust off in preparation for presumably the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2).

I am going to pass on the two obvious win contenders and go with Trafalgar on top. He has tactical speed, and the meet’s leading rider sticks with him. I will probably regret it, but I am tossing Epicenter out of the mix in favor of the closer Call Me Midnight. James Graham rode the colt to his sole victory and is aboard here.

Ashley: Epicenter and Surfer Dude are going straight to the lead with Blue Kentucky likely to go with them. Highly regarded Pappacap, as well as Trafalgar and Cyberknife will sit just off them, with the other three right there, also. I think it will be a compact field with an honest pace, but the big two will be hard to beat if they bring their “A” game. 

Selections

       Ashley

       Laurie

3. Pappacap (8-5)

5. Trafalgar (5-1)

5. Epicenter (9-5)

3. Pappacap (8-5)

6. Cyberknife (6-1)

8. Cyberknife (6-1)

4. Trafalgar (5-1)

6. Call Me Midnight (20-1)



Meet Laurie Ross


 HRN Pedigree Analyst 

 Handicapper 

 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan Board Member

 Member – NTWAB


Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 


I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
Facebook: IMTBreds
LinkedIn: Laurie Ross

Top Stories

Lexington, Ky. Even with court fights and a visit...
Stilleto Boy , winner of last month's Californian...
Siblings of famous horses do not present a good be...
Horse racing has an impossible dream. Knowing ther...
The comeback of trainer Peter Miller begins Sunday...
x