Lecomte 2022: New Orleans is not proving ground for Derby

Lecomte 2022: New Orleans is not proving ground for Derby
Photo: Alexander Barkoff/Eclipse Sportswire

After two weekends without Kentucky Derby points preps, Saturday’s running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes brings with it a dose of spring fever in the winter. There is also attendant optimism that one of the nine horses entered in this weekend’s renewal at Fair Grounds will wear roses come May 7.

History says think again.

Click here for Fair Grounds entries and results.

Only once since the Lecomte was restricted to 3-year-olds starting in 1962 has the race produced a Derby winner. That was War Emblem in 2002. His frontrunning style turned out to be an exception to the pattern of success for closers at the New Orleans track.

Even though the Fair Grounds main track has favored speed early in the 2021-22 meet, that is a historic outlier. In the last 30 renewals of the Lecomte, 20 winners came from more than two lengths off the lead. Of those, 13 were at least four lengths behind at some point during the race. According to Equibase charts, this is where they were at each call, shown with margins when trailing:

YearWinner1/41/23/4StrFin
2021Midnight Bourbon  1  1  1  11
2020Enforceable11 -   9 1/211 -   7 1/4  8 -   3 1/4  11
2019War of Will  3 -   1 1/2  3 -      1/2  1  11
2018Instilled Regard  3 -   4 1/2  4 -   2  2 - hd  11
2017Guest Suite  6 -   4 1/2  6 -   6 3/4  4 -   1  11
2016Mo Tom  8 -   9 1/2  8 - 10 1/2  6 -   7  3 - 1 1/21
2015International Star  5 -   5  6 -   4 1/2  6 -   1 3/4  3 - 11
2014Vicar's in Trouble  2 -   1 1/2  2 -   1  1  11
2013Oxbow  1  1  1  11
2012Mr. Bowling  6 -   5 1/4  4 -   2  3 -   1  11
2011Wilkinson  4 -   3  3 -   1  2 -   1  2 - 11
2010Ron the Greek  9 - 13 3/410 - 16  9 - 15  8 - 71
2009Friesan Fire  3 -   1 1/2  3 -   2 1/2  2 -   1 1/2  11
2008Z Fortune  5 -   4  5 -   2 3/4  5 -   4  2 -    1/21
2007Hard Spun  1  1  1  11
2006- No race -    
2005Storm Surge  4 -   2 1/2  4 -   2 1/2  1  11
2004Fire Slam  2 -   1  2 -      1/2  2 - hd  11
2003Saintly Look  2 - hd  2 - hd  2 - hd  11
2002Easyfromthegitgo  5 -   2 3/4  4 -   2  4 -   2  3 - 21
2001Sam Lord's Castle  4 -   2 1/2  4 -   2 1/2  3 -   2  11
2000Noble Ruler10 - 12 1/4  9 -   6 3/4  9 -   8 1/2  6 - 31
1999Some Actor13 - 18 1/414 - 14 1/412 -   8  6 - 41
1998Western City  1  1  1  11
1997Cash Deposit  4 -   2 1/2  3 -   3 1/2  2 -   1  11
1996Boomerang  3 -   4  3 -   1 1/2  1  11
1995Moonlight Dancer  2 -      1/2  3 -   2  4 -   2  2 - 11
1994Fly Cry  6 -   3 3/4  6 -   3 3/4  3 -   2  2 -    1/21
1993Dixieland Heat  4 -   4 1/2  5 -   5  4 -   3  5 - 3 3/41
1992Line in the Sand  4 -   2 1/2  4 -   1 1/2  4 -   1 1/2  11
1991Big Courage  7 -   9 3/4  7 - 11  7 -   8  11

In those same 30 runnings since 1991 (there was no race in 2006), 17 of the 28 horses who graduated to the Kentucky Derby had a mid-pack or a closing style, according to Quirin Speed Points and/or race charts. The only two who would hit the board in the Derby were Golden Soul (2013) and Mandaloun (2021).

Conversely, of the 11 pacesetters and stalkers who raced in both the Lecomte and the Derby, War Emblem went on to win the roses in 2002, and Hard Spun would finish second in 2007.

These are the Lecomte horses who raced in the Kentucky Derby since 2000, including their Quirin Speed Points and results in the two races.

YearHorseQuirinLecomteDerby
2021Mandaloun P 7      3rd 2nd
 Midnight Bourbon E 8      1st  6th
2020Enforceable S 0      1st  7th
2019War of WillE/P 5      1st  7th
 Plus Que ParfaitE/P 2      5th  8th
2018Instilled Regard P 3      1st  4th
 Lone Sailor S 3      9th  8th
2017Untrapped P 2     2nd12th
2016DestinE/P 4      4th  6th
 Mo Tom S 0      1st  8th
 Tom's Ready S 1     2nd12th
2015War Story P 1     2nd16th
2014Vicar's in TroubleE/P 5      1st19th
2013Golden Soul S 2     2nd 2nd
 Oxbow E 4      1st  6th
2011Pants On FireE/P 5     2nd  9th
2009Friesan FireE/P 6      1st18th
2008Z Fortune P 2      1st10th
2007Hard Spun E 6      1st 2nd
 Teuflesberg E 5      3rd17th
2003Lone Star Sky P 3      7th15th
2002War Emblem E 6      5th  1st
 It'sallinthechase S 0      3rd16th
2001Fifty Stars S 0      4th  9th
 E - Early (pacesetter)   
 E/P - Early presser (stalker)   
 P - Presser (mid-pack)   
 S - Sustainer (closer)  

Last year was an exception. At Fair Grounds, Midnight Bourbon led at every call with Joe Talamo riding him to victory in the Lecomte. At Churchill Downs, Mike Smith took over the ride and changed tactics. He stayed near the rear of the pack before passing eight horses in the last half-mile and finishing sixth in the Derby.

Mandaloun, who may yet be promoted over the late Medina Spirit and declared the Derby winner, stayed within 2 1/2 lengths of Midnight Bourbon’s early lead last winter and made a wide charge in the stretch to finish third in the Lecomte. At Churchill Downs he stalked Medina Spirit throughout the Derby and crossed the finish line a half-length behind in second.

At 449 yards, the homestretch that has been a path to victory for closers at Fair Grounds is the second longest among the tracks where Derby points preps are run. Only Los Alamitos at 460 yards is longer. By comparison, it is 411 yards from the top of the stretch to the finish line at Churchill Downs, where forward-placed horses have excelled in the Derby.

Physical similarities aside, the road to the Churchill Downs winner’s circle seldom runs through New Orleans. The only Kentucky Derby winners who first raced in what are now the Fair Grounds points preps – the Lecomte, Risen Star (G3) and Louisiana Derby (G2) – were mid-pack runner Black Gold (1924), closer Grindstone (1996), pacesetter War Emblem (2002), stalker Funny Cide (2003) and mid-pack Country House (2019).

If a would-be futures bettor is looking for a hot Derby horse to come out of New Orleans, past performances suggest ignoring anything except a forward-running winner in the Lecomte. Epicenter and Pappacap could be candidates. So might long shots Surfer Dude and Blue Kentucky.

Otherwise, a passing glance is more than enough.

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