The Road to the Kentucky Derby takes us to the Bayou State Saturday where Gold Hawk will go the starting gate as the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the 70th running of the $200,000 LeComte Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Gold Hawk is a young colt I noted as an honorable mention in my 2014 Kentucky Derby Outlook, and I’m eager to see how he performs in his debut as a three year old. Gold Hawk is undefeated in two starts and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan picks up the mount in the LeComte (G3).
If he continues to move forward off of his last two races, Gold Hawk should be competitive.
Got Shades (8-1) is an interesting long shot I like in this race. He comes into the LeComte with a 2-0-2 record in five starts on the turf and four of those starts were in stakes races. In his last race, Got Shades finished fifth in the one-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park last November.
Before wagering on Got Shades, a word of caution is necessary as I’ve watched several of his race replays and it appears he may have some Emotional Conformation, behavioral issues that could affect his performance.
In the two races Got Shades won, he was free and clear on the outside. But in his other three races, Got Shades appeared to be timid in traffic and lacked the will to press through to victory. That was very apparent in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf race when he was in traffic at the top of the stretch but was finally able to get free, when a hole opened, to get up for fifth-place.
So a lot depends on the trip Got Shades gets and if veteran jockey Robby Albarado keeps him free and clear on the outside, he should be competitive. And with Pollard’s Vision as his sire, Got Shades has the breeding to be competitive.
Pollard’s Vision was a multiple graded-stakes winner who at the age of three finished third in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and won the Illinois Derby (G2) en route to finishing 17th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Although all his races have been on the turf, a sharp work out at Fair Grounds on January 14 could have Got Shades ready to run a good race. If you’re feeling lucky, Got Shades could, perhaps, be a “cool-looking” upset at a nice price.
Stepping up in class, Vicar’s in Trouble (9-2) comes into the LeComte with a 1-0-1 record in two starts. He showed good speed in his last race, leading from gate to wire, to easily break his maiden and cruise to victory by 13-lengths with jockey Rose Napravnik in the irons. Napravnik will retain the mount in the LeComte.
Trained by Michael Maker, Vicar’s in Trouble has never raced farther than 6-furlongs. However, he should be to carry his speed to the stretch out in distance.
Into Mischief, the sire of Vicar’s in Trouble, was also a speedy racehorse and multiple graded-stakes winner who was able to carry his speed to victory in the 8½-furlong CashCall Futurity (G1). At stud, Into Mischief’s top runner, to date, was the speedy colt Goldencents who’s most notable wins on the 2013 Kentucky Derby trail were in the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3), Sham Stakes (G3) and the 9-furlong Santa Anita Derby (G1). Into Mischief also got Vyjack, winner of the Jerome Stakes (G2) and Gotham Stakes (G3).
I look for Vicar’s in Trouble to be competitive.
Albano (7-2) comes into the LeComte with a 2-0-1 record in three starts. Trained by Larry Jones, Albano is stepping up in class and he’s never run in a route race. However, Albano should be able to handle the stretch out in distance and he could be a factor in the exotics.
Under the points system implemented by Churchill Downs to determine which horses will qualify to enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate, the winner of the LeComte Stakes (G3) will receive 10 points, the second-place finisher will receive four points, the third-place finisher will receive two points and the four-place finisher will receive one point. Here’s a look at the current top 20 Derby qualifiers:
2014 KENTUCKY DERBY LEADERBOARD
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1. Havana, 14, Todd Pletcher, $660,000
2. Honor Code, 14, Shug McGaughey, $340,000
3. Tapiture, 12, Steve Asmussen, $120,738
4. Bond Holder, 11, Doug O’Neill, $273,000
5. Rise Up, 10, Tom Amoss, $782,633
6. We Miss Artie, 10, Todd Pletcher, $242,000
7. Noble Moon, 10, Leah Gyarmati, $145,000
8. Ami’s Holiday, Josie Carrroll, $120,635
9. Cleburne, 10, Dale Romans, $102,044
10. Midnight Hawk, 10, Bob Baffert, $60,000
11. Casigaupo, 5, Mario Morales, $271,050
12. Cairo Prince, 4, Kiaran McGlaughlin, $230,000
13. Dance With Fate, 4, Peter Eurton, $110,000
14. Smarty’s Echo, 4, Anne Smith, $80,000
15. Classic Giacnroll, 4, Lisa Guerrero, $50,000
16. Laddie Boy, 4, Chuck Perry, $39,719
17. Smart Cover, 4, Dale Romans, $32,918
18. Big Bazinga, 4, Sandra Dominguez, $29,139
19. Kristo, 4, John Sadler, $20,000
20. Ride On Curlin, 3, William Gowin, $64,387