01/18/2015 7:28PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Lecomte Stakes

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Amanda Hodges Weir/Hodges Photography
International Star wins the Lecomte Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Grade 3, $200,000 LeComte Stakes, one mile and 70 yards, Fair Grounds, Jan. 17, 2015
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: International Star
Trainer: Mike Maker
Jockey: Miguel Mena
Owner: Ken and Sarah Ramsey
Beyer Speed Figure: 89

INTERNATIONAL STAR joined El Kabeir as the second horse to win two Kentucky Derby scoring races with this victory, his first since capturing the Grey Stakes in October on Polytrack at Woodbine, and his first on a dirt surface.

International Star was mid-pack on the rail behind a lively pace, advanced to a contending position but found himself blocked a furlong from the wire, switched out, accelerated past his rivals, swapped to his wrong lead at the sixteenth pole but then a few strides later went back to his correct lead, and motored clear.

International Star earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 89, and now owns wins on dirt, synthetic, and turf, so he’s obviously versatile, but his final time of 1:43.62 for one mile and 70 yards was 0.41 seconds slower than that turned in by the filly I’m a Chatterbox when winning the Silverbulletday only two races earlier.

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

WAR STORY, who finished second, was making only the third start of his career and performed well while obviously still a work in progress, for he walked out of the gate and wanted to lean in on TIZNOW R J coming down the lane. He’s already wearing blinkers and has been gelded.

Tiznow R J broke alertly, yielded the lead to HERO OF HUMOR, then fell into a good spot three furlongs out after RUNHAPPY made his rank, mid-race brush. Tiznow  R J bumped with War Story at mid-stretch, then was out-finished by War Story in the closing yards to finish third.

ANOTHER LEMON DROP, who finished fourth, was sent aggressively from post 10 in the field of 11, but that proved beneficial, for despite being in the three path on the first turn he was able to secure a gorgeous trip the rest of the way. He did have to wait briefly on the final turn while inside, but was able to get a dream run along the rail when room opened. He simply wasn’t good enough. This was a case of a great ride (by Calvin Borel) going to waste.

SAVOY STOMP wound up fifth after an eventful trip. He took up sharply at the start when Hero of Humor veered out and interfered with several rivals. Savoy Stomp lost all position early, then made an extended run on the far turn before flattening out. This was his first start with Lasix, and his first start around two turns. He could improve off this run.

Hero of Humor, who finished sixth, was a complete menace. He veered out at the start to bother Savoy Stomp, Runhappy, and KILLINGIT, rushed up, yielded the lead to Runhappy nearing the far turn, came back around Runhappy on the final turn, then tired.

EAGLE finished seventh in a very disappointing effort as the lukewarm 3-1 favorite. He was not helped by his outside draw, and had to race four paths wide on the first turn and was wide down the backstretch, but he followed War Story on the final turn, switched out, and had no punch late while War Story went on with it. Considering how well Eagle had done in his first four starts, this was a puzzler.

DEKABRIST, who finished eighth, was three paths wide on the first turn and took a bump from Runhappy, then rallied up the rail late while never a factor.

Runhappy, who finished ninth, took up at the start, then rushed up while rank, made a huge brush down the backstretch to go all the way to the lead, then understandably faded. He had made just one prior start, sprinting at Turfway, and was very green that day, too, while winning. He has talent, but this was too much too soon.

Killingit, who wound up 10th, took up very badly at the start and broke against the bit with his rider owing to the pressure coming from his inside, was caught four paths wide on the first turn, and was well back the rest of the way.

FOUR LEAF CHIEF, who finished last of 11, was in a decent spot for the first six furlongs but was simply outrun beginning with three furlongs to go.