Fire Slam put all questions about his health to rest Saturday by storming home a two-length easy winner in the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds.Ridden by Shane Sellers, Fire Slam, who had been fighting a quarter crack leading up to the race, stalked pacesetter Two Down Automatic through a half mile in a modest :48 4/5 before engaging that rival on the far turn. The son of Grand Slam assumed command at the top of the stretch and finished powerfully, hitting the wire in 1:38.48 for the mile.
"He had his ears pinned back and was very comfortable pressing (Two Down Automatic)," said Sellers. "He stayed very alert throughout the race, and when I nudged him, he responded very well."Fire Slam won for the third time in four career starts, improving his earnings to $319,430 for trainer David Carroll, who did not decide until Friday to start the chiseled bay in the Lecomte due to his foot ailments."I have been very proud of this horse the last two weeks with the progress through the injury," said a relieved Carroll. "He really showed a good kick today."Fire Slam punched his ticket to the $600,000 Louisiana Derby (gr. II) on March 7. Carroll said he will train up to the race, skipping the Risen Star Stakes (gr. III) on Feb. 15.Shadowland was second, followed by Two Down Automatic.Even-money favorite Polish Rifle finished a disappointing fifth."I was in a very good spot," said Robby Albarado, who rode Polish Rifle. "He felt very comfortable, but when I asked for a push, he was empty."The 3-year-old colt is owned by Stan Fulton, who also campaigns another Triple Crown hopeful, St Averil, winner of the Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II) earlier this month at Santa Anita.The winner returned $5.40, $3.60 and $3.20 as the second choice in a field of seven. Shadowland paid $4.80 and $3.60. Two Down Automatic showed for $4.20.