Friday, January 18, 2013

LeComte Stakes Offers Promise

In the last ten years, the only horse to win the LeComte Stakes (G-3) at the Fairgrounds and persevere on the Triple Crown trail and beyond is Hard Spun. The son of Danzig gave a good account of himself as a member of a strong crop of three year olds that included the Champions Street Sense, Curlin and Rags To Riches. Stakes veteran Ron the Greek won the Lecomte in 2010 and is now a leader in the Older Horse division.

This year, the LeComte is one of the qualifying races for the Kentucky Derby under the new points system. The winner of the 1 mile 70 yard race will earn ten points, while runners up will receive 4 (second) two (third) and one (fourth) points.

This year's field of nine contestants comprises of the usual stakes horses and recent allowance or maiden winners. A few colts offer promise. Circle Unbroken, is a graded stakes winner. Avie's Quality is a listed winner while Heitai and I've Struck A Nerve are both stakes placed.

CircleUnbrokenCIRCLE UNBROKEN (Broken Vow - Baldomera, by Doneraile Court) won his maiden and the Bashford Manor (G-3). After finishing second by a neck in the Mountaineer Juvenile last August, Circle Unbroken was out for the rest of the year. He's posted a steady string of breezes including a last out bullet at the Fairgrounds. Circle Unbroken's dam was a sturdy, classy mare, earning over $300,000 in 34 starts, including stakes wins. She placed in the Valley Stream (G-3) as a juvenile and owns the only blacktype in three generations.

AviesQualityAVIE'S QUALITY (Elusive Quality - Fly for Avie, by Lord Avie) has won his last two starts including the Display Stakes at Woodbine. The drawback? All starts came over Polytrack or turf. His works at Palm Meadows are a tad slower than those over the poly. This is an intriguing horse. Avie's Quality owns a pedigree to enjoy classic distances. His sire has a Derby/Preakness winner in Smarty Jones and his dam Fly For Avie is a G-1 winner at 1 ¼ miles and also won at 1 ½ miles over the lawn. Avie's Quality's half sister Avie's Tale won the Blushing KD Stakes over the Fairgrounds dirt and is also a winner over turf.

MalibuHighMALIBU HIGH (Malibu Moon - Hi Beautiful, by Snow Ridge) has shown promise in his first two starts sprinting. He's the first foal born of his sprint stakes placed dam. Malibu High should handle the stretch out to this distance.

Golden SoulGOLDEN SOUL (Perfect Soul (IRE) - Hollywood Gold, by Mr. Prospector) demolished maidens by over seven lengths in his first try over the Fairgrounds dirt. He cuts back in distance for the LeComte. Golden Soul has the pedigree to handle classic distances. His sire, Champion Turf Horse in Canada is also the sire of BC Filly & Mare Turf heroine Perfect Shirl. Golden Soul is a half brother to Lexington Stakes (G-2) winner Quinton's Gold Rush. His second dam Lady in Silver is a French Gr.1 winner at 10.5 furlongs.

FEAR THE KITTEN (Kitten's Joy - Dynarhythm, by Dynaformer) won his first two starts and made up ground after going widest of all in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. I'm not convinced that he's anything but a turf router who got lucky in his second start, a rained off the turf event. Often, turf runners can handle the mud, especially those by Kitten's Joy. He's switched barns and jocks in just about every start.

OXBOW (Awesome Again - Tizamazing, by Cee's Tizzy) was ambitiously placed in the CashCall Futurity (G-1) after winning his maiden at Churchill. He was wide the entire way and still managed to finish fourth. Oxbow is a full brother to Hollywood Prevue hero Awesome Patriot and their dam is a full sister to two-time Horse of the Year Tiznow. Oxbow has the pedigree to handle Classic distances and his legendary trainer Wayne Lukas has occasionally been known to pull a winning stakes race out of his hat.

HEITAI (Fusaichi Pegasus - Sparkles of Luck, by Mr. Sparkles) has won/placed in all six starts against state-bred company and now he's taking a baby-step up. His dam is a multiple stakes veteran over dirt and turf and his half sister Muffin is also well-known on the Louisiana circuit. Heitai has lead in the stretch in all except one of his starts, but still finds a way to get beat.

I'VE STRUCK A NERVE (Yankee Gentleman - Ranaway, by Cryptoclearance) started showing signs of life in his last two starts, both at the Fairgrounds. His dam is a half sister to the multiple graded stakes veterans K. J's Appeal and Slew Valley. I've Struck A Nerve appears to like the Fairgrounds, however Rosie Napravnik, the jockey who won/placed with him, jumps off to ride Avie's Quality. Not a good sign.

HAWAAKOM (Jazil - Nafisah (IRE), by Lahib) stormed from the back of the pack to win his maiden over this track/distance. The 1:46 time wasn't especially fast, but the colt increased his lead in the stretch. Distance shouldn't be an issue for Hawaakom. His sire is one of two consecutive Belmont Stakes winners produced by the blue hen Better Than Honour. The other, of course being Jazil's half sister Rags To Riches. Hawaakom's dam is a listed winner over the turf at about 1 3/16 miles. His half brother Snaafy is multiple group stakes placed in the UAE.


Track Bias: Overall, the Fairgrounds dirt is playing fair. In the last six years since the Fairgrounds was rebuilt, only one colt, Hard Spun, lead from gate to wire. Two winners pressed the pace while two others settled in mid pack. Only one winner, Ron the Greek, stormed from the back of the pack to win the Lecomte.

AVIE'S QUALITY is the total package. He has the pedigree, won his last two starts, ran a higher BRIS speed figure in every race and also owns the highest late pace speed figure. The $120K question? How will he fare over the dirt. His stakes winning dam and half sister handled dirt and turf just fine. He should too. CIRCLE UNBROKEN is the class of the field, but there are two drawbacks. He's stretching out in distance and hasn't raced since last August. His trainer is 11% off of the layoff. GOLDEN SOUL likes the Fairgrounds and could surprise. FEAR THE KITTEN owns good late pace figures and the barn is 22% with horses coming off of a layoff. Another one who may or may not handle the dirt.




#3 FEAR THE KITTEN – longshot pick