01/12/2015 3:23PM

Eagle stuck far outside for Lecomte Stakes

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Eagle (left), shown finishing third in the Kentucky Jockey Club, will have to work out a good trip from post 11 in Saturday's Lecomte.

The Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte for 3-year-olds and the $125,000 Silverbulletday for 3-year-old fillies are stakes races, but the post position draw, random as it is, treated both races like handicaps.

Eagle, the likely favorite in the Lecomte, and Top Decile, the likely favorite in the Silverbulletday, both drew the far outside post in their respective races. If they are to win, they will have their draws to overcome.

Eagle’s post, 11, looks especially tricky from a historical perspective. Both races will be contested at one mile and 70 yards, and in the last five racing seasons at Fair Grounds, post 11 has produced just 3 winners from 97 starters at that distance. The miserable strike rate makes sense given the relatively short run to the first turn and the accompanying ground loss, nearly inevitable. Eagle’s connections – owner-breeder Will Farish, trainer Neil Howard, and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. – can take some solace in the fact the bare win percentage from the 11-hole probably exaggerates its negative effect, since during the same period, starters from post 12 have gone 5 for 49.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

Eagle ran on strongly the last three furlongs of his stakes debut, finishing third by less than one length in the Nov. 29 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, whose winner, El Kabeir, scored an encouraging win Jan. 3 in the Jerome at Aqueduct.

From the rail out, the Lecomte consists of International Star, Tiznow R J, Four Leaf Chief, War Story, Hero of Humor, Savoy Stomp, Run Happy, Killing It, and Dekabrist.

Tiznow R J was a sharp maiden route winner at Fair Grounds in his most recent start, while War Story won a first-level allowance here Dec. 28. Another Lemon Drop, who also got a tough outside draw, was third behind mighty Dortmund in a first-level allowance before clearing the condition impressively Dec. 19 at Fair Grounds.

The Lecomte is a Kentucky Derby qualifying race, with points to the top four finishers distributed on a 10-4-2-1 scale.

Post 9, from which Top Decile breaks in the Silverbulletday, has produced 23 winners from 262 starters the last five meets, which is not so bad. Trained by Al Stall, and with Mike Smith in to ride, Top Decile seeks her first stakes victory after finishing second in the Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland and in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, her 2-year-old finale.

She could be challenged for favoritism by West Coast Belle, who won all three of her 2-year-old starts, including an eye-catching score Nov. 29 in the Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill. Shaun Bridgmohan ships in to ride.

The Silverbulletday has both depth and chaff, with several horses – led perhaps by Forever Unbridled – potentially talented enough to contend with the favorites with continued development. The race merits extra attention because fillies based at Fair Grounds, starting with Proud Spell in 2008 and running through Untapable last year, have won three of the last seven editions of the Kentucky Oaks.

There are three other stakes – the Louisiana Handicap, the Colonel Bradley, and the Marie Krantz Memorial – on the Saturday card. Post time is 12:30 p.m. Central rather than the standard 1:25, and the early forecast calls for beautiful weather.