01/13/2012 5:38PM

Fair Grounds: Lecomte figures to draw large, competitive group

Tom Keyser
Todd Pletcher-trained El Padrino is a likely favorite for the Lecomte Stakes.

The Fair Grounds starting gate can accommodate 14 horses in main-track route races, and – somewhat surprisingly – all stalls might be needed for the Jan. 21 Lecomte Stakes.

Fair Grounds stakes coordinator Scott Jones had a list of 12 likely runners in the Lecomte, with the connections of three other horses said to be considering the first 3-year-old route stakes of the 2012 Fair Grounds season. There are no established top-level runners among the prospective field, but that’s almost always the case in the Lecomte, a mile and 70-yard race that begins to separate the early-season wheat from chaff.

Race favoritism, if things shake out as expected when Lecomte entries are taken Wednesday, could fall to El Padrino, a Todd Pletcher-trained Pulpit colt who finished third in the Remsen Stakes in his most recent start. Pletcher regularly sends horses from Florida to Fair Grounds for stakes races later in the meet, and this will be a rare early-winter foray to New Orleans. El Padrino finished second at Saratoga in his career debut, before winning a sloppy-track maiden mile at Belmont Park by more than 12 lengths while facing five foes.

Oklahoma-bred Ted’s Folly has been based at Fair Grounds since shortly after winning the Springboard Mile on Dec. 10 at Remington Park. Trained by Wilson Brown, who doesn’t normally stable in New Orleans, Ted’s Folly has won six straight starts, successfully transitioning from sprints to a route in the Springboard.

Shared Property is likely to make his 2012 debut in the Lecomte for trainer Tom Amoss. Winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity, Shared Property hasn’t raced since finishing sixth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity on Oct. 8 at Keeneland.

Also expected for the Lecomte is Sugar Bowl Stakes winner Exfactor, who will be making his two-turn debut for trainer Bernie Flint, as well as Sevenlivelysins and Mr. Bowling, the two-three finishers from the Oct. 30 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. Cape Town Devil and Gowhereyougaze, the one-two finishers in a Dec. 31 two-turn Fair Grounds allowance race, are likely Lecomte runners, as is another local route allowance winner, Hammer’s Terror, who scored by almost three lengths in his dirt debut Dec. 8. Tetradrachm and Z Dager, promising recent Fair Grounds maiden-route graduates, also are on the Lecomte list.

The Silverbulletday, the 3-year-old filly counterpart to the Lecomte, had seven probable starters as of Friday, but that race also should be interesting. It’s headed by the undefeated Al Stall-trained Applauding, who will make her first start beyond a sprint distance, and includes sharp recent Fair Grounds route winners Summer Applause and Avie’s Sense, and Grade 2 Tempted Stakes winner Believe You Can. Also expected to start are Always Here Too, Inny Minnie, and Yvete Sangalo.

Thiskyhasnolimit will make his first start since July in the Louisiana Handicap for older dirt-route horses, while the Col. Bradley Handicap, for older grass horses, could lure Fair Grounds-loving Blues Street from Florida. Two more stakes, the Gaudin for dirt sprinters, and the Pan Zareta for female turf-sprinters, should be comprised of local horses.