Patena won the Dec. 6 Display Stakes at Woodbine.

Patena won the Dec. 6 Display Stakes at Woodbine.

Michael Burns

Lecomte Good Test For Derby Hopefuls

Indygo Mountain was installed as the 3-1 favorite

Indygo Mountain, who broke his maiden impressively Nov. 19 at Churchill Downs but had to be scratched from his next start because of a minor injury, was installed as the 3-1 morning-line choice in the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Jan. 10.

A good-looking field of nine 3-year-olds has been drawn for the one-mile Lecomte, although one of Steve Asmussen’s entries, Professor Z, will not go. Asmussen said Zayat Stables’ Professor Z, who has won consecutive starts at Aqueduct, will instead point toward the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Jan. 19.

The Lecomte, the last of six stakes on the Fair Grounds program, begins the Louisiana Derby Series and is the first important Fair Grounds prep race for sophomores with hopes of making it to the May 2 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. The Feb. 7 Risen Star (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles is the next stop.

The Lecomte Stakes is featured on this week's edition of That Handicapping Show.

Indygo Mountain’s morning-line favoritism surprised trainer Bret Calhoun, who admitted the talented son of A.P. Indy is behind in his training. Owned by Clarence Scharbauer Jr., whose family raced 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (gr. I) winner Alysheba, Indygo Mountain was a late scratch in a first-level allowance race at Fair Grounds Dec. 18. During the post parade, it was noticed that he had developed a bruise on his left hind leg.

Calhoun said the bruise never abscessed and Indygo Mountain returned to training two days later. But after a few days, the chestnut popped an abscess on his right hind leg, which forced him to miss more time.
“He missed that prep race and some key works,” said Calhoun. “He’s not 100% and not where I want him right now. But it’s a good place to get started and we’re still on the road to where we want to be.
“I was a little surprised when they told me we were the favorite. He’s only had two starts and isn’t as seasoned as some of these. We drew the nine-post too, so we’d have to get pretty lucky on the first turn. I don’t want to have to use him hard after what we’ve been through. I wish he were a little more sound, but if this is the worst of his problems, it’s better to have them out of the way early.”
Jamie Theriot, aboard for Indygo Mountain’s 6 1/4-length maiden romp, will get the return mount. Indygo Mountain was bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm and is out of the Mountain Cat mare Mountain Girl.
Although Asmussen will not start Professor Z in the Lecomte, he will have Bob Zollars and Mark Wagner’s Uno Mas, who was installed as the 5-1 co-third choice based on consecutive wins at Fair Grounds.
The son of Macho Uno —Queen Majesty (by Regal Classic) broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths at fourth asking Nov. 15 going six furlongs. One month later he stalked the pace and drew away for a 2 1/4-length score in the one-mile allowance race that Indygo Mountain was supposed to go in. In that test, Uno Mas defeated highly-touted favorite Friesan Fire, who is also entered in Lecomte.
“From a timing standpoint, we’re wheeling him back a little quicker than I would have liked, but he’s done really well since he’s arrived at Fair Grounds,” said Asmussen, who won the race with Z Fortune in 2008. “He’s a nice, big colt who has always shown potential. Pedigree-wise, he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing, which is improving. We’re very hopeful with him. He stepped up last race, and now we’re hoping for more against stiffer competition.”
Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Uno Mas, who was bred in Kentucky by Crossroads Farm.
Larry Jones is hoping Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farms’ Friesan Fire finally puts it all together in the Lecomte. Jones thought very highly of the A.P. Indy colt when he first arrived in his barn and was even more hopeful after he broke his maiden by three lengths in his debut at Delaware Park last August. But Friesan Fire is winless in three starts since then, finishing third in the Futurity (gr. II) at Belmont, fourth in the Nashua (gr. III) at Aqueduct, and second to Uno Mas Dec. 18.
Gabriel Saez will ride Friesan Fire, who drew the rail and is also 5-1 on the morning line.
The 4-1 second choice is Patena, who will carry top weight of 122 pounds based on his victory in the Display Stakes at Woodbine Dec. 6. The son of Seeking the Gold stalked the pace, took over at the top of the stretch, and gamely held on by a head in the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack event.
John and Glen Sikura and Dominic Dilalla paid $250,000 for the colt at the Keeneland September sale last year. Patena is trained by Josie Carroll, who also conditioned his mare, Handpainted, a stakes winner at Fair Grounds in 2004.
Like Indygo Mountain, Tim Brown and Phil Gahm’s Au Moon is short on experience, but has shown a lot of lot of promise. Trainer David Carroll considers the Malibu Moon  colt the top 3-year-old in his barn and was very encouraged by his 5 3/4-length maiden-breaking score at Churchill Downs Nov. 29. Julien Leparoux gets the return mount and will break from post two.

$100,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 4:29 p.m.), 3 Year Olds, 1 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey

1. Friesan Fire  (KY), 116, Gabriel Saez
2. Au Moon (KY), 116, Julien R. Leparoux
3. Citizen (KY), 120, Francisco C. Torres
4. Patena (KY), 122, Robby Albarado
5. Big Push (FL), 120, Miguel Mena
6. Dynamic Force (FL), 120, Jesse M. Campbell
7. Professor Z (KY), 120, Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.
8. Uno Mas (KY), 120, Shaun Bridgmohan
9. Indygo Mountain (KY), 116, Jamie Theriot