2019 Lecomte Stakes Expert Picks with Betting Odds and Predictions
On paper, the Lecomte Stakes, which makes its annual appearance on Saturday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, isn't exactly a major race. After all, it's only a prep race for the Risen Star, which is the major prep for the Louisiana Derby. And the Louisiana Derby hasn't produced a winner of a Triple Crown race since Grindstone won the Derby in 1996. But despite that, this race, which is run at a mile and 70 yards has produced some interesting winners in recent years. Most notably, Oxbow won this race in 2013 before grabbing the Preakness for D. Wayne Lukas. Last year's Lecomte winner, Instilled Regard, was a solid fourth in the Derby. Friesan Fire was the favorite in the 2009 Derby, though he had a truly awful day. And Hard Spun built on the foundation of his Lecomte win to finish second in the Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic and third in the Preakness in 2007. That's quite a lot of history in the last dozen years for a race that doesn't typically draw the biggest trainers and fanciest horses.
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This year's field is massive, with 14 horses in the field, and another also-eligible if there is a scratch. And while it doesn't include the best of the horses in the country right now, it has some decent horses with enough upside to make some noise in May. And a big showing here could help them on that path. Here are the highlights of the field (Odds are track morning line odds):
Plus Que Parfait, 9/2: Last time out this horse was a solid second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. He made a strong late move but was just beaten by Signalman, who was third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and is a major Derby contender. He got a very good pace scenario to run against in that race, but there is plenty of pace here as well, so the race sets up well for him. He has plenty of class, and I trust Julien Leparoux in the saddle well enough. Finding room to run in a 14-horse field isn't always easy, but if he does and the pace does set up then this is the horse to beat. I wouldn't want to see the price fall any further, but at this price he would be a major factor in any bet construction.
Mr. Money, 5/1: This colt was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and he faded badly in the stretch in that race. But that result has started to look better as time has passed. For starters, he came back after that race and won a race handily next time out, so it wasn't the distance that was his problem in the Juvenile. And that Juvenile is also setting up as a solid race - Gunmetal Gray and Mind Control both finished behind this colt, and both have come back to win prep races already this year. I'm not crazy about his connections, but he is one to watch here and will be a part of my exotics.
Tackett, 6/1: This price is silly. He has won two in a row on Fair Grounds, so he obviously loves the track. But those wins came in a maiden race and an optional claiming allowance, so this is a huge step up in class. And while he has won impressively - the maiden win was by more than seven lengths - he hasn't been flashing a lot of speed while doing so. I just don't see how he fits in this field, and this price is set to please the locals.
War of Will, 6/1: This horse is a very interesting case. He has piled up some solid results in strong races - no wins, but often in the mix in strong fields. But they have all come on turf. He has run on dirt, and he won handily, but it was in a maiden race on a sloppy track. Now he is facing his first legitimate dirt test, and it's tough to know how he will handle it. His pedigree certainly leans towards the grass, but his connections wouldn't put him here if they didn't see something. I'm skeptical, but cautiously so.
Tight Ten, 8/1: This horse was second in the Iroquois last fall behind Cairo Cat, who was a horse I liked a lot on the Derby trail before he fell to an injury this week. But this colt is a speed horse, and this field doesn't set up well for them - he'll have too much to deal with, and I don't trust him to be up to it.
Roiland, 12/1: If you are looking for a longer shot in this field, this is where you have to look. He was fifth in the Kentucky Jockey Club, finishing well back of the favorite here. But this colt is a late mover, and he tried to move through the middle of the field instead of swinging wide. That's a bad idea, so it's no surprise he ran into traffic. If he gets a smarter ride here, he could be well situated to run past what should be a lot of fading early speed and grab a piece at least. One of the horses that beat him in the Kentucky Jockey Club, Limonite, finished third after following a more traditional outside path for his late charge. When the horses met again and Roiland got a smarter ride, he came out on top comfortably. There is talent here.
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