Wilkinson gets his head in front to win the Lecomte.<br><a target="blank" href="http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/photo-store?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fpictopia.com%2Fperl%2Fgal%3Fprovider_id%3D368%26ptp_photo_id%3D9379645%26ref%3Dstory">Order This Photo</a>

Wilkinson gets his head in front to win the Lecomte.
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Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

Wilkinson Enters Triple Crown Picture

Connections aren't likely to worry about his ability to stay the distance.

For the most part, the bigger names on this year’s Triple Crown trail have yet to be seen on the track in 2011.That leaves the way open for other promising colts to begin jockeying for a shot at one of the major prep races and, if all goes well, a trip to Louisville.

While Wilkinson hasn’t yet earned his ticket to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), chances are that he has punched his ticket for the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) with a game and professional win in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at the Fair Grounds.A homebred who races for Gaillardia Racing, the colt finished willingly up the inside–something that some colts are reluctant to do–to score by a head.

Assuming that Wilkinson continues on the Derby trail via Louisiana, one thing his connections aren’t likely to worry about is the colt’s ability to stay out nine furlongs and then run down the long Fair Grounds stretch. A son of 1999 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Lemon Drop Kid , Wilkinson has plenty of stamina sources on the distaff side of the pedigree as well.

Granted, the colt’s dam, Tasha’s Delight, looks more like a good prospect for throwing milers at first glance.A grade III stakes-placed full sister to 2000 Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) winner Miss Pickums, she is by Afternoon Deelites, who scored his biggest victories in the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes and the 8.5-furlong Hollywood Futurity (both gr. I). Afternoon Deelites stayed well enough to run second in the then 10-furlong Strub Stakes (gr. I), however, and he has sired good runners all over the distance spectrum.

In the case of Tasha’s Delight, any assessment of potential stamina to be passed to her foals must also take into account her broodmare sire, Manila.Champion turf male in 1986, the son of Lyphard won five grade I stakes at distances ranging from 9.5 furlongs to 12 furlongs.Like many another staying turf runner, he did not do very well at stud in the United States and was sold to Turkey in late 1996.The sire of three champions in his adopted country, he is probably best remembered in North America as the sire of multiple grade I winner Bien Bien.

Manila Rain, the dam of Tasha’s Delight, scored her only win from 12 starts over 8.5 furlongs.A half sister to stakes winner Heavy Rain (by Wild Again), she was produced from Rain Chaser, whose sire Ben Adhem is not exactly a household name nowadays.A beautifully bred son of Ribot and two-time champion filly Idun, Ben Adhem made what reputation he had in the Pacific Northwest, winning two stakes and placing in seven more including two editions of the Longacres Mile (gr. III).Given a modest chance at stud in the regional market, he sired 113 foals, of which 64 won, one in stakes company.

Rain Chaser failed to win in 17 starts, placing four times. She was produced from the fine Washington-based broodmare Fool’s Miss (Saltville–Watch Lucille, by Daumier), whose other produce included 1986 Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (gr. I) winner Delicate Vine (by Knights Choice), dam of 1992 Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes (gr. II) winner Altazarr, and stakes winner Missa Bet (by Captain Courageous).The last-named filly, who later produced Washington-bred stakes winner Timely Bet (by Just the Time), was closely related to Aunt Iva (Captain Courageous–Watch Lucille), winner of five stakes in Washington.Fool’s Miss’s dam had another multiple Washington stakes-winning half sister in Tenino Ville (like Fools Miss a daughter of Saltville), so this is a family that has enjoyed a substantial amount of success on the regional level.

Lemon Drop Kid is, of course, no stranger to success at stud. The handsome son of now-pensioned Kingmambo is a member of the family of Missy Baba, also the ancestress of A.P. Indy, and has done well by his royal heritage; from the 545 named foals of his first seven crops of racing age (his eighth crop will begin racing this year), he has sired 54 stakes winners, headed by multiple grade I winner Richard's Kid  and grade I-winning distaffers Citronnade, Lemons Forever, Christmas Kin, and Santa Teresita. He is also the sire of Kid Mambo, a group I winner in Macau and multiple group-placed in England.

Wilkinson will need to show considerably more before being mentioned in the same breath with early Derby favorite Uncle Mo  or other top youngsters from last season such as To Honor and Serve, Boys At Tosconova , and Comma to the Top. But he is a nice young horse who appears to be moving in the right direction at the right time, and it will be interesting to see if he can step it up to the next level.