A promising field of 12 will go to post in New Orleans’ first Kentucky Derby prep of the year in the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 21. Topping a six-stakes Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone card, the mile and 70-yard event renews for the 72nd time with a wide-open field.
Three horses with graded stakes form enter the sophomore challenge with experience edges, including Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Shareholder Value, a course and distance allowance winner on Dec. 26 for 11-time leading trainer Tom Amoss. Like last year’s Amoss-trained winner Mo Tom, Shareholder Value is a son of Uncle Mo with a serious turn of foot who looks to improve upon a loss in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club two back. Shaun Bridgmohan has the return call from post four.
New York-bred Pat On the Back enters for trainer Ken McPeek’s local string. Drawing in post 11, he exits a sixth in the Grade III Delta Jackpot on Nov. 19 and was a two-time state-bred stakes winner in the fall. Dylan Davis, who was aboard for those two added-money victories and all three of his career tallies, flies in for the mount.
Whispering Oaks Farm’s Tip Tap Tapizar (James Graham, post seven) looks to improve upon an eighth in said Delta Downs meet centerpiece and return to the form that saw him win the $103,000 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park in September and place in the a pair of graded sprint events last summer for trainer Steve Asmussen. The 13-time leading trainer also entered Winchell Thoroughbreds’ $300,000 Springboard Mile runner-up Totality (David Flores, post three) and Michael Langford’s sharp Churchill Downs maiden sprint winner Untrapped (Ricardo Santana, Jr., post five).
Two swift local sprint winners with stamina-laden pedigrees stretch out for well-respected connections in Bret Jones’ Larry Jones-trained Running Mate (Gabriel Saez, post nine) and breeder-owner-trainer Dallas Stewart’s Saint’s Fan (Brian Hernandez, Jr., post 12). The former, a son of Creative Cause, was a disappointment when second by three last out in the $50,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes as the 2-5 favorite, an effort that followed two six-furlong romps. The latter, by Tale of Ekati, enters off a victory over fellow Louisiana-breds in the $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile on Dec. 10.
William S. Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy’s Guest Suite (Robby Albarado, post eight) romped in a Churchill Downs one-turn mile allowance in late November last out for trainer Neil Howard. With zero stamina question, the son of Quality Road broke his maiden three back going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland and was third in the $83,000 Street Sense Stakes at a one-turn mile two back.
A pair of promising and expensive sons of Arch enter off a swift maiden heat over the Lecomte course and distance in John C. Oxley’s Mark Casse-trained Takeoff (Florent Geroux, post 10), a $550,000 OBS March 2016 purchase, wired said field in a final time nearly a second faster than Shareholder Value clocked two races prior. He finished a length ahead of Donegal Racing’s Brad Cox-trained runner-up Arklow (Jon Court, post two), a well-regarded $160,000 Keeneland September 2015 yearling who enters as a maiden.
Brad Grady’s Joe Sharp-trained impressive local maiden claiming romper Phat Man (C. J. McMahon, rail), a son of Munnings and top turf sprinter Nicole’s Dream, and Jay and Joan Janssen’s Leo Gabriel, Jr.-trained local turf maiden victor Marco Mischief (Marcelino Pedroza, post six) complete the field.