Louisiana's path on the Triple Crown trail officially gets underway Saturday with the running of the one-mile LeComte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds. Six 3-year-olds have passed the entry box, with Biloxi Palace and Storm Surge figuring to draw the most attention.
The LeComte, won last year by Stan Fulton's multiple graded stakes-winning Fire Slam, is the first of three major sophomore events on the Fair Grounds stakes schedule. The LeComte will be followed by the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) on Feb. 12 and the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) on March 12 at 1 1/8 miles.
On paper, the top two entrants are Biloxi Palace, already a two-time winner over the surface, and Storm Surge, a two-time stakes winner from seven career starts.
Storm Surge, by last year's leading sire of 2-year-olds Storm Cat
, is out of the Mr. Prospector mare Especially, and is an Overbrook Farm homebred trained by Dallas Stewart. Storm Surge is a half-brother to grade II winner Boston Common.
In his last start, he was a 2 1/4-length winner of the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds Dec. 24. At two, Storm Surge captured the seven-furlong Lone Star Juvenile Stakes on the Breeders' Cup day undercard in Texas and was an allowance winner at Saratoga and ran second in the six-furlong Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs. Regular rider Robby Albarado will ride.
Albarado was aboard Biloxi Palace in his two local wins, but Javier Castellano gets the call this time for trainer Dan Peitz. Bred and owned by Robert and Lawana Low, Biloxi Palace had two starts in New York last fall before shipping to New Orleans to break his maiden Nov. 27 at six furlongs. He followed that victory up with an allowance score Dec. 26 around two turns.
By 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Biloxi Palace is out of the Mining mare Mining My Business, and is a half-brother to 2001 Fair Grounds Oaks winner Real Cozzy. The LeComte will mark his stakes debut.
The LeComte is by no means a two-horse race. Louisiana Downs stakes winner Major League will break from the rail under Corey Lanerie. Major League, by Magic Cat
--Quick Grey, by El Prado
, won the one-mile Harrahs Juvenile on the turf at Louisiana Downs last year and also placed in the Sam Houston Texan Juvenile Stakes. The Sandstone Farms-bred Texas-bred is trained by Paul Murphy for owner Major League Partnership.
Cash Asmussen and Dakota Stables' Smooth Bid is also a stakes winner, having won the Remington MEC Mile Stakes in his last start on Nov. 21. By Rubiano out of the Spectacular Bid mare Miss Fizz, Smooth Bid is trained by Steve Asmussen, who last year won 555 races, shattering Jack Van Berg's single-season record for wins in one year. Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey has the mount.
The Ken McPeek-trained Kansas City Boy (by Boston Harbor), a maiden winner in his last start; and Remington MEC Mile runner-up Silver Haze (by Silver Deputy
) round out the field. LeComte Stakes (gr. III), $100,000, 3-year-olds, one mile, Fair Grounds, Saturday, Jan. 15; approx. post 4:22 p.m. CST
Post - Horse - Weight - Jockey
1 - Major League - 122 - Corey Lanerie
2 - Kansas City Boy - 114 - Carlos Marquez Jr.
3 - Silver Haze - 114 - Elvis Perrodin
4 - Biloxi Palace - 114 - Javier Castellano
5 - Smooth Bid - 122 - Jerry Bailey
6 - Storm Surge - 112 - Robby Albarado