The Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby on Saturday makes its first stop in New Orleans.
Fair Grounds will play host to the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes, the first of the track’s three points-paying Derby preps. Post time is scheduled for 6:49 p.m. EST.
The 1 1/16-mile Lecomte awards points toward the Kentucky Derby to its top four finishers on a 10-4-2-1 basis. The Fair Grounds series continues Feb. 13 with the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) and concludes March 20 with the track’s premier event, the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2).
Trainer Brad Cox, whose Fair Grounds winter string includes Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero Essential Quality, has another promising 3-year-old favored in the Lecomte.
Juddmonte Farms’ unbeaten homebred Mandaloun is the 3-1 morning-line favorite off the strength of wins at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. The Cox trainee stretches to two turns for the first time under jockey Florent Geroux, trying to boost his career record to 3-for-3.
Steve Asmussen trains 7-2 second choice Midnight Bourbon, whose ledger includes on-the-board finishes in Churchill’s Iroquois (G3) and at Belmont Park in the Champagne (G1). Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. will be tasked with getting the Tiznow colt a good trip from the inside post.
Here is a look at the 2021 Lecomte Stakes field (trainer and jockey in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. Midnight Bourbon (Steve Asmussen, Ricardo Santana Jr.), 7-2
2. Arabian Prince (Dallas Stewart, Brian Hernandez Jr.), 6-1
3. Beep Beep (Norm Casse, Joe Talamo), 12-1
4. Proxy (Michael Stidham, Mitchell Murrill), 6-1
5. Regular Guy (Wayne Catalano, Miguel Mena), 10-1
6. Game Day Play (Bret Calhoun, Gabriel Saez), 20-1
7. Santa Cruiser (Keith Desormeaux, James Graham), 6-1
8. Red N Wild (Terry Eoff, Declan Carroll), 20-1
9. Manor House (Michael Stidham, Adam Beschizza), 8-1
10. Mandaloun (Brad Cox, Florent Geroux), 3-1
11. Dyn O Mite (Keith Desormeaux, Colby Hernandez), 30-1
While 11 runners are entered for the Lecomte, the field could see a few defections before post time. Daily Racing Form reported Thursday that Dyn O Mite will be scratched from the Lecomte, while runners Beep Beep and Manor House will likely run in an allowance race earlier on Saturday's card.
TimeformUS’ pace projections show Manor House going out to the lead under jockey Adam Beschizza, with Beep Beep and Midnight Bourbon leading the pursuit. If Beep Beep and Manor House both indeed run in the earlier allowance race, that sets up for Midnight Bourbon to assume the early Lecomte lead.
For more information on the Lecomte Stakes’ runners, visit the HRN free past performances page.
Lecomte on TV
TVG will carry coverage Saturday of Fair Grounds’ card, including the Lecomte. The network will also show stakes action from Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, Santa Anita and Tampa Bay Downs.
TVG on Saturday will also reveal 2020 Eclipse Award finalists at 12 p.m. EST. The network will air the ceremony for those awards Jan. 28.
Padraic Manocchio digs into the Brisnet PPs, which show Santa Cruiser sporting the best Early Pace Last Race figure of the Lecomte field. Mandaloun tops that category for Late Pace Last Race, making an exacta box with those two runners a suggested wager.
Trainer Norm Casse has debut winner Beep Beep cross-entered in both the Lecomte and an allowance optional claiming race on the undercard. Reiner Macatangay says the Tapizar colt deserves a look in either spot.
Laurie Ross and Ashley Tamulonis go head-to-head handicapping each runner in the Lecomte Stakes field. Both land on Proxy to win the race based on the strength of his prior victories over the Fair Grounds track.
Trainer Dallas Stewart’s Lecomte entry, Arabian Prince, moved to 25-1 in Circa Sports’ 2021 Kentucky Derby odds after taking several large wagers from a small circle of bettors. Matt Stahl asked Stewart what area of improvement he wants to see Saturday from the colt.
This week on HorseCenter, hosts Matt Shifman and Brian Zipse analyze both the Lecomte and Silverbulletday fields, picking early front-runners for the Louisiana roads to Louisville.
How does the HRN community rank the 2021 Kentucky Derby contenders? A pair of Lecomte runners, Mandaloun and Proxy, are in the top 20 of our readers’ rankings.
Recent Lecomte winners Oxbow (2013) and War of Will (2019) both went on to become Preakness Stakes heroes. Keeler Johnson ranks those two among his five greatest Lecomte winners.
First post Saturday is 1 p.m. EST, with full Fair Grounds entries available via HRN. The Lecomte is the last of 13 races carded at the New Orleans oval.
Here is a look at the five stakes races Saturday on Fair Grounds’ Lecomte undercard.
