Track Phantom Delivers Lecomte Knock Out Punch Early, Adding 20 Points On the Road to Kentucky Derby 150
New Orleans, La (Jan. 20, 2024) – The gloves came off early in the 80th running of the $200,000 Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots as the two top contenders, Track Phantom and Nash broke running for the lead. Quickening past Nash in the opening turn and holding the foe at bay thereafter through the 1 1/16 miles, L and N Racing, Clark Brewster, Jerry Caroom and Breeze Easy’s Track Phantom backed up his Gun Runner victory with a dominant 2 3/4 length win over Nash in the Lecomte.
Utilizing his outside draw to his advantage, Track Phantom broke sharply and out-quickened his inner rival Nash, proving more eager for the lead and establishing command in the first turn to roll off an honest :24.01 opening call and a more moderate :48.36 half mile clocking. Nash repositioned off the rail to press Track Phantom, as his keen stablemate Ethan Energy and the longshot Lat Long followed. Nash made his move for the lead in the far turn but Track Phantom fended off any hint of a menace at will. At the top of the stretch when asked, the Gun Runner champion pulled away, setting Nash to an all-out effort to keep up for second as Lat Long’s bid for that placing fell just short.
Trained by Steve Asmussen and with Joel Rosario back in the irons, Track Phantom’s final time in the Lecomte was 1:44.73.
“The horse (Track Phantom) has a lot of speed and going into the first turn I wanted to get my position and see what he (Florent Geroux) was going to do (aboard Nash),” Rosario said. “I just kept going forward and we were able to get into a nice rhythm.”
Adding 20 to his total with the Lecomte win, Track Phantom has accrued 30 points on the Road to the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) presented by Woodford Reserve. Along with the 3 he earned for finishing third in the Gun Runner, Nash now has 13. Lat Long finished third, earning his first 6 points, while Ethan Energy gathered 4 and Tizzy Indy 2 for finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.
It was the fourth Lecomte win for Asmussen, who last tasted victory in the race in 2021 with Midnight Bourbon. The following year his Gun Runner winner Epicenter was upset by the longshot Midnight Bourbon, but he would later rebound to win both the Risen Star (G2) and the Louisiana Derby (G2) en route to a runner-up performance in the Kentucky Derby.
“He (Track Phantom) is a very nice horse and we’re fortunate to have him for such a great ownership group,” Asmussen said. “I love how he’s running here. I love the 3-year-old series at Fair Grounds and we plan on continuing in it. We couldn’t be any more proud of the horse. He’s won all three of his two-turn races, he’s got a beautiful way of going and I think he’s just going to get better. He’s getting stronger all the time and we’re just excited to be in this position.”
Undefeated going two turns in three tries, Track Phantom’s career 5-3-1-1 record has resulted in $285,000 in earnings for his connections.
Sent off as the 7-5 second favorite, Track Phantom paid $4.80, $2.40, $2.10. In defeat at the market’s top choice for two races straight, Nash returned $2.40, $2.10. Outrunning his 27-1 odds, Lat Long offered $3.40 to show.
The Road to the Kentucky Derby through Fair Grounds picks back up on Feb. 17, as the Derby dreamers will be tasked with 1 1/8 miles in the Risen Star presented by Larmarque Ford-Lincoln (G2). The last New Orleans stop before the first weekend in May comes on March 23 with the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) which is run at 1 3/16 miles.
Nash, second-place finisher
“No excuse,” Geroux said. “He broke sharp and I tried to go with him (Track Phantom) into the first turn but it looked like he really wanted the lead so I let him go and from there I was just chasing him all the way around. The winner was very impressive and is a nice horse. I think he’s one of the best ones I’ve seen so far. My horse kept trying, we just couldn’t get to him.”
Lat Long, third-place finisher
Ken McPeek, trainer
“He (Lat Long) shouldn’t have been 27-1,” McPeek said. “He’s a good, solid colt. We just have to figure out how to get him there (to the Kentucky Derby).”
Brain Hernandez Jr., jockey
“I thought he ran well,” Hernandez, Jr., said. “He’s lacking a little experience against the high quality horses who ran in front of him, but for coming out of a maiden race, that was a big effort. “I thought we were in a great spot. They went at a decent clip and the two favorites were in front of him and he ran a respectable third.”