Home of the Louisiana Derby

Barn Notes: Thursday, February 15


•              Instilled Regard Gets Acclimated To Fair Grounds Main Track

•              Asmussen Confident In Risen Star Pair

•              Synchrony Returns In Gr. III Fair Grounds Handicap

•              Bradley Makes Equipment Change With The Player



OXO Equine LLC’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes winner Instilled Regard is back at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots from his Southern California base for what trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s assistant Christina Jelm hopes is another victory on the Road To The Kentucky Derby in Saturday’s Gr. II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (50-20-10-5).

The 3-year-old son of Arch went out to the track at 5:45 AM for a mile-and-a-half gallop over the main track on Thursday morning.

“He shipped in very well and settled right in,” Jelm said. “He had a mile and a half gallop (Thursday) morning and he’s doing great.”

The Lecomte was a first stakes victory for Instilled Regard, who currently sits at No. 9 on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 14 points. He earned ten from his triumph in the Lecomte and another four after a second place finish in the Gr. I Los Alamitos Futurity, where he was elevated from third via disqualification.

“I would say that he should get over the surface well, like he did last time,” Jelm said. “I hope to see the same thing we saw last time. He appears to have put on some weight and he’s definitely more professional this round, not that he wasn’t professional last time out but he’s maturing. He’s very relaxed, happy and enjoying being back here in Louisiana."

Instilled Regard in the 8-5 morning line favorite for the Risen Star, and will break from post five under Javier Castellano.



Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen went into the Gr. III Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 13 with confidence in Principe Guilherme and Snapper Sinclair and feels the same way about the pair of 3-year-olds when they race in the Gr. II $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented By Lamarque Ford.

The Lecomte was a big step up for Principe Guilherme, who finished second beaten 3 ¾ lengths behind Instilled Regard in the Jan. 13 event. Owned by Three Chimneys Farm, the son of Tapit out of Grade I winning broodmare Aubby K made his stakes debut in the Lecomte where he faced a full field of a baker’s dozen other contenders. He entered the race as the favorite after winning a local allowance optional claiming event on the main track in wire-to-wire fashion by 11¾ lengths. He won his career debut at Churchill Downs when taking a field of maidens gate to wire going seven furlongs.

“Obviously he’s a very talented horse and has a huge pedigree,” Asmussen said. “His first two races were very easy and I thought with the numbers of runners as well as his draw in the Lecomte, there were a lot of variables that he had not faced before. I feel really good about how he came out of that race and came back to the racetrack from the (Lecomte). I don’t think that his confidence was shaken; I think that he’s been serious. We’ve gotten into a very good rhythm with him headed into the Risen Star. Saying that obviously nothing but respect for the field that’s assembled. It’s a very serious race but I feel like we have a good representation.”

Principe Guilherme did not get the easiest of trips in the Lecomte. He drew the outside post and was bumped at the break before having to angle four wide approaching the top of the stretch. Like anyone else in Asmussen’s current position, he is eyeing the Gr. I $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 5 as the major goal and is looking to secure more points on the Road to The Kentucky Derby.

“If he can move forward from a strong race like the Lecomte it will make all the difference,” Asmussen said. “I think that if we’re able to have success in the Risen Star with him or Snapper Sinclair then it will put us exactly in the position that we want to be in the three-year-old picture. No one misses the fact that it’s fifty points to the winner of the Risen Star which would pretty much guarantee a spot in the starting gate with them in the Kentucky Derby. If you can secure fifty points at this stage then you pretty much can look at the Derby and go backwards from there instead of be chasing points.”

With a third-place effort in the Lecomte, where he was only beaten four lengths behind Instilled Regard, Bloom Racing Stable LLC’s Snapper Sinclair proved that he was capable of handling the main track. He broke his maiden on the turf at Saratoga before a stakes win in the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase Stakes at Kentucky Downs in September.

“The advantage Snapper has – obviously he has a tremendous amount of talent and that’s what put him in this spot – but he has experience,” Asmussen said. “He’s run at Kentucky Downs, he’s run (12th) in the Breeders’ Cup and he’s accepted the pageantry of racing already. I think that the Lecomte, with the amount of horses and variables going in, he’s answered those questions. I expect with how the weather has warmed up this time of the year. I think those things will be at an advantage for Snapper Sinclair – a horse that has trained very well since the Lecomte.”

Principe Guilherme will be ridden by Florent Geroux and breaks from the nine hole as the 7-2 second choice. Snapper Sinclair will emerge from post four under Adam Beschizza at odds of 8-1.



Things haven’t always been easy for Pin Oak Stable’s Synchrony, but trainer Mike Stidham believes that the 5-year-old son of Tapit is starting to come around. He’ll get a chance to prove his trainer right on Saturday when he comes off a nine-month layoff in the Gr. III $100,000 Fair Grounds Handicap.

Synchrony started off his career under the care of trainer Donnie Von Hemel and did not see the turf until moving to Stidham’s barn at the beginning of his 4-year-old year. While under the care of Von Hemel, he raced on dirt and was third in Oaklawn Park’s Smarty Jones Stakes as well as the Gr. III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland behind Collected.

“He hadn’t been on the grass yet because as a three-year-old they were hoping that maybe he was going to get on the Derby trail,” Stidham said. “He started having some end of the cannon bone issues and it kind of slowed his progress down. Those problems kind of continued into his four-year-old year, even after time off. So we were kind of hit and miss with him and only got to run him three times, but they were good races and the grass definitely moved him up.”

His three starts on grass include a win over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course and two second-place finishes at the stakes level. He was second behind eventual Grade I winner Ascend in the Henry Clark Stakes at Laurel Park and last saw racing action when finishing second to Irish Strait in the Gr. III Red Bank Stakes at Monmouth Park  last May. Now that the horse is back on track, Stidham has him ready to roll for Saturday’s event.

“We gave him four months to completely get all of that behind him, which he did, and he has trained like a completely different horse,” Stidham said.  “I love the way he’s training, it’s the best he’s ever trained while I’ve had him. He’s coming into the race good, I got a lot in him fitness wise and I feel good about him.”

Synchrony is out of eight-time graded stakes winning broodmare Brownie Points who also was owned by Pin Oak. He will break from post eight under Joe Bravo at 9-2 odds.



Trainer William “Buff” Bradley is trying something a little different with The Player in Saturday’s Gr. III $150,000 Mineshaft Handicap.

Owned by the trainer in partnership with Carl Hurst, the 5-year-old son of Street Hero will be wearing blinkers when he goes for his second graded stakes victory in Saturday’s race. The Player won the Gr. III Fayette Stakes at Keeneland last October.

“We thought after he had gotten past in the last race, it looked like he was going to win and then he came on again late and galloped out strong,” Bradley said. “I just think he’s not as focused as much as he should be so we’re going to try a different tactic with him this time. He’s doing super, he couldn’t be doing any better. Every breeze he’s done has been easy without even asking him. He shows up and breezes so we’re just hoping he shows up in the race.”

Despite the addition of blinkers to The Player, Bradley does not expect that he’ll be showing more speed.

“Actually, he has relaxed well with the blinkers,” Bradley said. “Most of the time you put blinkers on them because you want them to show more speed, but we just want him to focus some more.”



Photos Courtesy of Hodges Photography