2 p.m. EST – Race 3, $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes, 4-and-up, 5½ furlongs, turf
Archidust, winner of Fair Grounds’ Richard R. Scherer Memorial Stakes last month, looks to start his 5-year-old season with his seventh career stakes victory. Steve Asmussen trains the son of Verrazano who, as 7-2 morning-line favorite, will have jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. up Saturday. The 4-1 second choice is Michelle Lovell trainee Just Might, a stakes winner who was second to Archidust in the Richard R. Scherer.
4:54 p.m. EST – Race 9, $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes, 4-and-up fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles, turf
Trainer Al Stall Jr. seeks a stakes win here with 2-1 morning-line favorite Dalika, winner of the local Blushing K. D. Stakes last month. Jockey Miguel Mena will pilot the 5-year-old Pastorius mare, who started her career in her native Germany before moving two years ago to the U.S. Three-time graded stakes winner Secret Message, the 5-2 second choice, has gone winless in five straight starts for trainer Brad Cox.
5:23 p.m. EST – Race 10, $125,000 Louisiana Stakes (G3), 4-and-up, 1 1/16 miles, dirt
Wells Bayou, winner of the 2020 Louisiana Derby (G2) for Cox, makes his 4-year-old debut in the Louisiana Stakes off a layoff of more than eight months. Jockey Florent Geroux gets the call on the Lookin at Lucky colt, a 3-1 morning-line favorite. Asmussen has 4-1 second choice Sonneman, an allowance victor who was second in September at Churchill Downs in the Pat Day Mile (G2). Next on the morning line at 9-2 is Blackberry Wine, a last-out allowance winner at Fair Grounds in December for trainer Joe Sharp.
5:52 p.m. EST – Race 11, $125,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Stakes, 4-and-up, 1 1/16 miles, turf
James Baker trains 5-year-old Spectacular Gem, a 7-2 morning-line favorite seeking a fourth career stakes score. The son of Can the Man will have jockey James Graham aboard. The 9-2 co-second choices are last-out stakes winner Logical Myth for Sharp and multiple stakes winner Sailing Solo representing trainer Louie Roussel III’s barn.
6:20 p.m. EST – Race 12, $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes, 3-year-old fillies, 1 mile and 70 yards, dirt
The Silverbulletday, a female counterpart to the Lecomte, awards its winner 10 points toward the 2021 Kentucky Oaks. Cox and Geroux team up for 2-1 morning-line favorite Sun Path, a Munnings filly who dusted allowance company last month at Fair Grounds by 12¾ lengths. Souper Sensational, the 5-2 second choice, is 2-for-2 with a pair of Woodbine wins and makes her dirt debut for trainer Mark Casse. Next on the morning line at 6-1 is Littlestitious, a Delta Downs stakes winner saddled by trainer Tom Amoss.
From Fair Grounds’ communications team:
The calendar has turned. The distances have increased. An extra turn has been added. The acid test beckons. Eleven 3-year-olds – including the undefeated Mandaloun – will assemble for Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in the hopes of proving their mettle not only locally, but on the national scene as well, as thoughts turn to the first Saturday in May and the Kentucky Derby. The sorting out process begins in the 1 1/16-mile Lecomte, which will offer 17 qualifying points for the Derby (10-4-2-1) and should prove a key stepping-stone to the local March 20 Louisiana Derby (G2) as well.
The Lecomte will be run as the final event on a 13-race “Road to Derby Kickoff Day” card. Five other stakes, including the Silverbulletday for 3-year-old filles, will be contested on a program jam-packed with quality. First post will be at noon CST, one hour earlier than usual.
Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Mandaloun has done little wrong in two successful starts for trainer Brad Cox, as he won on debut going six furlongs at Keeneland in October and in an optional claimer going seven furlongs Nov. 28 at Churchill Downs. Sent off as the even-money favorite in both races, the son of Into Mischief has displayed versatility, closing from eighth early on debut at Keeneland, then stalking the pace and pouncing from fourth before drawing off at Churchill. Cox has long been looking forward to stretching Mandaloun our around two turns, where he thinks he’ll shine even more brightly.
“He’s trained very well at Fair Grounds since we got here,” Cox said. “We’ve always felt he was cut out to be a two-turn horse based on his physical make-up and how he trains. It shows how much talent he’s got to be able to win his first two races at sprint distances and now we’re going to do what we’ve thought he’s wanted to do all along, and that’s go long.”
West Point Thoroughbreds and William Sandbrook’s Arabian Prince (post 2 at 6-1 with Brian Hernandez Jr.) ended his freshman season with a strong third carded a race after Mandaloun’s allowance win in Churchill’s Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). The son of Mshawish won on debut there in September for trainer Dallas Stewart and was fourth in its Street Sense before earning some black type in his third career start. Stewart and West Point teamed up with Commanding Curve, who ran third in the Louisiana Derby here in 2014, and they are looking to embark down that path with Arabian Prince.
