01/25/2011 5:32PM

Lecomte top two may pass the Risen Star

Lynn Roberts
Wilkinson (foreground) rallies up the rail to defeat Pants On Fire in the Lecomte.

It’s possible the one-two finishers from Saturday’s Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes for 3-year-olds won’t be back to contest the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 19 at Fair Grounds, but Lecomte last-place finisher Justin Phillip has been lightly penciled in for the race despite a disappointing performance Saturday.

Wilkinson won the Lecomte by a head over Pants On Fire, who set a slow pace (48.94 seconds to the half-mile) on a moderate-to-quick playing surface but could not hold the winner. Wilkinson’s one mile, 40-yard time produced a Beyer speed figure of 77.

Wilkinson had finished a mildly fading third to Justin Phillip in a Jan. 1 Fair Grounds allowance race, a start in which, trainer Neil Howard theorized before the Lecomte, Wilkinson “might have bounced just a hair.” The result Saturday appeared to validate Howard’s perspective, with Wilkinson, a son of Lemon Drop Kid, moving forward to produce a career-best effort.

Wilkinson now has made three starts at the Fair Grounds meet, and after the Lecomte, Howard wondered aloud whether coming right back in the Risen Star might not be too much racing in too little time. Howard said that Prime Cut, third in a Fair Grounds sprint-allowance race in his last start, also was a Risen Star possible. Howard also has the impressive debut winner Machen in his 3-year-old arsenal.

Pants On Fire had shipped by van to Fair Grounds from New York, and left New Orleans on Monday for a third destination, the Palm Meadows training center in South Florida.

“He ran well, he tried,” trainer Kelly Breen said of Pants On Fire’s race Saturday. Breen said the Risen Star would be just one of many options for Pants on Fire’s next start. “We just want to get him back on the track and see where he’s at.”

Justin Phillip, the Lecomte’s even-money favorite, broke poorly, rushed into contention on the first turn, and basically ran off with his rider, according to trainer Steve Asmussen. Asked what he was thinking of doing next with Justin Phillip, Asmussen laughed. “I’m thinking of taking those blinkers off,” he said. Justin Phillips had run erratically through the stretch while winning on Jan. 1, and, in an effort to straighten Justin Phillip out, Asmussen had fitted him with blinkers in a pre-Lecomte work before racing Justin Phillip in the new equipment. That tactic, however, did not work at all.

“He came out good physically,” Asmussen said Monday. “Today I’m definitely aimed [to the Risen Star], but he hasn’t been back to the track yet.”

Bouquet Booth may run in Rachel Alexandra

After initially considering awaiting the Fair Grounds Oaks in March with Bouquet Booth, who won the Silverbulletday, trainer Steve Margolis said Monday that the 3-year-old filly probably would come back in the Feb. 19 Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds.

“The month between races is good,” said Margolis, who trains Bouquet Booth, a daughter of Flower Alley, for a partnership. “After that we might try the Ashland instead of the Fair Grounds Oaks. It might be a little too much to run in all three races down here.”

Plans aren’t certain for Aide, an even fifth as the 2-1 second choice in the Silverbulletday.

“She’s training fine, but she’s not acting right during a race,” said trainer Al Stall. “We’re just going to piddle around with her.”

Stall however plans to swing right back into action with Apart, who finished second to Recapturetheglory in Saturday’s Louisiana Handicap, his 2011 debut. Apart, Stall said, will run back in the Feb. 19 Mineshaft if everything goes as planned. Apart, winner of the Super Derby and the Ack Ack last year at 3, fell surprisingly far behind the early pace on Saturday before a late stretch rally got him within 1 1/4 lengths of the winner.

“We usually work on getting him off the bridle, and next thing you know he’s 25 lengths behind,” Stall said. “I’m just going to train him and lead him back over there again.”

Bella Medaglia impresses, changes barns

Bella Medaglia came close to winning a stakes race last year at 3, finishing second in the Tiffany Lass. The way she looked in a 5  3/4-length allowance victory Friday night at Fair Grounds, Bella Medaglia should find a stakes with her name on it somewhere in the near future.

Her first chance is expected to come Feb. 12 in the Pelleteri Stakes at Fair Grounds, but when she runs in that race it will be for trainer Bret Calhoun and not trainer Glenn Delahoussaye, who trained her until Monday morning. Delahoussaye said Bella Medaglia’s owners, the Coteau Grove Farm, had planned to send Bella Medaglia north with Calhoun following the Fair Grounds meet, and the decision had been made to give her more time in Calhoun’s stable.

Bella Medaglia didn’t start until Dec. 13 after finishing fourth in the Silverbulletday Stakes last February, and she was just a moderate third in her comeback race. Friday night’s performance was far more impressive.

“I thought she ran a fantastic race,” Delahoussaye said. “She looked so in-control, so dominant.”