Two stops on the Kentucky Derby trail this weekend, with the Lecomte Stakes on Saturday from Fairgrounds and the Smarty Jones on Monday from Oaklawn. Here’s the preview for the Lecomte, which brings a deep and relatively even group of 3YO to contest 8.3 furlongs at the Fairgrounds. I think this is the first stop at the Fairgrounds — offering great New Orleans racing — since the launch of this site in May. Great winter track, with a long stretch, and a very strong maiden program.
One standout in the group — Eagle who will be my recommended selection for Neil Howard and W.S. Farish. Eagle currently has 2 Kentucky Derby points, based on a 3rd place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club, The only other in the field with any is International Star, with 1 point with his 4th place finish in the same race.
As with most early prep races, the race typically tells us more after the race as almost all contenders are facing new challenges. Neither International Star nor Eagle rated highly for me in the Kentucky Jockey Club. I thought International Star has potential, if he liked the dirt, which he seemed to. Eagle, as is not uncommon for high-class 3YO, moved forward in that race to stamp himself a possible future contender.
Here’s some thoughts on the field:
International Star: Return to Churchill for dirt worked well. Needs to move forward yet again, not impossible but not something that I like to be on. The Ramseys will be trying everything to get anything to the Derby, regardless of competitiveness (see We Miss Artie) and points are available for the taking here.
Tiznow R J: If It’s perfectly okay to take a shot at a G3 right now if you break your maiden at today’s distance on today’s track k by 13 1/4 lengths. Derby fever? Maybe, but I support the placement, even if this would be a stretch. Asmussen trains.
Four Leaf Chief: A Louisiana-bred that lost in an open company allowance here last month. That’s all you really need to know.
War Story: 2 for 2. Loooch racing for Amoss. Has some positive factors, but needs another move forward with distance, and I’m not sure he’ll get it.
Hero of Humor & Dekabrist & Killingit: Just not qualified for this level.
Savoy Stomp: He won on debut for Pletcher, but hasn’t taken step forward. Ran into a buzzsaw for the track/distance at Gulfstream in Bluegrass Singer last out. You also can throw out the muddy try in the Nashua. May move forward, although the winner’s circle seems a stretch today. Exotics players may want to consider him underneath.
Runhappy: Nice maiden win at Turfway. Obvious huge step up — I’d rather see an allowance try on track first. Seems unlikely here today.
Another Lemon Drop: Nice horse, but may have moved up because of the slop. Ran behind Dortmund, but didn’t make much of an impression that day.
Eagle: Big move forward last time for this Neil Howard trained and W.S. Farish bred and owned. He won a Keeneland allowance — impressive now with the return to on the dirt. This is certainly his chance to join the Derby trail in earnest with a win. Plus, there’s lots to like. He’s been working well over the track and he’s already made the move forward into the 90 Beyer range. Eagle has 2 points already, will have 12 with win. Not enough to qualify, but a big win here may stamp him as a contender to watch.
Given the field, I think Eagle’s a fair play at 2-1.
Image: Wally Gobeth, Copyright 2008.