Bluegrass Hall's Oxbow went wire-to-wire to win the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) by 11 1/2 lengths for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Jan. 19. Earlier on the card, Touch Magic dug deep to take the $125,000 Silverbulletday.
On the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the road to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), each collected 10 points in their respective divisions.
Oxbow, a sophomore son of Awesome Again
, came off a fourth-place finish in the Dec. 15 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) to roll in the 1 mile, 70-yard test over eight other 3-year-olds. He relaxed well on a two-length lead under jockey Jon Court while setting early fractions of :22.44 and :48.58, then kicked clear as the rest of the field faltered behind him to get the distance in a final time of 1:43.30 (VIDEO
"This horse has a beautiful stride," Lukas remarked. "When you watch the replay you see his ears are pricked and he's just in a cruising speed the whole way around there."
Oxbow shipped in from Lukas' winter base of Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., to the Louisiana oval one day before the race.
"He handled the surface well and shipped well... you like to see a horse handle the situation that you put him in," said Lukas, who previously won the Lecomte in 1998 with Western City. "We took all the worst of it with shipping in yesterday and taking on your local guys all coming out of their own stalls and having works over the racetrack. So we took all of the worst of it today and still got along pretty good. Now we're a little tighter and in a little better shape if we come back to the (grade II) Risen Star (on Feb. 23)."
"We were between horses the whole way, although he's one of the rare few that's able to handle being between horses the whole time," Hernandez remarked of Golden Soul. "When I squeezed on him he picked it up nicely; the winner was just a little more seasoned and a little bit better horse today. He finished good and I think the distance will help him. The further they go the better he'll get. And it's only his third start so to step up like he did in the Lecomte, there's no denying he's a good horse."
Oxbow improved his record to two wins and a third from six starts, with earnings of $217,500. He was bred in Kentucky by Colts Neck Stables out of the Cee's Tizzy mare Tizamazing, and was a $250,000 purchase at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale when consigned by Burleson Farms, agent. Eddie Kane signed the ticket on behalf of Bluegrass Hall.
In the Silverbulletday, Touch Magic proved the determined winner by three-quarters of a length when closing gamely up the rail inside the sixteenth pole under strong handling by jockey James Graham (VIDEO
"She did everything right," Graham said of the Lion Heart filly, who has three victories and two runner-up finishes to her name from five starts. "When I worked her over this track a couple of weeks back she went really well and finished really strong. She did again today. Perfect trip. Finished off and galloped out good."
Touch Magic rated fourth behind early splits of :24.10 and :48.02 set by 153-1 shot Afrodita
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took the lead at the three-eighths pole in 1:13.56, but Gal About Town
was closing strongly and opened a two-length margin in the stretch. That was the one Touch Magic had to run down from her inside position, and she did so with determination, stopping the clock in 1:45 flat in the one mile, 70-yard event.
"She hasn't done anything wrong and she still hasn't," trainer Pat Devereux Jr. remarked of Coteau Gove Farms' winner. "It seemed like the better she settles the better she runs, and I think there is better in there."
Touch Magic, bred in Kentucky by Hermitage Farm out of the Deputy Minister mare Unifier, was purchased for $25,000 from the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale by Antonio Sano, agent. She made her first four starts, including a runner-up finish in the Delta Downs Princess Stakes (gr. III) last November, for Monsan Racing Partnership before being purchased privately by Coteau Grove last month. The Silverbulletday victory improved her earnings to $208,200.