01/16/2013 5:20PM

Fair Grounds: Oxbow, Circle Unbroken top nine-horse lineup for Lecomte

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Circle Unbroken (second from left) will be making his first start since winning the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs last June.

Officials at Fair Grounds Race Course made a preemptive and prudent decision Wednesday to postpone two of the five stakes scheduled for its “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day” program Saturday in New Orleans.

Both of those grass races, the $125,000 Col. E.R. Bradley and the $75,000 Marie Krantz Memorial, will be run a week from Saturday, on Jan.  26. The move was made because of a heavily saturated turf course and the fear that those stakes would be decimated if they were carded this Saturday and had to be transferred to the main track.

In the meantime, the 13-race “Kickoff” card has been drawn for Saturday, with the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes for 3-year-olds remaining as the richest race and the $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes and $100,000 Louisiana Handicap serving as supporting co-features.

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

A field of nine was entered in the mile-and-70-yard Lecomte, with Oxbow and Circle Unbroken the likely favorites.

Oxbow, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, ships in from Oaklawn Park after winning a Churchill Downs allowance and running fourth in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at Betfair Hollywood Park. He will have Jon Court aboard from post 4.

Circle Unbroken (post 8, Mark Guidry) was entered only after lengthy deliberation by trainer Garry Simms, who said early Wednesday that he was doubtful about entering and the colt might be “only about 80 percent ready.”

Less than an hour later, Simms said: “We’ve entered. I don’t know, he might be 80 or 90 percent. The thing is, I really don’t have anywhere better to run him, and we need to go on and get started” down the road to the May 4 Kentucky Derby.

Circle Unbroken will be making his first start since incurring a minor ankle injury following his victory in the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill in late June.

Among the other notable starters, Malibu High (post 1) will be ridden by Miguel Mena for trainer Cecil Borel, whose brother, jockey Calvin Borel, is out with a wrist injury and eventually will have the mount back.

The Lecomte, carded as the 10th race Saturday (post time 4:55 p.m. Central), anchors the first of three cards highlighted by major 3-year-old events at Fair Grounds. The subsequent dates are Derby Preview Day, which includes the Grade 2 Risen Star, on Feb.  23, followed five weeks later by the March 30 program featuring the Grade 2, $1  million Louisiana Derby.

The Lecomte is part of the new system being implemented by Churchill Downs toward eligibility into the Kentucky Derby field. The first four finishers will earn points on a 10-4-2-1 basis.

In the Silverbulletday (race 9, 4:25  p.m.), 11 3-year-old fillies give the mile-and-70-yard race a wide-open look, with Seaneen Girl, the 31-1 winner of the Golden Rod at Churchill in her last race, being assigned post 1 with Mena riding for trainer Bernie Flint.

The strength of the Louisiana Handicap (race 8, 3:55) is drawn to the inside, with Mark Valeski getting the rail in a field of eight older horses in the 1 1/16-mile race. Hurricane Ike (post 2) and Infrattini (post 3) are right alongside.

As for the two postponed turf stakes, the Grade 3 Bradley has Optimizer, King David, and Strike Impact among its most prominent nominees, while the ungraded Krantz is expected to have the multiple graded winner Daisy Devine as the heavy favorite. One other turf stakes, the $75,000 Van Berg for 3-year-old sprinters, also is scheduled for Jan. 26.

◗ Friday marks the second “Starlight Racing” program of the meet, with first post set for 5 p.m. and a “dress to impress” theme in effect. Two allowances are carded on opposite ends of the 10-race program as races 2 and 9. Post time for the last race is set for 9:49 p.m. General admission is $5 and Beer Garden admission is another $5.

◗ Tiban earned a career-high 97 Beyer Speed Figure as a 5 1/2-length winner of a second-level allowance sprint last Friday. Trained by Tim Glyshaw, Tiban won nine races last year and has a variety of options ahead of him, including possible runs in starter-allowance races.

– additional reporting by Bob Fortus and Mary Rampellini