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Derby Prep Preview: G3-Lecomte & G3-Holy Bull

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Four graded stakes races dot the national scene this weekend (assuming they actually race in SoCal), but it's the two early stepping stones in Florida and Louisiana on the road to Kentucky Derby 136 that are in the spotlight.  

Let's first take a look at the field for the Holy Bull.

G3 - Holy Bull Stakes
Race 9 - Gulfstream Park
1 mile, 3yo

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

ML

1

Thank U Philippe

Castro E

Wolfson, Martin D

8-1

2

Homeboykris

Prado E S

Dutrow, Jr. R E

5-1

3

Litigation Risk

Garcia Alan

Violette, Jr. R A

12-1

4

Piscitelli

Desormeaux K J

Sacco, Richard W

6-1

5

William's Kitten

Leparoux J R

Maker, Michael J

8-1

6

Winslow Homer

Dominguez R A

Dutrow, Anthony W

6-1

7

Wild Lime

Lezcano J

Trombetta, Michael J

20-1

8

Aikenite

Velazquez J R

Pletcher, Todd A

4-1

9

Jackson Bend

Rose J

Zito, Nicholas P

5-2

Nine three year old colts will line up to run a one-turn mile in this Saturday's Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, with some big names showing up for this local prep to the G1-Florida Derby.  I'll first take a look at the expected pacesetters, then the contenders, and, finally, my pick to win (which when combined with $5 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks).

The Pace

3-Litigation Risk and 4-Piscitelli appear to be the clear early speed in this spot.  Piscitellli nearly led the Breeders' Cup Juvenile from gate to wire, losing by 3/4 of a length in the end.  He's returning to a conventional dirt surface, which is always a question mark, but I'm going to keep him in the early speed category.

Litigation Risk has only raced on the lead once in his three lifetime starts but the other two starts were over a muddy and a sloppy track.  If the surface is dry I think it is likely that he'll go straight to the lead rather than hang back with the pack.

The Contenders

There are a lot of stalkers in this race with the most intriguing being the outside colt, 9-Jackson Bend.  As mentioned in the Derby Futures post the other day, Jackson Bend has taken a good deal of money in Vegas following his five consecutive victories at Calder to close out his two year old campaign. His first try at two turns in his last race saw him post a 100 Beyer although he'll be back at one turn today.  The only question with this colt: how strong were those races at Calder?  Well, the third place finisher in his last race, Bim Bam, came back to win a turf stake at Calder and then finished second at Gulfstream in the 100K Dania Beach Stakes.  His draw, running style, and knack for winning races will make him tough to beat.

The Todd Pletcher trained 8-Aikenite was my pick to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile due to the improvement he displayed after switching to a synthetic surface.  Unfortunately, he ran into a pretty rough trip and finished a non-threatening 5th that day.  He's back on dirt today where he performed just fine in his two previous tries, including a 3rd in the G1-Hopeful at Saratoga.  This colt hasn't won a race since his maiden effort although he probably deserves a pass since his last three races have all been Grade 1s.

The Tony Dutrow trained 6-Winslow Homer is a colt that looks like he could certainly make a big impact in this spot.  He broke his maiden last summer at Saratoga in a race that was taken off the turf; that race has seen two horses come back to win at next asking.  Winslow Homer then shipped to Philly Park where he absolutely rolled an N1X field by 12 lengths over a muddy and sealed track.  Normailly I'm a little wary of a horse coming back after a big effort on an off track, but this colt might be the exception.  Dutrow kills with the layoff (29%) so you gotta believe he'll be ready to go.  The thing that is really attractive about this colt are his odds; he's listed at 6/1 on the morning line.  Seems like a lot of value in this spot.

5-Homeboykris has to be respected in this race if only due to his monster win in the G1-Champaign in a one-turn mile at Belmont.  He flopped in the G2-Remsen going two turns but with the turn back in distance today, along with a freshening by Rick Dutrow, he could be a big factor at a nice price.  Homeboykris is 5-1 on the ML.

Finally, I think 5-William's Kitten is an awfully nice looking colt but this one appears to me to better suited for the lawn rather than the dirt.  And as the only deep closer in the field he's going to need a lot of help on the front end if he's going to pass all the others in the stretch.  Not sure if he's going to get it in this spot.  If this was a two-turn race I'd give him a little better shot.

The Pick

I find it tough to get away from Jackson Bend in this race and if you were to put a gun to my head I'd select him as the most likely winner.  But, as usual, I'm going to look for something with a little more meat on the odds board and to do that I'm going to select Homeboykris.  His back class, the cut in distance, and a 5/1 morning line make this colt too good for me to pass up.  If he's pounded at the windows I may have to look somewhere else, but for now I'll take Homeboykris to win and perhaps an exacta with Winslow Homer.

