01/01/2011 4:47PM

Justin Phillip making case for Lecomte start


Justin Phillip, one of the more promising 3-year-olds stabled in New Orleans, probably is on track for the Jan. 22 Lecomte Stakes after winning an entry-level two-turn allowance race Saturday. But there are things to work on.

Making the lead into the first turn under Shaun Bridgmohan, Justin Phillip led throughout the one mile and 70-yard race, run under sloppy conditions. At the sixteenth pole, Justin Phillip suddenly swerved about seven paths to the outside, but Bridgmohan maintained control and managed to somewhat straighten the colt as Justin Phillip lugged back toward the inside. Despite his antics, Justin Philip was an easy winner of his two-turn debut.

“I think the two-turn race was what did that,” said Steve Asmussen, who trains Justin Phillip, a $400,000 First Samurai colt, for Zayat Stables. “He’s just such a baby. He never really did anything wrong, and then he got loose in the post parade his first out at Saratoga. He just startles himself. But he has tremendous talent.”

Asmussen has had his eye on the Lecomte for Justin Phillip, who won his maiden in a fast time Sept. 18 at Belmont Park, and thought it was critical for Justin Phillip’s development to get a two-turn start before trying a route stakes.

“This was an important race for him to have,” said Asmussen.

Valid Message a good fit

For the second straight racing day Fair Grounds is without an open allowance race, but Monday’s featured eighth would be decent if the course dries enough to keep the race on turf.

The race is for $20,000 claimers or starter-allowance horses who have been entered for a claiming price of $10,000 or less sometime in the past two years, and Valid Message seems to fit the conditions to a tee. Valid Message is trained by Karl Broberg, who already has won four races this meet while spending his first winter in New Orleans. Two races ago at Remington Park, Valid Message easily won a $25,000 turf-route claiming race, and the 5-year-old Valid Expectations gelding did not disgrace himself making his Fair Grounds grass debut Dec. 4 in the Buddy Diliberto Handicap, where he finished a mildly closing fourth.

Valid Message fits under the race’s starter-allowance conditions, as does Scrappy Roo, who is owned and trained by Asmussen. Scrappy Roo was a close, closing second of 11 in a Remington Park dirt race last out, and has finished second and third in two wet-track races. If Monday’s feature is moved to the main track, he could be the right horse.