It’s every race fan’s favorite time of the year once again. Now it’s official—the road to the roses has begun. Fair Grounds Racecourse will kick off its branch of this long trip to Louisville this Saturday with the Grade III Lecomte Stakes, the first prep race for the Grade II Louisiana Derby. Thirteen 3-year-olds have gathered to set off on this course to Kentucky in the hopes to become the first horse to win both the Lecomte and the Kentucky Derby. But let’s concentrate on one step at a time.

A surprising number of entrants in this field have already run eight or more times in their life. If recent Triple Crown winners have told us anything, it’s that a long resume is not an advantage. Therefore, back Adena’s Chance, Hero of Order, Alexander Thegreat, and Chalybeate Springs at your own risk—their losing percentage far outweighs their wins. The most interesting contender in this often-run bunch is the Oklahoma-bred Ted’s Folly, who has strung together six consecutive wins since breaking his maiden the third time out. While it’s hard to say how good he is, based off the no-namers he’s won against, this spot will give him the opportunity to stretch out beyond a mile for the first time and show us how he stacks up at least in the Louisiana sector. Ted’s Folly has won every one of his starts at Remington Park.

The Lecomte is fairly wide-open, but the morning-line favorite is Shared Property at 4-1. By hot papa Scat Daddy, Shared Property is the winner of the Grade III Arlington Washington Futurity. Last time out, he finished 6th in the Grade I Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland behind horses who have failed to impress since. He broke his maiden at Ellis Park, which remains his only start on dirt. His most redeeming quality is that he beat Motor City twice in his first two starts, and Motor City went on to impress in his win in the Grade III Iroquois at Churchill Downs. Maybe Shared Property needs to follow in his rival’s footsteps and will relish a return to dirt.

However, my money is on Seven Lively Sins. This colt has the look of a young horse just figuring things out, and his connections make him all the more intriguing. Second in the Iroquois behind Motor City, Seven Lively Sins will be piloted by Rosie Napravnik, the jockey queen of Fair Grounds, and is trained by Al Stall. Seven Lively Sins ran fourth last time out in the Grade III Delta Jackpot Stakes, but it’s his run in the Iroquois that makes me think there’s something more to this son of Stormy Atlantic. Motor City charged up the rail from last to first under a ground-saving ride by Calvin Borel, and Seven Lively Sins didn’t seem to know his rival was there until the colt passed him. While Motor City zipped up the rail on the way to the wire, Seven Lively Sins never stopped trying and actually came back at the winner to close the gap. With Rosie on his side, I’m looking for 2012 to start off with a bang for this guy.

Capetown Devil is another horse not to be ignored. Unbeaten in three starts, Capetown Devil already has a win at three different tracks, including Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs. In his last start, which came at 1 mile and 70 yards at Fair Grounds on New Year’s Eve, Capetown Devil broke awkwardly and scrambled for a few strides to still keep his placing in fourth position as the large field ran for the first turn. Stalking from that position all the way around the oval, Capetown Devil then had to go four-wide around the turn to make his bid for the lead—which he then had to fight tooth and claw away from the feisty Gowhereyougaze. You could argue the Devil earned this win, and will enter the Lecomte a salty contender.

Exfactor enters the Lecomte off a win in the Sugarbowl Stakes at Fairgrounds and a three-race win streak out of only four starts. Exfactor has never run farther than 6 furlongs but is being piloted by Shaun Bridgmohan, a jock on a hot streak himself. Mr. Bowling, a winner of 2 out of 4 starts, third in the Grade III Iroquois, is also entered. Todd Pletcher enters maiden winner Dan And Sheila to take that big leap into the stakes competition second time out, which might be a hint the trainer thinks something about this young horse’s potential. Z Danger, trained by Steve Asmussen, is entering off a maiden win after two tries; Z Danger holds the advantage of having run at the Lecomte distance over Exfactor.

The Lecomte, run at 1 mile and 70 yards, will be the last hurrah for some of these Derby hopefuls, and give those contenders shining with promise the moment to prove themselves. While some of these horses are fresh to racing, they need not win it to impress; to others, this race will serve as validation for their rising star. The winner of this test will then have to defend that title in the next race of the series—the Risen Star.

 

The Grade III $175,000 Lecomte Stakes will be broadcast live on HRTV from Fair Grounds this Saturday at 5:55pm ET.