The big event on this Saturday’s horse racing card is the 2016 Lecomte Stakes, which is an early test for some up and coming three-year old thoroughbreds with hopes of staying on this season’s Kentucky Derby Trail.
Fair Grounds Race Course in Louisiana plays host to this Grade 3 stakes race with post time set for 6:21 p.m. (ET). The list of entries for this year’s Lecomte Stakes is shaping-up to be a good one and the following is my handicapping analysis of the top two horses in the field that have the best shot at finishing in the money as a solid exacta bet.
Lecomte Stakes- Fair Grounds Race Course
The Lecomte is a Grade 3 stakes race for three-year old thoroughbreds run on a dirt track over a distance of 8.32 furlongs. The total prize purse for this year’s event is $200,000.
It will be a crowded field of 15 horses entered into this year’s Lecomte and with quite a few solid contenders it should be a thrilling ride over the entire distance of this race. Going through the list, I have settled-in on Destin as my top sports pick to win. This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt is a one of three 6/1 morning line third-favorites in Saturday’s field, but he comes into this race with a strong duo of famed trainer Todd Pletcher and veteran jockey Julien Leparoux in his corner. He also has the highest Horse Racing Nation rating in this exceptionally large field at 6.59.
Destin will be making his first career run in a graded stakes race, but he has shown some early potential with a first-place finish in a Maiden Special Weight race at Belmont and a second-place run in an Allowance race at Gulfstream Park as a juvenile this past fall.
My second pick for Saturday’s race would be Mo Tom. This three-year old Kentucky-bred colt comes into this race as a 7/2 favorite on the morning line. He is one of two horses in this field with Uncle Mo as his pedigree. The other is Uncle Walter, who should also figure in the mix as one of the other 6/1 third-favorites on the morning line.
Mo Tom is coming off a solid third-place run in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28 in his final race as a juvenile. Prior to that successful run, he started his racing career with a third-place finish in an Allowance race at Keeneland over a distance of six furlongs.
Bonus Race: Louisiana Handicap- Fair Grounds Race Course
This year’s Louisiana Handicap is a listed race for four-year old thoroughbreds and up. It will be contested on the dirt track at Fair Grounds over a distance of 1 1/16 miles.
There is a strong field of veterans entered in this race including my top pick to beat the sports odds, International Star. I loved this New York-bred colt as a three-year old, but unfortunately injury kept him out of last year’s Kentucky Derby after winning both the Lecomte Stakes and the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds leading up to that race. Trained by Mike Maker and ridden by Miguel Mena, he has a HRN rank of 32 and his rating is the highest in the seven-horse field at 8.15.
This big question mark in his debut as a four-year old is current form given that he has only raced once since winning the Louisiana Derby in March of last year. His last run was in the ungraded Zia Park Derby on Nov. 25 at Zia Park in New Mexico and he could only manage a fourth-place finish. International Star is still a quality thoroughbred that should show his strong pedigree this Saturday afternoon.
Another high-profile entry for this race is Ride On Curlin. This five-year old Kentucky-bred colt’s main claim to fame was a second-place finish to California Chrome in the 2014 Preakness Stakes. Trained by William Gowan and ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, his current HRN rank is 58 and he has an overall rating of 7.9.
His last victory came in an Allowance race at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 15 of last year. From there he went on to finish in the money in three of six races as a four-year old including a third-place run in the Tenacious Handicap at Fair Grounds on Dec. 19.