01/24/2002 12:00AM

Is Lecomte favorite fully cranked?


NEW ORLEANS - The connections whose 3-year-olds entered the race might feel otherwise, but perhaps the thing to do is lose the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes.

Fifty Stars did last year, and Mighty did two years ago - and both colts won the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby six weeks later.

Thoughts of the Louisiana Derby, and what lies beyond, tease the imagination of anyone with a 3-year-old promising enough to make Saturday's Lecomte. Eleven horses were entered in the one-mile race that starts and finishes at the sixteenth pole.

Jeremiah Jack, the lone gelding entered, might be favored for trainer Tom Amoss and jockey Robby Albarado. But with the most accomplished horse in the race, Amoss has incentive to keep something in the tank for more important races.

Jeremiah Jack was a $6,500 yearling buy who made his debut in a $50,000 maiden-claiming race, but so impressed Amoss that he helped arranged a private purchase by owners Stewart Madison and Clay Querbes. "He's not much to look at," Amoss said.

But Jeremiah Jack, a narrow, rangy horse, has won three times since he was stretched out to route races. When he won the Dec. 1 Sam Houston Juvenile by five lengths, Amoss sent Jeremiah Jack to a farm for a three-week freshening in hopes of having a fresh horse for major stakes races down the road. Jeremiah Jack might not be fully cranked up for the Lecomte.

The lightly raced Sky Terrace comes back from a similar layoff with exciting upside, having easily won his first two starts before making his two-turn debut in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club, where he set the pace and stayed on to finish fourth, beaten less than three lengths by the classy Repent. Trainer Vickie Foley has worked on getting Sky Terrace to relax, but off two exceptional works here, she figures Sky Terrace and jockey Craig Perret to be on the lead Saturday.

He'll contribute to what might be a strong pace since Jeremiah Jack and War Emblem also are front-running sorts. Easyfromthegitgo, an impressive allowance winner in his two-turn debut here Dec. 14, could wind up in a perfect stalking position if, as trainer Steve Asmussen has been teaching him, he relaxes and comes back to jockey Donnie Meche during the race. "He's more relaxed now," Asmussen said. "That's where he's showing the most improvement."

Trainer Josie Carroll, who last year's Lecomte with Sam Lord's Castle, starts Mapp Hill and Lead By Example, one-two in the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes.

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