Remember War Emblem? The 2002 Kentucky Derby champion ridden by Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza? That’s not today’s trivia question, but the answer to another question: Name the only horse to run the Lecomte Stakes and win the Kentucky Derby.
Perhaps War Emblem will have more company this year. Saturday’s running of the Lecomte at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans (5:55 pm CT) – the first important Derby prep race of the season — has attracted a better-than-expected group of 3-year-olds.
The 14-horse field for the $200,000, Grade 3 race includes nine horses who appear in Derby futures, three who have hit the board in graded stakes races, and three who already collected points toward the Churchill Downs gate. It’s easily the deepest field of any prep race to date – despite the fact the Lecomte isn’t exactly the fastest track to the Churchill Downs winner’s circle.
Derby Points Out the Gate
The top four finishers in the Lecomte earn points — 10, 4, 2 and 1 — toward qualifying for the Kentucky Derby. The top 20 point totals after the final April prep races are guaranteed places in the Kentucky Derby.
Your morning-line favorite (7-2) is Scabbard, last seen finishing fourth at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in November. A serious closer, Scabbard finished second to Green Light Go at the Grade 2 Saratoga Special last summer, second by 1¾ lengths to Dennis’ Moment at the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs, and he was closing fast down the Santa Anita stretch at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Four other horses are listed at less than 10-1. There’s 6-1 Lynn’s Map, trained by Mark Casse, the trainer of 2019 Lecomte and Preakness Stakes winner War of Will. Because Lynn’s Map drew post 14, Casse told the Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh he may pull the colt and put him in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas Jan. 24. That too, is a Kentucky Derby prep race offering 10-4-2-1 points for the top four finishers.
Jockeying for Position at Lecomte
There’s 9-2 Mr. Monomoy, the Brad Cox-trained colt who lost to Lynn’s Map in the Fair Grounds slop on Dec. 21. He’s 1-for-3 after being favored in all three of his starts. He’s a half-brother to Monomoy Girl, the 2018 Eclipse Award winner for 3-year-old filly.
There’s 5-1 Silver State, one of three Steve Asmussen-trained horses in the field. The $450,000 colt has a 9¾-length win and a runner-up in his two starts.
And there’s Sycamore Run (6-1), who broke his maiden by 3½ lengths in a six-furlong splash-fest at Fair Grounds Dec. 21. The son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, Sycamore Run is trained by Joe Sharp, who was 8-for-72 in graded stakes last year.
Two other value horses to consider in your exotics would be Halo Again (15-1), the second of Asmussen’s three entries, and a true mudder: Jack the Umpire (20-1). Halo Again is 2-for-2 with a Woodbine stakes win on his resume, while Jack the Umpire – a must-have if the weather starts getting rough – is 2-for-2 in the slop, winning both by an average of seven lengths.