Fair Grounds Race Course, New Orleans, LA
January 19, Saturday, 6:49 p.m. ET
The field for this Saturday afternoon’s LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course stretches 15 wide with a number of talented entries in what will a very interesting start to this season’s Kentucky Derby prep schedule at this famed Louisiana track. Most of the top trainers in the game will be represented in this race along with most of horse racing’s best jockeys along for the ride.
Tracking the Top Contenders
The LeComte is a Grade 3 major stakes event open to three-year old thoroughbreds looking to earn a spot on this season’s Kentucky Derby Trail. This year’s event offers a total prize purse of $200,000. It acts as a lead-in to the prep schedule at Fair Grounds that culminates with the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 23. This Saturday’s main event at Fair Grounds will be contested on the dirt track at a distance of 1 mile, 70 yards.
The likely morning line favorite for this year’s LeComte is trainer Mark Casse’s War of Will. The Kentucky-bred 3-year-old will break from the No. 8 post with Tyler Gaffalione as his jockey. He has a wealth of experience as a juvenile with impressive runs in a trio of graded stakes events, but they were all run on turf. This race will mark his first effort on dirt in a make or break performance that will determine his future on the Kentucky Derby Trail. His top performance last year was a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine at a distance of one mile.
This son of War Front went on to compete in the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs and finished a respectable fifth in the strongest field he faced. He comes into this race with a Horse Racing Nation rating of 5.16.
Another highly touted entry for Saturday’s race by the horse racing world is Plus Que Parfait. Breaking from the No 12 post with famed jockey Julien Leparoux getting the ride, this Kentucky-bred colt is trained by Brandon Walsh. He first made a name for himself as a juvenile with a second-place finish behind Signalman in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on Nov. 24 at Churchill over a distance of 1 1/16 miles on dirt. This followed finishes in the money in a pair of Maiden Special Weight runs at a distance of one mile.
A pedigree of Point of Entry, he lost his last race by a neck against one of the top contenders on the early Kentucky Derby futures list. That effort earned him a solid HRN rating of 6.09 heading into his 3-year-old debut.
One to Watch
The colt at the top of my list with a HRN rating of 7.09 is trainer Steve Asmussen’s Wicked Indeed. This 3-year-old Kentucky-bred colt will be a bit farther down the list in the posted morning lines odds, but he has earned my top spot in this race more on potential than past performances. A relatively quiet juvenile campaign was capped off with a third-place finish in an Allowance Claimer at Fair Grounds on Dec. 22 at a distance of 1 mile 70 yards as a prep for this race. The added familiarity of the same track and distance should work in his favor.
As a sire of Tapit and Wicked Deed, there is a strong progeny with this colt that goes back to AP Indy and Unbridled. He will have to get a clean break from the No. 1 post with jockey Brian Hernandez on board, but I still feel he is going to surprise more than a few horse bettors this Saturday.