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Sunday Notes: Major Gain Possible for Lecomte, plus Kerwin Clark and more

Gary and Mary West’s Major Gain breezed six furlongs in 1:14.40 at Gulfstream Park Sunday morning  in a move that left his trainer Wayne Catalano pondering a quick trip to his native New Orleans to saddle that son of More Than Ready at Fair Grounds in Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte Stakes.

“He worked real good this morning,” said Catalano, speaking from South Florida shortly after Sunday’s move. “I got him going five-eighths in a minute flat and that’s about what I wanted to see. Right now I’m leaning toward bringing him over there. Now I’ve got to start looking around for a jockey.”

Major Gain would be a major addition to this year’s Lecomte, one of six stakes races slated for this Saturday’s Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone. The homebred was clearly best when he broke his maiden by winning last fall’s Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity in Chicago, but then finished fifth in the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October after being bumped solidly at the half-mile pole. The colt wrapped up his juvenile campaign by finishing third, beaten only a half-length for all of it, in Churchill’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes Nov. 27 despite racing four wide. The Jockey Club Stakes was only the fourth start of his career and his first and only trip over a traditional dirt surface.

As a conditioner, Catalano has dominated the Arlington standings over the last decade, and also has saddled the winner of the last two Arlington-Washington Futurities. Additionally, he is remembered locally for saddling Darrell and Evelyn Yates’ Crypto Star to win the 1997 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

JOCKEY KERWIN CLARK AT TOP OF HIS GAME THIS WINTER – Louisiana native jockey Kerwin Clark scored a riding hat trick last Monday at Fair Grounds, and also had a riding triple the previous Thursday, but completed his recent week by riding Just For Fun Stables’ Decisive Moment to a 3 1/2-length tally in the $250,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs Friday night.

Not a bad week, month, or year so far for the 51-year old Lafayette-born athlete who rode his first recognized horse race in 1975 at Jefferson Downs and battled for leading apprentice honors at Evangeline Downs in 1976.

Through Saturday’s race day at Fair Grounds, Clark had ridden 21 winners at the meeting not yet at the halfway mark and was eighth in the standings, as opposed to a year ago when he rode 19 winners during the entire season and finished 16th in the final standings. Why the sudden improvement?

“Riding good horses, that’s absolutely the key,” said Clark Sunday morning, speaking in the track kitchen during the break  “That and having a good agent like Tony Martin. We got together last April and things have just been clicking between us ever since. I’ve been riding six to nine horses every day and that’s just great.

“Agents are a big part of this game,” Clark said. “If you find somebody you can click with, things just seem to work out. When I’m out there riding, I don’t feel like I’m 51. I may sometimes when I’m sitting down, but I never feel like an old rider out there, which is good. I feel great, I love this game and I love to win.

“Right now, life is really good for Mr. Clark,” said the reinsman, affectionately known as “Boo Boo” to his friends. “I’m Cajun head to toe, I’ve got good kids, good grandkids and I’m making a great living doing what I love to do. Mentally, physically and financially, I’ve never been happier than I am right now.

“Also, I’m excited about this horse I rode the other night.” Clark added, speaking of Decisive Moment. “It’s amazing how much a horse can change between his 2-year-old and 3-year-old seasons. He’s going to be a good one, and they may bring him here for the (Grade II) Risen Star (middle leg of Fair Grounds sophomore series on Feb. 19.) You know, I’ve ridden in the Breeders’ Cup, but I’ve never ridden in the Kentucky Derby. Wouldn’t that be great, after all these years, to have my first Kentucky Derby mount at 51-years-old?”

MIGUEL MENA TIES FOR SECOND IN JOCKEY STANDINGS THROUGH SATURDAY – After riding back-to-back triples on Friday and Saturday at Fair Grounds, jockey Miguel Mena moved into a tie for second in the jockey standings with Jamie Theriot at the conclusion of Saturday’s races.

Mena and Theriot have each made 33 trips to the winner’s circle and were five off the pace of Richard Eramia, who has led the local standings for most of the meeting to date.