Bashford Manor winner makes his 2013 debut in the Lecomte Stakes.

Bashford Manor winner makes his 2013 debut in the Lecomte Stakes.

Reed Palmer Photography, Churchill Downs

Circle Unbroken Starts Season in Lecomte

Grade III winner faces Canadian stakes victor Avie's Quality at Fair Grounds Jan. 19.

Grade III winner Circle Unbroken makes his 2013 debut Jan. 19 in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, stretching out in distance and taking on eight other 3-year-olds including Canadian Display Stakes victor Avie's Quality.

Sophomore prep season at the Louisiana oval will kick off with the mile and 70 yard test, carded as race 10 of 13 with an approximate post of 4:55 p.m. CST. The Lecomte awards the top four finishers with 10-4-2-1 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

Circle Unbroken, a son of Broken Vow  owned by Travis Morgeson III, is the only graded winner in the field. He won the Bashford Manor Stakes (gr. III) going six furlongs last June after a solid 5 1/2-furlong maiden score, both at Churchill Downs. Trainer Gerry Simms then sent him to the Mountaineer Juvenile Stakes Aug. 4, where he was beaten a grudging neck by Al Stall Jr. trainee Maybe So after engaging in a stretch duel from the three-sixteenths pole. 
The Lecomte will be the colt's first start back since that loss, but he turned in a sharp gate work Jan. 13, going :59 2/5 to get the best time of 74 at the distance on the day. Jockey Mark Guidry has the mount from post 8.
Avie's Quality, coming in off a sweeping 1 1/4-length score in the $150,000 Display Stakes at Woodbine Dec. 1 after breaking his maiden by five Nov. 14, appears to poise the biggest threat with two solid 1 1/16-mile victories on Polytrack under his girth. But the Elusive Quality runner makes his first start outside Canada for owner Ivan Dalos and trainer Josie Carroll. Rosie Napravnik rides from post 6.
Circle Unbroken and Avie's Quality carry 122 pounds. 
Other runners of interest include Charles Fipke's 7 1/4-length maiden winner Golden Soul, a son of Perfect Soul  who registered that victory Dec. 30 at Fair Grounds going 1 1/16 miles; Bluegrass Hall's Oxbow , an Awesome Again  runner who was fourth in the Dec. 15 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Betfair Hollywood Park last out; and Matthew Bryan's maiden winner Ive Struck a Nerve. The latter is a Yankee Gentleman  colt who ran ninth in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) in 2012 after veering out at the start and racing five wide. He last ran second by 3 1/2 lengths with a five-wide move from the quarter pole in the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds Dec. 22. 
Mary Grum's Malibu High, Rowell Enterprises' Heitai, Frank Irvin's Fear the Kitten (fifth in the Nov. 24 grade II Kentucky Jockey Club last out),and Hawaakom for Shadwell Stable complete the field.
In the Lecomte's counterpart for sophomore fillies, the $125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes, Naveed Chowhan's Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) winner Seaneen Girl carries top weight of 122 from post 1 under jockey Miguel Mena. The daughter of Spring At Last gets a rematch with Golden Rod runner-up Gal About Town while also taking on the likes of Dec. 22 Letellier Memorial Stakes winner Finding More and Golden Gate Debutante Stakes runner-up Ciao Bella Luna. Post time for the Silverbulletday, which is worth 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers on the road to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), is 4:25 p.m. CST.
$200,000 LeComte Stakes (gr. III, Race 10, approximate post 4:55 p.m. CST), 3YOs, 1 mile, 70 yards (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Malibu High (KY), M. Mena, 118, C P Borel
2. Heitai (LA), R.E. Eramia, 118, S Breaux
3. Fear the Kitten (IL), S. Bridgmohan, 120, M J Maker
4. Oxbow (KY), J.K. Court, 116, D W Lukas
5. Hawaakom (KY), L.R. Goncalves, 116, D C Peitz
6. Avie's Quality, R. Napravnik, 122, J Carroll
7. Golden Soul (KY), B.J. Hernandez, Jr., 116, D Stewart
8. Circle Unbroken (FL), M. Guidry, 122, G W Simms
9. Ive Struck a Nerve (KY), K.J. Desormeaux, 116, J K Desormeaux
$125,000 Silverbulletday Stakes (Race 9, approximate post 4:25 p.m. CST), 3YO fillies, 1 mile, 70 yards (dirt)
PP, Horse, Jockey Weight, Trainer
1. Seaneen Girl (KY), M. Mena, 122, B S Flint
2. Ciao Bella Luna (KY), J. THeriot, 118, W B Calhoun
3. Estonia (KY), S. Bridgmohan, 118, N J Howard
4. Touch Magic (KY), J. Graham, 116, P Devereux, Jr.
5. Afrodita (KY), I.V. Diego, 116, G Dorochenko
6. Flashy Campaign (KY), L.R. Goncalves, 116, T M Amoss
7. Finding More (WA), J. Jacinto, 120, K Gorder
8. Irish Lute (FL), B.J. Hernandez, Jr., 116, D Stewart
9. Brotherhood Singer (KY), J.K. Court, 120, G W Simms
10. Gal About Town (KY), J.L. Castanon, 120, W B Calhoun
11. Smitten (KY), R. Napravnik, 116, J L Jones