Friday, January 20, 2017

Handicapper's Corner: LeComte Stakes (G3)

A Dozen Colts Lineup for 2012 LeComte Stakes

By: Nicolle Neulist, Blinkers Off

Race 11: Lecomte Stakes (GIII), three-year-olds, one mile and seventy yards on the dirt, post time 5:00pm CST

This year marks the 73rd running of the Lecomte Stakes, a race that has held Grade III designation since 2003, and been run at distances varying from a mile to a mile and an eighth.  

Lecomte, by Boston out of the mare Reel, is best known as the only horse to hand Lexington a defeat.  On April 8, 1854, Lecomte beat Lexington in two straight four-mile heats, with his setting a new four-mile record of 7 minutes, 26 seconds. Lecomte is also a half-brother of another horse whose name lives on as the namesake of a three-year-old stakes race: his dam Reel also produced Prioress, by Sovereign.  Racing from ages two through seven, Prioress was the first American-bred and American-owned horse to win in England, and still has a sophomore fillies' sprint stakes run in her honor at Saratoga.

Though no winner of the Lecomte has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, 2013 hero Oxbow would go on to win the Preakness.  Several other Lecomte victors have gone on to Classic placings: No Le Hace (1972) finished second in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Linkage (1982) finished second in the Preakness, and Hard Spun (2007) finished second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness.

This year's edition of the Lecomte Stakes drew a full field of twelve to vie for a share of $200,000 – and Kentucky Derby points (10-4-2-1) for the top four finishers.  The morning line anticipates that this will be a wide-open betting race, with five of the twelve runners sitting between 9/2 and 6/1 on the line.  This space agrees that the Lecomte is wide open -- and with that the case, we will go for a price.

Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out three of the twelve runners in the Lecomte, all uncoupled.  "A" entry Untrapped is the morning line favorite, and we will circle back to him later.  "C" entry Tip Tap Tapizar looks a bit overmatched here. 

However, "B" entry Totality looks primed to take a step forward from a second-place effort in the Remington Springboard Mile last out.  There, loose leader Cool Arrow gave him nothing to run at, and he still rallied well to come in second.  Here, Totality should have more of a target, with Phat Man, Tip Tap Tapizar, Running Mate, and Takeoff all showing some early speed.  Barring a speed bias, Totality should be well suited to improve.  He also gets a return to rider David Flores in the irons.  Flores is striking at a respectable 15% this Fair Grounds meet, and he booted Totality home to a maiden victory at Churchill Downs back in October.  In a race without a clear standout, Totality has enough upside to back.

Totality's shorter-priced stablemate Untrapped stretches out to a route for the first time.  He debuted sprinting at Keeneland, finishing second behind eventual Smarty Jones Stakes winner Uncontested after a tough start.  Untrapped returned the next month at Churchill Downs, drawing off to win with authority.  This will be his first start since that victory, but he has been working regularly and trainer Steve Asmussen sends horses out ready off of layoffs.  The stretch out to a mile and seventy yards should be okay; Untrapped is by Trappe Shot out of a Giant's Causeway mare who has produced a winner at a mile.  On pace, Untrapped has proven that he can stalk the pace, a good thing with a few speed horses in the field.  And, should he get a better start, he may prove the goods, albeit at a relatively short price in this competitive race.

Saint’s Fan originally occupied the third slot, but Dallas Stewart has opted to scratch him due to the outside post draw.  Instead, Takeoff intrigues.  Takeoff broke his maiden last out over the same course and distance as the Lecomte.  That came on the front end, which may not be the best way to go here.  However, dig back through his form lines and you see his debut: a close call at Keeneland in which Takeoff rallied from well off the pace to be beaten less than a length.  That came at a sprint, so Takeoff still has to prove he's equally versatile going long.  But, the connections inspire confidence.  Florent Geroux keeps the mount, and he is firing at 29% over the Fair Grounds meet.  Geroux has also been strong for Mark Casse, with three wins and five money finishes in eight tries over the last two months.  The weather may also play to Takeoff's advantage.  Though he has not run over an off track yet, his breeding (by Arch out of an Officer mare) suggests he has upside in the mud.

#3 Totality (12/1)
#5 Untrapped (9/2)
#10 Takeoff (6/1)

Longshot:  #11 Pat On the Back (12/1) was well-beaten last out in the Delta Jackpot, but perhaps he did not take to the love-it-or-hate-it Delta Downs track.  He rattled off a nice series of races against state-bred company in New York, with speeds right in rage of what he needs to contend in the Lecomte.  He also showed good pace versatility: though he has shown speed, he has also won from off the pace, a style that ought to serve him better here.  Pat On the Back also gets rider Dylan Davis back from those New York efforts; he did not have Davis's services in Cajun country.  He also adds Lasix for the first time, and has a regular series of work at Fair Grounds stretching back to mid-December.  The weather also shows a good chance of rain for Saturday.  Pat On the Back romped in the slop two back at Belmont, and more rain here would help him factor at a price.


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