The road to the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) begins Saturday at Fair Grounds as a field of seven 3-year-olds meet in the grade III $100,000 Lecomte Stakes. Among the top contenders is Fire Slam, who took an unblemished record into the $1 million Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs in December and rallied to finish second to Mr. Jester. Trainer David Carroll has had the son of Grand Slam at Fair Grounds since before the Jackpot, and he turned in a crisp half-mile breeze on Monday as a final prep for the Lecomte. Regular rider Shane Sellers will be aboard the stocky bay, who will break from post No. 3. Polish Rifle, who has been installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite, was purchased privately by the partnership of Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and Stonerside Stable after finishing second to Tapit in the grade III Laurel Futurity last time out. Now trained by Steve Asmussen, Polish Rifle was making his first attempt around two turns in that race, after victories against maidens and then Maryland-breds in the Nursery Stakes on Maryland Million Day at Laurel Park. He has been training steadily over the Fair Grounds oval and will be ridden by jockey Robby Albarado. Polish Rifle will break from post position No. 4. Asmussen will also send out Two Down Automatic, who returned to action following a layoff of nearly six months to win an allowance race earlier in the meet. In his next start, Two Down Automatic closed to finish second behind the Wildcat Shoes in the Sugar Bowl Stakes. The Lecomte will be the first start beyond six furlongs for the son of Smoke Glacken, who will break from the far outside under jockey Frank Lovato Jr. The lone undefeated runner in the Lecomte is Shadowland, who followed up a maiden victory in England at six furlongs on turf with an allowance score at Saturday's distance of a mile in a Turfway Park allowance last month.
Purchased privately by Team Valor after his maiden victory, Shadowland was trained by Dale Romans for his first U.S. start and was recently transferred to Ralph Nicks when he was named exclusive trainer for Team Valor. Shadowland ships in from Oaklawn Park, where he has been training forwardly for the Lecomte. Jockey Eddie Martin Jr. picks up the mount on the son of Distant View, who will break from post No. 6. Post positions for the Lecomte Stakes:1--Bogangles, 119, Corey Lanerie,12/1
2--Jaguar Friend , 122, Gerard Melancon, 20/1
3 --Fire Slam , 119, Shane Sellers, 2/1
4--Polish Rifle , 122, Robby Albarado, 9/5
5--American Alive , 114, Calvin Borel, 8/1
6--Shadowland , 114, Eddie Martin Jr. , 6/1
7--Two Down Automatic, 114, Frank Lovato Jr., 9/2