Road to the Kentucky Derby: Lecomte Stakes
The Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby travels through New Orleans this week with the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds on Saturday.
The Grade 3 Lecomte is the first of six races over the next three weeks to offer 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner and 8-6-4-2 points for second through fifth place. It’s the second of four Derby points races at the historic New Orleans track, along with the Gun Runner (won by Jace’s Road), the Risen Star on Feb. 18 and Louisiana Derby on March 25.
The road to the Derby began in September 2022 and continues through April 15. The top 20 point qualifiers earn automatic entry into the 149th Kentucky Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs.
Date: Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023
Track: Fair Grounds, New Orleans
Distance: 1 1/16 mile
Lecomte Stakes Analysis and Selections
The Lecomte drew a field of eight, including Instant Coffee, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes as a 2-year-old on Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs. Instant Coffee earned 10 of his 12 Kentucky Derby points for that victory and a win in the Lecomte might very well give him enough points to reach the Derby starting gate more than three months before the Run for the Roses.
Brad Cox, the trainer of Instant Coffee, also entered Tapit’s Conquest, who has a win and a second in two career starts. Cox has several horses on the Derby trail and Instant Coffee is seen as one of his more talented ones. Trainer Paulo Lobo has also entered a pair: undefeated Bromley (2-for-2), who is stretching out to two turns for the first time, and Itzos, a $1.4 million purchase and half-brother to 2009 Preakness-winning mare Rachel Alexandra.
The Lecomte produced two Kentucky Derby starters last year. Lecomte runner-up Epicenter finished second as the Kentucky Derby favorite; Cyberknife (sixth in Lecomte, 18th in Kentucky Derby) would go on to win the Grade I Haskell Stakes and run second in the Grade I Travers.
Lecomte Stakes Selections
This is a competitive early prep with several potential win candidates, though Instant Coffee is expected to be sent off as the clear betting favorite.
1. Two Phil’s is coming off a dominating 5-length victory over a sloppy track in the Grade 3 Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs on Oct. 30. Before that, he was a non-factor in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, but was hindered by an outside post (with a short run to the first turn) and very wide trip. Still, he finished only three lengths behind Instant Coffee, who also failed to hit the board in that race. With three victories in five lifetime starts, Two Phil’s is the winningest horse in the field. At 4-1 on the morning line — and likely to be sent off higher — he is worth a win wager.
2. Instant Coffee has two wins in three lifetime starts and rallied into slow early fractions to win the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26. Look for him to be rallying again down the long Fair Grounds stretch. He’s among several promising 3-year-olds in the barn of trainer Brad Cox. The issue here is value. His speed figures are competitive, but don’t stand out, making it hard to be enthusiastic about accepting win odds of less than 2-1.
3. You can’t knock the record of unbeaten Bromley, who rallied from slightly off the pace to win each of his two starts by 1 1/2 lengths. But he hasn’t raced beyond 6 1/2 furlongs and his last victory was over a synthetic surface at Turfway Park. Experienced jockey Javier Castellano takes over the mount for trainer Paulo Lobo, who is winning races at a high percentage.
Lecomte Stakes Betting Strategy
Win and place bets on Two Phil’s. Exotic wagers using Two Phil’s and Instant Coffee with Bromley and Tapit’s Conquest.
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