Fair Grounds Race Report: What a Looker

Published in the Feb. 1 issue of The Blood-Horse
It was like climbing Mt. Everest blindfolded in shower slippers. The transition for Saintly Look in the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) on Jan 25 couldn't have been any tougher. Far outside post in a field of 11 with a short run to the first turn and an abbreviated stretch run. First time around two turns. Picking up eight pounds while facing graded stakes winners Lone Star Sky and Most Feared.

Steep assignment--but no hill for a big stepper. William Carl's alert sophomore was up to the task, taking the mile event with a strong kick in the last eighth to win by an impressive 2 3/4 lengths.

"It was scary," trainer Dallas Stewart said about what his colt had to overcome. "Post position in a large field is always a big factor. That first turn came up quick and it was critical for us to get over. Getting some control of the race. That was plan 'A.' "

In this case plan "A" worked to perfection. Saintly Look bounced first out of the gate, showing interest in the first jumps. Coming off a sharp sprint win in the Dec. 29 Sugar Bowl Stakes, the homebred colt was fresh and ready. Outside of Call Me Lefty around the first turn, Saintly Look was more aggressive into the bridle than Shane Sellers would have preferred.

"It always bothers you to come out of that 11 hole," Sellers said, "but we were able to get over. He was a little bit keen on me. Once we cleared horses and got him slowed down, that helped us win."

Head and head down the backside with Call Me Lefty, the opening splits were a dawdling :23.71 and :46.85, with Saintly Look dropping off on occasion to take a breather. A couple of lengths back, Lone Star Sky stayed in the viewfinder with a forward attack while three wide. Winning Fans (a horse who had broken his maiden in Mexico) ranged up outside the clutter, then squeezed in between horses as the field rounded the far turn.

Short stretch? Yeah, right. When Saintly Look hit the top of the lane, Sellers gave him a couple of sharp pops with the whip on the portside and the son of Saint Ballado pinned his ears and got down to business. After a switch to the right hand, Sellers just fanned the whip to the side of Saintly Look's face as they approached the wire uncontested.

"He showed some professionalism," Sellers said. "He grabbed the bit and I gunned him turning for home and he just kept running."

The Texas-bred Call Me Lefty lasted for second and longshot Winning Fans hung on for third. After a wide, pressing trip, the favorite Most Feared beat just one horse.

"He broke sharper than me or Ronnie (Werner) wanted today," jockey Mark Guidry said of Most Feared. "When I finally got him settled back there he gave me a decent effort. We already know that he has a lot of potential. We're just bringing him back to the game."

The leading stakes rider at the meet, Sellers realized everything went his way in the Lecomte. "You can't rule anything out with this horse," Sellers said. "He's shown his talent now. We just have to hope he keeps it up."

Gentlemen, start your dreaming. The Lecomte was the first shot in a long war. The next volley will be the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) on Feb 16. Stewart didn't tip his hand as far as plan "B."

"Right now, we're on cloud nine," he said. "Later, we'll put everything on the table and see where we are."

Quite a Lady
Bill Heiligbrodt must have a "third eye" when it comes to buying horses. He wasn't certain about what he saw when he first set eyes on Lady Tak last April, but he liked it. Heiligbrodt had gone back to the Keeneland sales barn to inspect the 2-year-old daughter of Mutakddim and found that she was not in her stall. Lady Tak had torn loose from her halter, broke through the webbing, and was standing outside, alone, eating grass.

"I liked something about her spirit. She was tough," Heiligbrodt remembered about the day he bought her for $75,000.

The wild and weird side of Lady Tak was not in evidence when she stood at attention in the gate for the $100,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes on Jan 26. There was hollering and fractious slamming all around. To her immediate outside, Belle of Perintown reared wildly and fell backwards to the ground. Throughout the ruckus, Lady Tak remained calm and composed--still and silent as a mountain.

Actually she was more like a volcano about to explode. Once free from the steel, Lady Tak showed the speed that has left her undefeated against good company. Comfortable and smooth in her stride, Lady Tak settled in to stalk Perfect Wave around the first turn. Point of contact remained a length between the two as they went down the backstretch. It was the first time for both fillies to go around two turns.

For Lady Tak it will not be the last. With three-eighths of a mile to go, she cruised up on the outside and propelled herself to the lead.

"The acceleration she had when I asked her was unbelievable," said jockey Donnie Meche. "I think she has the heart if something comes up to her that she is going to come back and fight."

Lady Tak finished on her left lead, pulling away from James Tafel's Allspice by 2 3/4 lengths in the final time of 1:38.60 for the mile. Labeled as "fast," the track was getting wetter from a steady but light rain.

"If there was a question about her stamina, she answered it today," Heligbrodt said. "I was worried a bit before the race with that bad actor. But our horse just stood there like a baby. This was exciting. When you have a horse that's that fast it's nice because you always know there's a place for them to run."

Trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Tiffany Lass Stakes last year with Lake Lady, left no doubt about the future. Lady Tak is pointed for the March 8 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) with a probable stopover in the Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. II) on Feb. 15.

(Chart, Equibase)