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Barn Notes: Thursday, January 9

IN TODAY'S NOTES: Albano, Gold Hawk Headed for Lecomte Faceoff; Keith Desormeaux Updates on Silent Ruler, Ive Struck a Nerve

It is now less than 10 days until Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Jan. 18 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots but at this early juncture the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, showcase race of that gala afternoon, is looking like it may end up as a duel of wills between Brereton Jones’s Albano and Winchell Thoroughbreds’Gold Hawk.

That’s not to say it will be a two-horse race, but it is to say that those two newly-turned sophomores each have eye-opening races over the local course and both are on schedule for the $200,000 Lecomte at one mile and 70 yards on the third Saturday in January.  For the benefit of the more uninitiated Fair Grounds fans, the Lecomte serves as the first step on the road that will conclude with the 100th renewal of the $1 million Louisiana Derby on March 29.

Albano, trained by Larry Jones, broke his maiden here Nov.24 and came back to take down winning honors on Santa Super Saturday Dec. 21 when he drew off by 1 ¼ lengths in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes at six furlongs.  The Lecomte would be the Istan colt’s first effort around two turns.

“He worked Monday (going five furlongs in 1:03.40) and we were pleased with that,” said Jones Thursday morning during training hours. “He came out fine from that work the other day and we’ll work him again this Monday (Jan. 13).” 

Gold Hawk broke his maiden at first asking Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs but was very impressive here in his local bow around two turns when he tallied by 3 ½ lengths on Dec. 27.

“What really impressed me about this horse is the way he was stretching out at the end of that last race,” said Ricardo Santana Jr., the jockey aboard Gold Hawk in both his starts.  “He really wanted to go longer.”

A third 3-year-old with a particularly impressive New Orleans debut this season is JMJ Racing Stable’s Unknown Road, but that son of Preakness winner Bernardini who broke his maiden by 11 ¾ lengths Dec. 19 in the waning days of his juvenile campaign is being preferred for a first level allowance race in lieu of the Lecomte. 

“What’s the rush?” said trainer Al Stall Jr. when asked about Unknown Road going in the Lecomte.  “There’s no point in running him in that spot just yet unless an easier race doesn’t fill.”     

Others with definite designs on the Lecomte include trainer Danny Pish, who plans to send Dennis Foster’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf contestant Got Shades as well as Cesar Parra’s Rainbow Trip from his Retama base of operations in central Texas. 

“It’s hard to find races going two turns on the main track in this part of the country,” said Pish, “which is why Got Shades has only run on the grass so far.  But this is a horse who wants to go long.  He’s had some nice works on the main track out here (most recently five furlongs in 59.60 Jan 3 at Retama) and I don’t see any reason he won’t be able to run on the main track.

“The other horse (Rainbow Trip) just continues to improve and I figure he deserves this chance against this kind of competition,” said Pish. “He had a nice race going seven furlongs on the main track at Louisiana Downs and he’s gotten a lot better since then.  Both horses are leaving here (Retama) for New Orleans (Friday) morning.”

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Vicar’s in Trouble, a Mike Maker-trained Louisiana-bred who broke his maiden with a 13-length romp in state-bred company here on Louisiana Champions Day Dec. 14 also appears headed for the Lecomte after working five furlongs in 1:01.60 last Saturday.

Michelle Brown’s Roman Unbridled, not an early-bird nomination to the Louisiana Derby but a Lecomte nomination by last Saturday’s deadline, is trained by Chad Cook and appears headed for this first leg of Fair Grounds sophomore series.

KEITH DESORMEAUX UPDATES ON SILENT RULER, IVE STRUCK A NERVE —Fair Grounds-based trainer Keith Desormeaux nominated Big Chief Thoroughbreds’ Silent Ruler to the Grade III Lecomte prior to last Saturday’s deadline and the Lafayette, Louisiana, native was somewhat non-committal when asked if Silent Ruler would be a Lecomte contestant on Thursday.

“That’s a thought-provoking idea,” said Desormeaux.  “That’s about where we’re at with that right now.”

Asked about the status of Big Chief Racing et al.’s Ive Struck a Nerve, last season’s upset Grade II Risen Star Stakes winner who was injured prior to the 2013 Grade II Louisiana Derby but was due back at Fair Grounds about January 1, Desormeaux said that Ive Struck a Nerve’s return has been delayed a month or two. 

“There are no further issues with him,” Desormeaux said, “we just want to make sure that his fracture is totally healed before we start back with him.”