Principe Guilherme breaks his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths Nov. 10 at Churchill Downs

Principe Guilherme breaks his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths Nov. 10 at Churchill Downs

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Principe Guilherme Puts Talent to the Test in Lecomte

Son of Tapit won his first two starts by a combined 18 lengths.

There are only a few weeks remaining before one of the grandest chapters the Steve Asmussen barn has ever produced comes to a close.

On the evening of Jan. 27, the moving-on process will officially begin as multiple grade 1 winner Gun Runner  is set to conclude his career in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) at Gulfstream Park—a run slated to take place just days after his expected Eclipse Award coronation as the 2017 Horse of the Year. As deep a void as the chestnut son of Candy Ride  will leave, what will remain is the ever-present hope the heir to his achievements might be residing under his connections' noses.

"That's what this business is all about, dreams. If you're not willing to dream, you probably can't stand it because there are enough disappointments," said Doug Cauthen, vice chairman of Three Chimneys Farm, which co-owns Gun Runner along with Winchell Thoroughbreds.

In his two career starts, Three Chimneys' homebred Principe Guilherme has given his team reason to think he could help fill the shoes his famed stablemate will leave dangling behind. With a combined win margin of 18 lengths, the Asmussen-trained son of Tapit  has shown the kind of brilliance that gets a horseman's heart rate up in the best sense. 

On Jan. 13, Principe Guilherme will provide his connections an indicator on how much they can keep dreaming when he headlines the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots going one mile and 70 yards.

Installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite, Principe Guilherme is one of three entrants Asmussen will saddle in the Lecomte along with maiden winner Zing Zang and Snapper Sinclair, a stakes winner on the turf. The former didn't exactly draw a favorable post, landing in the 12th slot, but has shown enough in his first couple outings to suggest his starting point may not matter at this stage.

In his maiden outing against 10 others, Principe Guilherme shook off the early pressure he faced from Run Trouble Run and drew off to win by 6 1/4 lengths at Churchill Downs Nov. 10 in the seven-furlong test. The bay colt duplicated that effort and then some next time out at Fair Grounds Dec. 16 when he headed every point of call en route to an 11 3/4-length victory over the same distance he will travel Saturday.

"I think he was always a really good-looking baby and grew into a nice yearling, but he took a little time to get into gear while he was in training as far as showing a lot," Cauthen said. "Then one day, the light turned on and Steve said 'Man this horse finally woke up and breezed really good.' He's been answering the call so far. The first start gave some comfort and the second one was when you started to do a little more dreaming.

"This will be a real test for him because he's running against good horses and it's a big field, it will be a real challenge for him."

The product of a mating between grade 1 winner Aubby K and Gainesway's leading sire, expectations have been building for Principe Guilherme since his early days on Three Chimneys Farm.

"This horse was offered for sale and didn't meet its reserve ... it was fair price and it didn't happen," Cauthen said of Principe Guilherme being offered at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall mixed sale. "Being by Tapit out of a grade 1-winning mare, there is reason to have hopes for him too. And a homebred program doing well is the key to success for any farm."

Asmussen isn't the only trainer to have a three-pronged attack for the Lecomte. Larry Jones will also send out a trio, headed by Kowboy Karma, the co-third choice at 6-1 on the morning line. The son of Kodiak Kowboy was an emphatic 12 1/2-length winner of his career debut at Delaware Park going six furlongs. He was most recently second in the James F. Lewis III Stakes at Laurel Park Nov. 11.

OXO Equine's Instilled Regard ships to the Fair Grounds from the barn of Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer and was deemed the morning line second-choice at 4-1. The son of Arch was purchased for $1.05 million at the 2017 Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale and is out of Enhancing, whose dam is champion Heavenly Prize. 

In his career debut, Instilled Regard was beaten a half-length behind the full-brother of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah , St Patrick's Day, at Del Mar Sept. 2. Two starts later, the dark bay colt broke his maiden by 4 1/4-lengths going 1 1/16-miles at Santa Anita Park Oct. 29 and was elevated to second via disqualification last time out in the Dec. 9 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity (G1). 

Trainer Mark Casse entered the multiple graded stakes winning filly Wonder Gadot in the Lecomte but said Jan. 10 he and owner Gary Barber would like to keep the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro  against her own sex in Saturday's Silverbulletday Stakes—where she is cross-entered—rather than face males.

"Unless there are some significant scratches in there, she is going to run against the girls," Casse explained. "She is doing that good and ... we decided to look at it and see. But that's one of the toughest Lecomtes I've seen. At some point in time, if she continues to run well, she may give it a try (against males)."

Tom Morley-trained Ciaran is also expected to scratch from the Lecomte, leaving also-eligible entrant Trigger Warning able to draw into event.

The Lecomte is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race where 10 points will be awarded to the winner, four to the runner-up, two to the third-place finisher, and one point to fourth place. The points are used to determine the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) field. 

Entries: LeComte S. (G3)

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Saturday, January 13, 2018, Race 9

  • Grade III
  • 1m 70y
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 3 yo
  • 5:03 PM (local)
11Lone Sailor (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMiguel Mena116Thomas M. Amoss15/1
22Snapper Sinclair (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateAdam Beschizza122Steven M. Asmussen20/1
33Wonder Gadot (ON)Keeneland Sales GraduateJohn R. Velazquez117Mark E. Casse6/1
44Analyze This Jet (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateSasha Risenhoover122Terry Eoff30/1
55Kowboy Karma (KY)Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.120J. Larry Jones6/1
66Believe in Royalty (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRobby Albarado118J. Larry Jones15/1
77Night Strike (OK)Keeneland Sales GraduateCalvin H. Borel122W. Bret Calhoun30/1
88Zing Zang (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateShaun Bridgmohan116Steven M. Asmussen15/1
99Zeke (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoe Bravo118Michael Stidham15/1
1010Instilled Regard (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano116Jerry Hollendorfer4/1
1111Ciaran (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMartin Garcia116Thomas Morley30/1
1212Principe Guilherme (KY)Florent Geroux120Steven M. Asmussen5/2
1313Prince Lucky (PA)Julien R. Leparoux122J. Larry Jones8/1
1414Ebben (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey J. Lanerie122Steve Margolis20/1
1515Trigger Warning (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateSophie Doyle116Joe Lejzerowicz20/1