Ron the Greek Last to First in Grade III Lecomte

Jack T Hammer’s Ron the Greek rallied past nine other 3-year-olds in the final half-mile of Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes to score by 1 ½ lengths in the first of three races in the Road to the Derby series at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Ron the Greek, with James Graham aboard, trailed the field early while betting favorite Don Benge’s Maximus Ruler set the pace through splits of 23.42 for the opening quarter-mile and 46.80 for the half-mile. Sugar Bowl Stakes winner Robert and Lawana Low & Winmore LLC’s Cool Bullet pressed Maximus Ruler from his outside through three-quarters in 1:12.27.

Into the stretch Ron the Greek swung wide into the middle of the track and began his charge, picking off horses in a sustained drive that left him in front at the end of the one mile and 40 yards in 1:40.09.

“He has a big kick,” Graham said. “He does what you tell him to do. If you want to go he’ll wait until you pull the trigger.”

A Florida-bred bay colt by Full Mandate, the winner paid $17.60, $8.20 and $5.60 as co-fifth choice in the wagering.

Maximus Ruler held on gamely for second, paying $4.40 and $3.40, while Bob Zollars & Mark Wagner’s Letsgetitonmon closed from the back to finish third by a half-length, paying $5. Cool Bullet ran evenly in the stretch to hold fourth and the order of finish was completed by Worldly, Turf Melody, Citrus Kid, Depaul, B’wanagoldmine and Rock Hard. Callide Valley scratched.

Trainer Tom Amoss, a nine-time leading trainer here and member of the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame, notched his third Lecomte win.

“We really thought he had a good chance today,” Amoss said. “For the horseplayers that like to examine the horses in the paddock he really does look the part. He’s a one-run horse, so let’s hope he always has some pace up front.”

The $60,000 in graded stakes earnings for the winner boosted the Ron the Greek’s career earnings to $104,400. It was Ron the Greek’s third win from four starts, with his only loss coming last time out in Remington Park’s $200,000 Springboard Mile, when he closed for fourth.

The rest of the field offered no excuses and several ran well enough to be seen again in the Risen Star, including runner-up Maximus Ruler.

“I thought it was a great effort,” trainer Clark Hanna said. “He got tested every step of the way. He took on all foes except for one. Maybe the trainer didn’t have him fit enough coming off the layoff but he cooled out well and we’ll be looking to come back in a few weeks in the next one.”

The Road to the Derby series continues Feb. 20 with the Grade II Risen Star Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

Full Stakes Quotes—Race 10—Grade III, $100,000 Lecomte Stakes
3-year-olds, One mile and 40 yards, 66th running

Jockey James Graham (Ron the Greek, winner): “He has a big kick. He does what you tell him to do. If you want to go he’ll wait until you pull the trigger. He ran big.”

Trainer Tom Amoss (Ron the Greek, winner): “We really thought he had a good chance today. For the horseplayers that like to examine the horses in the paddock he really does look the part. He’s a very, very good-looking horse.

“He’s a one-run horse, period. Let’s hope he always has some pace up front.”

Are you inclined to run back in the Risen Star? “I certainly think so. It’s another seventy yards. The Risen Star would be a tremendously flattering race to win, not only for myself by for Mr. Hammer. We’ll let him tell us but that’s certainly what we’re thinking.”

Jockey Francisco Torres (Maximus Ruler, second): “He broke well. He relaxed and placed himself on a very comfortable lead. He responded to my urging and kept driving.

“I was pleased with his effort. When I called on him he exploded. I don’t think he saw the winner he was so far away from him. First time going around two turns, he has a lot of room to improve.”

Trainer Clark Hanna (Maximus Ruler, second): “I thought it was a great effort. I thought he was hooked for most of the way around there and obviously he was fresh being on the front end like he was. He got tested every step of the way. He took on all foes except for one. Maybe the trainer didn’t have him fit enough coming off the layoff but he cooled out well and if all’s well tomorrow we’ll be looking to come back in a few weeks in the next one.”

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan (Letsgetitonmon, third): “He finished really well. He was a little bit further back early on but when I asked him down the lane I had to weave my way through traffic and he really finished up well. I think he’s a three-year-old that each time they lead him over here he keeps getting better and better. He’s moving in the right direction and he tries hard.”

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. (Cool Bullet, fourth): “He ran huge for first time going two turns. I think he’ll step up the next time.”

Trainer Steve Margolis (Cool Bullet, fourth): “He had a great trip. Brian rode a great race, a good stalking trip. He tired a little bit at the end but I wouldn’t call it quitting; I think it’s maybe the lack of the two-turn experience kind of caught up to him. I’m not disappointed. You want to win every time but I think for a horse coming off a five-and-a-half (furlong) and a three-quarters (of a mile) race, he ran a legitimate race.

“I don’t know what well do next time; I’ll have to talk to the owners. He ran a hard-trying race and if you could go buy every horse like this for $4,000 you’d be in good shape.”

Jockey Robby Albarado (Worldly, fifth): “I had a beautiful trip. I sat right behind the lead horses. I was content the whole way. I had a great rail trip turning for home, just didn’t have enough horse to go on.”

Jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. (Turf Melody, sixth): “Actually I had a great trip. My horse was pulling a little bit in the early stages of the race. Once she got down the backside he settled really nicely. I was following the three (Worldly) around there and I thought I was in a great spot. When we turned for home I thought he would give me that other gear and he just never did. He ran very even through the lane. I really thought he’d give me that other gear but he just stayed where he was. No excuses; it’s just one of those things.”

Jockey Miguel Mena (Citrus Kid, seventh): “He was a little nervous in the post parade. Other than that no excuses.”