Stakes Advance: Wide Open Field of 14 Seek Derby Dreams in Grade III Lecomte Stakes

By Ryan Martin

A contentious, overflow field of 14 sophomores (plus one also eligible) hope to earn valuable points on the Road To The Kentucky Derby when they line up for the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes, the first of three local preps leading up to the Run for the Roses. The Lecomte is one of six stakes events to be run on Saturday, January 19, as part of the Road To The Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone.

Slated as Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots odds-maker Mike Diliberto’s tepid 9-2 morning line favorite is Imperial Racing’s Plus Que Parfait, who will break from post 12 under jockey Julien Leparoux. Trained by Brendan Walsh, Plus Que Parfait was last seen finishing a close second behind Signalman (previously third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) over a sloppy track in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. In doing so, the son of Point of Entry banked four qualifying points on the Road To The Kentucky Derby.

He broke his maiden at third asking going a mile-and-a-sixteenth over a fast main track at Keeneland where he defeated next out winners Harvey Wallbanger and Cutting Humor.

“It’s always been an advantage,” Walsh said of the two-turn experience. “It looks like he’s good enough. He seems to like this track. He’s worked well on it and I believe that the long stretch will suit him. Just like any of them this time of year, he still has a lot of questions to answer, but I think he’s a pretty nice horse. There’s plenty of stamina in his pedigree.”

Allied Racing Stable’s Mr. Money ran a game fourth in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a 41-1 longshot last time out and will look to begin his sophomore campaign on a high note when he breaks from post four under jockey Gabriel Saez. The Bret Calhoun-trained son of Goldencents brags the highest amount of career earnings in the Lecomte field having acquired a bankroll of $150,400. He entered the Breeders’ Cup off of a 3¾-length maiden special weight victory at Churchill Downs, which took place in his third career start. He is 5-1.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is never short of talent in the 3-year-old department and this year appears to be no exception. The two-time winner of the Lecomte will be represented by a pair of Ron Winchell-owned Tapit progeny in this year’s edition with Wicked Indeed (post one, 12-1, Brian Hernandez, Jr.) and Tight Ten (post 11, 8-1, Ricardo Santana, Jr.). A full brother to Grade II winners My Miss Lilly and Just Wicked, Wicked Indeed broke his maiden in his career debut, which took place going six furlongs at Fair Grounds on November 30 over fellow Lecomte contestant Chase the Ghost (post 10, 12-1, Corey Lanerie). He stretched out to two turns when facing winners in his next start and finished third behind Tackett (post three, 6-1, Joe Bravo). Tight Ten made his last start in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he was a troubled ninth behind Game Winner. Also a victor in his career debut, Tight Ten was second in both the Grade II Saratoga Special Stakes and the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs last season.

Trainer Mark Casse will saddle War of Will (post eight, 5-1, Tyler Gaffalione) and Mo Speed (post nine, 20-1, Jerome Lermyte). Owned by Gary Barber, Grade I placed War of Will made his dirt debut last time out against maiden special weight company over a sloppy main track at Churchill Downs, which he won by five lengths as the lukewarm favorite. In his prior start, the son of War Front was a troubled fifth beaten 3 ½ lengths in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He has bankrolled a total of $131,569. Meanwhile, Mo Speed is making his stakes debut in the Lecomte. His last two starts were victories over both surfaces. In his second start, he broke his maiden over a yielding turf course at Woodbine on November 11 and defeated winners next out over a sloppy main track at Fair Grounds.

Completing the field for the Lecomte are Malpais (post two, 12-1, Adam Beschizza), Night Ops (post five, 30-1, Edgar Morales), Hog Creek Hustle (post six, 12-1, Florent Geroux), Roiland (post seven, 12-1, James Graham), Manny Wah (post 13, 10-1, Channing Hill), and Admire (post 14, 20-1, Robby Albarado). West Texas (post 15, 20-1, Marcelino Pedroza) is an also-eligible entrant.

The Lecomte Stakes awards the Top 4 finishers qualifying points on Churchill Downs’ Road To The Kentucky Derby based off of a 10-4-2-1 scale.