Like many horsemen at this time of year, Steve Asmussen is fleshing out potential campaigners for the upcoming Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune put himself near the top of the trainer’s list when he came from off the pace to take the $100,000 LeComte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Jan. 12.
Adding a graded stakes victory to his resume and maintaining a flawless 3-for-3 career record, the New York-bred son of Siphon raced with far more professionalism than his experience would dictate, settling well for jockey Shaun Bridgmohan and picking it up at the head of the lane when asked.
“He’s a very good 3-year-old who shipped from New York,” said Asmussen, who cinched earlier stakes on the card with Jolie the Cat and Silver Lord. “My job is to try to figure out how to win the (Kentucky) Derby with him. We’ll try to map out a plan. He’s a good horse.”
Making his first start outside the Empire State, Z Fortune was third at the start. He settled back into a comfortable fifth in the eight-horse field while the Ronny Werner-trained The Darp set easy early fractions of :24.39, :48.36, and 1:12.90. He’s Eze tracked along in second, and Texas Fever raced third. Coming to the stretch, Bridgmohan angled Z Humor out and put in a bid as the frontrunners tired. Second at the head of the lane, the colt kicked clear to win while kept to the task by his rider. It was 2 ¾-lengths back to the late-closing Blackberry Road, who was sixth coming off the turn and ran out of track after passing several horses.
“I got him to relax,” Bridgmohan said. “We had a great trip; we were just sitting pretty. When I showed him some room, he just got running.”
Z Fortune covered the LeComte’s one-mile distance in 1:37.79, returning $12, $5.60, and $4 while Blackberry Road brought $4.20 and $2.80 to place under Calvin Borel, and Mad Flatter paid $6 with James Graham to show.
Bred in New York by Delehanty Stock Farm out of the Fortunate Prospect mare Fortunate Faith, Z Fortune was an $80,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling purchase. He broke his maiden at first asking by 6 ½-lengths at Belmont Oct. 20, then won a Dec. 7 allowance at Aqueduct. He has now amassed earnings of $117,600.