This weekend at Fair Grounds, the first important graded earnings test for 3-year-olds on the road to the Kentucky Derby takes place with the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes. It's still way too early to tell, but my guess is that we might see one or more of these on the first weekend of May. Just a gut instinct. Let's take a look at the field.
Evan Hammonds and I also talk about the Lecomte on That Handicapping Show.
- 1. Friesan Fire, Gabriel Saez, 5-1 - My pick. More than anything, I guess, I'm going on Larry Jones' word that this is one of the most talented horses he's ever had in his barn. Jones has liked him from Day 1, but he has been a disappointment so far. Friesan Fire was beat on the square by Uno Mas last out in an allowance tilt after getting caught in a speed duel. I'm hoping his sharp work on Jan. 5 will be an indication that he is starting to put it all together. I also like his class edge. He's the only entry to have tried graded action twice so far. He gets top rider Saez for the first time too. Jones won this is 2007 with Hard Spun.
- 2. Au Moon, Julien Leparoux, 8-1 - I will have him in all my exotics and give him a good chance for top prize. Any horse that breaks his maiden by six going 1 1/8 miles must be respected. Yes, the fractions and final time were slow and it was a weak field. But David Carroll says he's the best 3-year-old in his barn and Leparoux requested to stay on him. He flies in from his base in Florida to keep the mount. The one-mile might not be long enough for the son of malibu Moon, but the nice post will let him stay closer to the pace. Taking a big step up in class, but something tells me...
- 3. Citizen, No rider, 20-1 - Won a minor stake at Hawthorne two back and earned a 79 Beyer while finishing fourth in the Sugar Bowl. May be an early pace factor but I don't give him much chance. Note: A new jockey will be named since Francisco Torres was injured Thursday.
- 4. Patena, R. Albarado, 4-1 - Makes his first dirt start after two straight Polytrack wins at Woodbine. Won the Display Stakes for Josie Carroll last out while stalking the pace and earning a solid 81 Beyer. Seems to be an improving horse and deserves consideration, but I can't play ‘em all.
- 5. Big Push, Miguel Mena, 8-1 - A scary horse because he might be alone on the lead. Was headed by Ask Joe in the Sugar Bowl after a game effort. Had a huge four-furlong work on Dec. 14, the best of 147 that day.
- 6. Dynamic Force, J. Campbell, 10-1 - Also making his first dirt start. Has won two of last three for Mark Casse, the only loss a clunker in the Bourbon. Beyers have improved in every race. Not sure he's ready for this.
- 7. Professor Z, 6-1 - Wil be scratched in favor of Smarty Jones Stakes on Jan. 19 at Oaklawn. Loking forward to seeing him there.
- 8. Uno Mas, S. Bridgmohan, 5-1 - Can't fault anyone for liking him. From the barn of Steve Asmussen, he was very sharp in the Dec. 18 allowance win over Friesan Fire. Well-bred colt by Macho Uno, he has two straight wins over this course. If he takes another step forward he will stamp himself as a legitimate Derby contender. I'm guessing he takes a step back. We'll see.
- 9. Indygo Mountain, Jamie Theriot, 3-1 - The morning-line favorite might be the most talented horse in here, but I don't like him in this spot. He was scratched in that Dec. 18 allowance race that Uno Mas won with a foot bruise. Two days later he developed an abscess on the other hind foot and missed two works. Bret Calhoun says he's not 100%, but needs to get a race under him. Does that mean he can't win? Not at all. But when the trainer tells me he doesn't have him where he wants him, that's enough for me. Plus, he draws the outside. Look for bigger things from this colt later in the spring.
My play: $25 win on Friesan Fire; $10 exacta box Friesan Fire, Au Moon; $4 trifecta box Friesan Fire, Au Moon, Big Push