Let’s venture down to New Orleans to the Fairgrounds for their Derby prep series, where they’ve produced some good horses the past few years (but no Kentucky Derby winners.) Today is the GIII LeComte, a 1 mile and 70 yards two-turn route for newly minted 3YO’s. It’s a deep field — before scratches, we have 14 entrants, with 1 in the wings on the AE list. As usual, I’m looking to beat most favorites, unless that favorite is absolutely solid and provides value — then he becomes a lock in P3, P4, and P5, if available. I tend to look for seasonal debuts, first-time routing, track-liking and other factors that suggest a change in performance in looking for mid-to-long shots.
Update: Wonder Gadot has been scratched. This was to be a filly vs. boys matchup on the Derby Trail, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Instilled Regard — a million dollar purchase as a 2YO in training — looks to grow on his 3rd place in the Los Al Futurity. He ran fast in that race and seriously threatened to win against the top West Coast horses of McKinzie and the bumping Solomini. Javier Castellano — maybe the best jockey in the US — picks up the mount for Jerry Hollendorfer. If he runs back and likes the track, he’ll win. I don’t think you’ll get the 4/1 morning line — I expect him to be more around 8/5. So, there could be value in that spread if we end up with a 5/2 or 3/1 favorite.
Principe Guilherme: He’s making his graded stakes debut after two impressive wins, including an 11-length win over the Fair Grounds surface. He’s slower than Instilled Regard right now, even with the impressive showings. For me, though, he’s a bit of a wait and see. Big allowance winners aren’t a dime-a-dozen, but I need to see Graded Stakes experience to take a low price. He’s a pass for me — even up to 4-1. He’ll likely be a bit lower.
Prince Lucky: Trained by the Cowboy Larry Jones (I’ll never forget his wardrobe when we ran into each other at Delaware Park a few years back), he brings a PA-bred to the Derby Trail. He’s 3 for 3, with a win in open company at Laurel. He’s never routed, and Jones usually needs a race at the distance to get the best from the horse. But he is a wildcard in today’s race and adds Leparoux. A win would be surprising, but not shocking. For those looking for a solid 8-1 to 10-1, this might be your horse.
Kowboy Karma: He makes his seasonal debut after some decent showings in minor stakes and a 4th place finish in the Champagne. He’s another trained by the Cowboy. He’s been consistent, but he’ll need to have improved since November, something that’s not impossible, given his better-than-average workouts. He does have several failures as the favorite and is probably worth passing on the win slot based on that fact alone.
Lone Sailor: Loves the slop, but it looks like a fast track today. Has a nice finish in a GI, which shows some potential. He’ll need some pace today, and improvement coming off of the layoff. 15-1 is a tempting morning line — he might just blow up the tote board.
Analysis: There are a few other horses who seem too slow or inexperienced to handle this today. But, as with any 3YO race, improvement can happen fast. Hate to be boring, but Instilled Regard is a solid favorite, and he’ll win, as long as he doesn’t regress. Those looking for longshots should look to the Larry Jones pair and give a deeper look to Lone Sailor.
Good luck at the races!