Saturday, January 22, 2011

Le Comte Stakes And Other Derby Trail News

Justin Phillip, trained by Steve Asmussen, heads a field of five 3-year-old thoroughbreds Saturday as the 7-5 morning line favorite in the 67th running of the $100,000 Le Comte Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds.

Justin Phillip appears to be the horse to beat as he comes into the race with a 2-1-2 record in five starts.

Pants On Fire, with a third-place finish in the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct, is the only horse with any stakes racing experience and is the 9-5 morning line second choice.

In five starts, Pants On Fire has only been off the board once and comes into the Le Comte with a 1-2-1 record.

Overall, this Le Comte does not appear to be as strong as previous editions which featured such promising 3-year-olds as Hard Spun (2007), Z Fortune (2008) and Friesan Fire (2009).

One long shot I like is Action Ready who is 9-2 on the morning line. If he stays at those odds or goes higher he may be worthy of a small wager.

Most likely, with such a short field and the favorites the probable winners, the Le Comte will be a race for me to kick back and be a fan instead of a handicapper.


Tapizar, trained by Steve Asmussen, established himself last Saturday as a colt to be reckoned and the dominate leader on the West Coast with his 4 ¼ - length victory in the $100,000 Sham Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita Park.

His time of 1:40.38 for the 8 ½ - furlongs was brilliant and it remains to be seen how that performance on the speedy Santa Anita racetrack will play on the oval at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Tapizar is from the same A.P. Indy and Deputy Minister nick as To Honor And Serve who I profiled in my 2011 Kentucky Derby Outlook, but I like the fact that Bernardini, a Classic Champion Thoroughbred and winner of the 2006 Preakness Stakes (G1), is the sire of To Honor And Serve.

Nevertheless, Tapizar will be a horse to watch on the Kentucky Derby trail.


Overall, other than the performance of Tapizar in the Sham Stakes, I have not been impressed with the 3-year-old stakes winners on the Derby trail.

However, one performance I was impressed with came from Elite Alex in a one mile optional claiming allowance race at Oaklawn Park last Saturday.

Trained by Tim Ritchey, who led Afleet Alex, the sire of Elite Alex, to a win in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and Belmont Stakes (G1), Elite Alex was not entered for a claim and, despite a six month racing lay off, he came into the race as the 1.20 favorite in a seven horse field of 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

Elite Alex looked good in the post parade and overall, I was pleased with his run which was not too shabby considering he had been laid off for six months and missed the break at the start of the race. Elite Alex missed the break and trailed in last place, seven lengths off the pace, until the half when he made his move and closed ground to narrowly lose by a head.

I first became aware of the pedigree of Elite Alex sometime in late August or early September but for some reason, which eludes me at this moment, I did not put him on my watch list.

His pedigree does not qualify as WOW nevertheless, it is very good and I am looking forward to see how well he does on the Derby trail.

Now that Elite Alex is back in training, he joins the list of horses that I am very interested in:

To Honor And Serve (Bernardini-Pilfer by Deputy Minister), Brethren (Distorted Humor-Supercharger by A.P. Indy), Cal Nation (Distorted Humor-She’s A Winner by A.P. Indy), Premier Pegasus (Fusaichi Pegasus-Squall Linda by Summer Squall) and Animal Kingdom (Leroidesanimaux-Dalicia by Acatenango).

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