 

G3 - Lecomte Stakes
Race 10 - Fair Grounds
1 mile and 40 yards, 3yo

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

ML

1

Maximus Ruler

Torres F C

Hanna, Clark

4-1

2

Turf Melody

Valdivia J Jr

Motion, H Graham

7-2

3

Worldly

Albarado R J

McGee, Paul J

5-1

4

Depaul

Sellers S J

Asmussen, Steven M

20-1

5

Citrus Kid

Mena M

Terranova, II John P

8-1

6

Callide Valley

Lanerie C J

Kenneally, Eddie

10-1

7

B'wanagoldmine

Martin E M Jr

Pish, Danny

15-1

8

Letsgetitonmon

Bridgmohan S X

Asmussen, Steven M

10-1

9

Cool Bullet

Hernandez B J Jr

Margolis, Steve

5-1

10

Rock Hard

Theriot H J II

Barnett, Bobby C

30-1

11

Ron the Greek

Graham J

Amoss, Thomas

8-1

 

This year's version of the Lecomte Stakes presents us what can only be described as an evenly matched field of eleven three year old colts.  We've got some pace, some stalkers, and some stone cold closers, all of which are looking to take a first step towards the Louisiana Derby and, hopefully, the Kentucky Derby.  

The Pace

On paper, the Lecomte probably won't be stolen on the front end as 4-Depaul, 5-Citrus Kid, and 9-Cool Bullet all look like colts that want to be involved early on.  

Depaul broke his maiden impressively at Calder in a race that saw the place horse come back and score next time out, registering an 85 Beyer in the process.  He flopped in his comback effort a couple of weeks ago at this track, but I think trainer Steve Asmussen was probably just trying to get a race under his belt.    

Citrus Kid was the pacesetter in his last effort, a well-beaten 3rd to Buddy's Saint in the Remsen back on November 28th.  He's tested around two turns and, in fact, he's never run a race at a distance less than a mile and 70 yards.  He might have a conditioning edge on this field.

Cool Bullet is trying two turns for the first time after running in four sprint races prior to this event.  He's 2-for-2 over the Fair Grounds track but he's going to have to do it all on his own if he wants to cash in on the prize.  His best chance is if Citrus Kid, Depaul, and to some extent, Maximus Ruler, all decide they don't want any part of the lead.

6-Callide Valley has shown flashes of early speed in a couple of his races and will be adding blinkers for the Lecomte, which puts him as an early pace possibility.  Like Citrus Kid, Callide Valley is experienced going two turns.

The Contenders

This is a race where it's really hard to eliminate any horse - they all appear to have a puncher's chance at finding the finish line.  After going through the Form several times I kept coming back to three colts: 1-Maximus Ruler, 2-Turf Melody, and 11-Ron the Greek.  

A son of Roman Ruler, Maximus Ruler broke his maiden in a N1X Allowance race at Churchill in late November after finishing third in his debut effort at 52/1.  This colt has the least amount of racing experience in the field (2-1-0-1) but his upside certainly seems immense.  The layoff is a question mark as trainer Hanna Clark doesn't exactly light the world on first in these situations (8% winners, 31-60 days off).  But with a rail draw and an ability to stalk the pace, this colt should be in the mix when they hit the top of the lane.  

At first glance the morning line favorite, Turf Melody, sports an unremarkable 7-3-0-2 lifetime record.  But if you only look at this colt's starts on dirt you'll see a much more attractive 4-3-0-0; three straight wins and his only loss occurring in his debut effort at 5 furlongs when he was hung wide for much of the race.  He possesses an off-the-pace running style and he's 2-for-2 going a mile.  With what should be a strong pace, the race should set up nicely for him in the later stages.

Ron the Greek is a stone cold closer and will probably be dead last or second to last when they enter the backstretch.  This colt, however, has a couple of things going for him that make him an attractive play in my eyes.  First, Fair Grounds has a very long stretch drive which can be favorable to closers.  If this race were being run at a mile at Oaklawn, I probably wouldn't have anything to do with this colt.  But a deep closer running a mile at the Fair Grounds?  That's a much nicer scenario.  Second, trainer Tom Amoss is pretty good at finding the right spots for his horses to run.  If he thinks Ron the Greek has got a shot at this level (and this is a horse that has been running at Hoosier, Delta, and Remington) then I think you have to respect that.

Of the other horses that I haven't mentioned (Worldly, B'wanagoldmine, Letsgetitonmon, and Rock Hard), I think 3-Worldly has the best shot at a piece of the prize.  A son of A.P. Indy, Worldly has a race under his belt (a 2nd in an OC/N1X event on January 3rd) and he possesses the ability to stalk the pace while going two turns.  Throw a top jockey like Robby Albarado in the irons and this is a colt that should demand some attention.

The Pick

I think Maximus Ruler might have the best upside of any horse in this race but I wonder if he's going to need one under his belt before he does his best running.  If he stays at his 4/1 morning line odds he'll be worth a win bet, in my opinion. If he comes up less than that then I'll look for some value and possibly play Ron the Greek.

I'll be playing all three (Maximus Ruler, Turf Melody, and Ron the Greek) in my Pick 4.