The official 2022 Kentucky Derby prep races resume on Saturday at Fair Grounds Race Course with the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes. Nine 3-year-olds were entered in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 to try to earn Derby qualifying points (10-4-2-1).
Recent Lecomte winners have had great careers. Last year, Midnight Bourbon finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Preakness, Travers and Pennsylvania Derby. War of Will in 2019 and Oxbow in 2013 went on to victory in the Preakness.
Here is a full-field analysis for the Lecomte, with odds provided by the Horse Racing Nation staff. The Lecomte is carded as race 14 of 14, with post time scheduled for 7:20 p.m. ET.
1. Surfer Dude (15-1 – Curlin – Dallas Stewart / ManReylu Gutierrez– 6: 1-1-3 - $113,460) Surfer Dude, who is one of two horses entered for Dallas Stewart, has plenty of racing experience. It took him five tries to break his maiden, which he did at Churchill Downs in a seven-furlong race with a purse of $121,000. Stewart then sent him to Fair Grounds, where he set the pace and finished third in the Gun Runner at the Lecomte distance of 1 1/16 miles. Significant improvement would be needed. Toss.
2. Unified Report (12-1 – Unified – Dallas Stewart / Corey Lanerie – 3: 3-0-0 - $154,720) This is the other runner from Stewart, and he will face unrestricted company for the first time after winning his first three races. Unified Report stalked the pace in all those races, beginning with a maiden victory in a race for horses that sold for less than $45,000. He then won two sprint stakes for Louisiana-breds, one at Delta Downs and most recently at Fair Grounds. His speed figures improved notably in his last effort, and he will try two turns for the first time. But he certainly has the look of a sprinter. Toss.
3. Pappacap (9-5 – Gun Runner – Mark Casse / Joe Bravo – 5: 2-2-0 - $576,000) Pappacap is the leading money winner and the only graded-stakes winner in the field. He won his first two starts with a May debut at Gulfstream Park and then the Best Pal (G2) at Del Mar in August. Since then, he ran in three Grade 1s with a pair seconds in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the American Pharoah, both times behind the Eclipse Award finalist Corniche. Regular rider Joe Bravo will stay on board. The one to beat.
4. Trafalgar (6-1 – Lord Nelson – Al Stall Jr. / Colby Hernandez – 3: 2-1-0 - $117,060) Trafalgar debuted at Saratoga and was second behind the Kentucky Derby prospect Classic Causeway. He won his next two starts, his maiden breaker at Churchill and an allowance at Fair Grounds going two turns. His speed figures improved in each of those two victories, where he was bet down to be the odds-on favorite. In his first win he closed from far back and most recently pressed the pace. The meet’s leading rider Colby Hernandez stays on board. Live long shot.
5. Epicenter (2-1 – Not This Time – Steve Asmussen / Joel Rosario – 3: 2-0-0 - $130,639) Epicenter was the recent winner of the Fair Grounds stake that was named for the champion Gun Runner, who, of course, was trained by Asmussen. He won that race by more than six lengths as part of the early pace with a jump in speed figures while relishing the increased two-turn distance. Joel Rosario, who was on board for his maiden victory under the Twin Spires, will get back in the saddle. Top choice.
6. Cyberknife (6-1 – Gun Runner – Brad Cox / Florent Geroux – 3: 1-2-0 - $75,000) Cyberknife ran in three maiden races. He was disqualified from the win in his debut and placed second, then actually finished second, and finally got an official first victory at Fair Grounds last month going two turns. Brad Cox is going to add blinkers and his top rider, Florent Geroux. He was a heavy favorite in all three of those starts. He now steps up to stakes competition. Use underneath.
7. Blue Kentucky (20-1 – Include – Wayne Catalano / Jareth Loveberry – 6: 2-0-1 - $119,497) Blue Kentucky has six career starts, with a maiden win at Ellis Park during the summer and an allowance at Churchill. Most recently, he was third in the Sugar Bowl at Fair Grounds. This guy has yet to go around two turns, and his only race going a one-turn mile produced a sixth-place finish. There are distance and class concerns in the Lecomte. Toss.
8. Call Me Midnight (20-1 – Midnight Lute – Keith Desormeaux / James Graham – 6: 1-1-0 - $101,806) Call Me Midnight needed five tries in Kentucky maiden races to get his first win, and that came going a one-turn mile at Churchill in November. Since then, he ran a distant seventh in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G3). Toss.
9. Presidential (15-1 – Pioneerof the Nile – Steve Asmussen / Brian Hernandez, Jr. – 2: 1-0-0 - $22,100) Presidential was a $625,000 yearling purchase who made both of his starts at Indiana Grand, where he ran fourth in his debut and then broke his maiden by almost eight lengths in August. He is back to the races for the first time since that initial victory. He was training at Louisiana Downs for Steve Asmussen and recently was moved to Fair Grounds. It seems like he was not part of Asmussen’s first-string runners until now. Toss.
Summary: Pappacap and Epicenter are the two established horses in the Lecomte. Pappacap has the best record in the field based on earnings and quality of competition. Epicenter was an impressive winner at the Fair Grounds and has the look of a talented horse who will get better as the distance increases. It is a matchup between Hall of Fame trainers, with Mark Casse and Pappacap against Steve Asmussen and Epicenter.
Trafalgar and Cyberknife both are well-bred 3-year-olds who have found early success and must be used if you are betting the trifecta and superfecta.