Loaded Lecomte a Deserving Derby Prep  

Lecomte Draws Strongest Field of January Derby Preps

The January prep races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby have not been strong races in recent years, but the Lecomte Stakes has been the most productive in turning out starters for the Kentucky Derby with 11 runners in the past 10 years. But this Saturday’s Lecomte at the Fair Grounds is loaded with one of the best lineups in years.

“From the standpoint of our racing office it’s very lucky,” Fair Grounds track announcer John G. Dooley said. “Depth-wise this renewal looks like it’s going to be one of the better ones.”

Principe Guilherme winning allowance race

Undefeated front-runner Principe Guilherme (5-2) is the morning-line favorite in the field of 13, and he’s one of three runners for trainer Steve Asmussen. Principe Guilherme (pronounced “prin-seep gill-air’m”) breaks from the outside in post 12 and tries to make it 3-for-3 after winning at this same mile and 70 yards distance by more than 11 lengths Dec. 16 at the Fair Grounds. He makes his stakes debut against a tougher field with a long home stretch at the Fair Grounds where some serious chasers will be coming after him.

A total of nine shippers are in for the $200,000 Grade III race with 10 Derby points offered to the winner and 4-2-1 for the next three finishers. That includes Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Instilled Regard (4-1), a $1 million purchase last March who placed 2nd last month behind McKinzie in the Los Alamitos Futurity in a race in which Solomini was disqualified as the winner.

Closer Kowboy Karma (6-1) is one capable of making a late move on the longer homestretch. He and Parx stakes winner Prince Lucky (8-1) will both be in the race for trainer Larry Jones as will the pace-setting Believe In Royalty (15-1).

“I don’t know which horse would have the best shot,” Jones said. “I’m sure it’s whoever gets the best trip. It could be detrimental to get hung on the outside of somebody.” Jones won the 2007 Lecomte with Hard Spun,

Highly regarded filly Wonder Gadot, who was entered in the Lecomte, will race instead against the girls Saturday in the $150,000 Silverbulletday (Race 7), a Kentucky Oaks prep. Probably a wise move considering the strength of this year’s Lecomte.

Two other Kentucky Derby preps – Saturday’s redrawn Jerome at Aqueduct and Monday’s Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park – are also coming this holiday weekend. But the stronger Lecomte will have some horses to watch in upcoming Derby preps. Click here for Fair Grounds race entries, odds and Race 9 Lecomte Stakes lineup – post time 6:03 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 13.

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