“He’s a beautiful horse and this is the next step, so we’ll see how he fits,” Stewart said. “He’s improved every time out, it’s the progression of it, and we’re hoping for another progression Saturday. We’d like to save some ground and use the long stretch to our advantage. He’ll come running late.”
Godolphin’s homebred Proxy (post 4 at 6-1 with Mitchell Murrill) starts with a homecourt edge, as he’s already won twice at the meet for trainer Mike Stidham. A beautifully bred son of Tapit is out of two-time grade 1 winner Panty Raid, Proxy has shown plenty of raw talent in winning 2-of-3, but he faces by far the toughest test of his career in the Lecomte. In both wins, Proxy set a slow pace while being pressured on the lead before drawing off late, though Stidham very much admits he’s still a work in progress.
"He’s like a big, immature kid who is still learning with racing,” Stidham said. “Last time when he won, he was a little green about switching leads coming down the lane, but once he leveled off, he drew away at the end, so we were pleased with that. We were deciding whether to run him back in this race or wait for a race like the Risen Star. We felt like he’s a big, healthy, strong colt and we thought the experience of running would do him more good than working three or four more times waiting for the Risen Star.”
Stidham could also run Newtown Anner Stud’s Manor House, who is cross-entered in an optional claimer (race 8) but would bring plenty of intrigue if he runs in the Lecomte. The son of Upstart wired the field by 12¼ lengths on debut Dec. 12 at Laurel Park going a one-turn mile and he would be a major pace player, and quite possibly more, should he tackle stakes company on Saturday. Still, Stidham knows the best is yet to come, regardless of where Manor House shows up next.
“This is just the beginning for him,” Stidham said. “He did everything right breaking his maiden, but he needs to take the next step and run well against winners for us to be confident moving forward with him.”
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon (post 1 at 7-2 with Ricardo Santana, Jr.) was twice stakes-placed at 2 for trainer Steve Asmussen and he should like getting back to two turns. The son of Tiznow aired in his second start going two turns at Ellis Park in August then was ran in a pair of one-turn miles stakes, when second in Churchill’s Iroquois (G3) in September and third in Belmont Park’s Champagne (G1) on Oct. 10. Midnight Bourbon drew the rail, and he has an enviable blend of tactical speed and stamina that should serve him well in his local bow.
Completing the Lecomte field from the rail out: Marylou Whitney Stables’ homebred Beep Beep (post 3 at 12-1 with Joe Talamo), a debut winner Nov. 29 at Churchill for trainer Norm Casse who is also entered in race 8; Coffeepot Stables’ homebred Regular Guy (post 5 at 10-1 with Miguel Mena), a December 19 track and distance maiden special weight winner for trainer Wayne Catalano; Tom Durant’s homebred Game Day Play (post 6 at 20-1 with Gabriel Saez), who won the Oct. 30 Clever Trevor at Remington Park for trainer Bret Calhoun; Calumet Farm’s homebred Santa Cruiser (post 7 at 6-1 with James Graham), who broke his maiden Nov. 15 at Churchill for trainer Keith Desormeaux; owner/trainer Terry Eoff’s Red N Wild (post 8 at 20-1 with Declan Carroll), a distant third in the Dec. 18 Springboard Mile at Remington; and Brad Allshouse’s Dyn O Mite (post 11 at 30-1 with Colby Hernandez), who won an off-the-turf optional claimer here Dec. 4 for Desormeaux.
Additional Lecomte quotes:
Cox, Mandaloun: “He’s got a good base underneath of him off the two starts and now, hopefully, it will work out and he’ll show us what we think we’ve seen from him. You never know until you try it. We hope he makes a good account of himself on Saturday. I don’t think the outside post matters. I think sometimes it’s overrated. I think good horses can overcome post positions, and I think he’s a good horse.”
Stidham, Proxy: “He’s taken the right steps right direction for us to be confident in entering him here (the Lecomte). I’m a big believer in the Ragozin numbers. They kind of guide me with the placement of horses. He moved forward four points from an 18 to a 14 on Ragozin in his last two races, so he did make a big jump forward."
Stidham, Manor House: “We’re not sure which direction we are leaning just yet,” Stidham said. “I’ll discuss it with the owner in the next couple of days. He trained really well at Fair Hill, working with several different 2-year-olds that we liked quite a bit. He was either right there with them or outworking them. We thought a lot of him going into the debut. You never really know what you’re getting in with at places like Laurel. We really didn’t know what we were running against, but he won by over 12 lengths. He showed a tremendous amount of talent that day and he’s done nothing but train exactly the same since the win, so, he’s definitely moving forward. We are anxious to see him run against winners and see what he can do.”
Stidham, Proxy and Manor House: "When it comes to both horses, we are just hoping to make steady progress. We don’t want them to peak too soon. It’s a long 3-year-old year. We are looking for them to do big things and take us to the places where every trainer and owner wants to go."