G3 Lecomte Stakes (01/22/22)

Fair Grounds, Race 14

8.5 Furlongs – Dirt

The Road to the Kentucky Derby starts to take off this weekend with early Derby Qualifying Points up for grabs in the nightcap of a huge 14-race card Fair Grounds has put together for Saturday, 1/22. Interesting connection between today's co-favorites as #3 Pappacap (8/5 ML) was sired by 2017 Horse of the Year, Gun Runner. Meanwhile, #5 Epicenter (9/5 ML) comes in for the same trainer as Gun Runner and off a win in the Gun Runner Stakes.

#1 Surfer Dude 15/1

Durable look to make this sophomore debut career race #7 with no breaks in this initial campaign all while dealing with the stress of being an early speed horse. Finally broke his maiden when prompting a DTOP off an NPT and took an excusable regression in Figures next out as no match to one of today's co-favorites. Moving to a graded stakes Derby hopeful field could be tough for him from the start as his 4F Figures don't lend him an advantage that he may need.

#2 Unified Report 15/1

Enters undefeated and now gets an extra turn with the big stretch out in distance. Disregard the NEG pattern on debut victory as he barely missed triggering a COMP instead and may have if he hadn't cleared for the win. The 4F Figures are solid letting him stalk in contention and the compression of small dirt spreads (4F minus Final) give him good staying power to get by late. The pedigree isn't anything special to be routing over sprinting here but the Figures and spreads are positive for the move and may lend some value to show up today if the odds remain attractive.

#3 Pappacap 8/5

West coast invader was a quick 2 for 2 and took on three Grade I tries as a juvenile. Improved both 4F with Final Figures through sprinting showing strong progression. The route tries featured more forwardly-placed 4F Figures as he dealt with tougher pace scenarios than today's field yet sustained on for comparable Final Figures. Top contender worthy of respect but wonder if his extensive class experience will drive him down to odds-on. Should run a predictable race.

#4 Trafalgar 5/1

Just missed triggering COMP on debut when settling for second with the pacesetter getting too far away. More distance allowed him the time needed to get past his next rivals last two races, although those trips have been made by other rivals today and he needs to show us more on both 4F and Final today. Needs to improve and get a good trip so I'm more inclined to consider if we get that number over 10/1 first.

#5 Epicenter 9/5

79/71 NEG debut was quickly corrected with more distance prompting a precocious 79h/75h DTOP in a 1-turn route then dialing down to a SOFT pattern at two turns for a 74/74 on this track. Proven at the trip and track with a superior running line to the others' that have been in same spot. Lone concern is the question of how he might handle things if he experiences pressured competition today after a couple in-hand trips.

#6 Cyberknife 6/1

Geared up on debut popping an 86/74h winner. He settled into a more compressed 73h/73h and 69h/72 SOFT on 2-turn debut. Couldn't quite close the deal in that second start and barely made it in last. They'll try blinkers to put some speed back in here as that seems to be his best chance. Not sure he's game enough to take this field with a stalking trip and he's facing plenty of other good speed if they push early. Seems like an underlay.

#7 Blue Kentucky 20/1

Been forward all career including a try at a mile with a very forward 81/68h. Tough to single him out as the one to benefit from going early when there's several others that might need to try the same to steal it.

#8 Call Me Midnight 20/1

After being geared up sprinting, settled a bit and closed the juvenile season with three routes putting together a REV Pattern and a deep -9 dirt spread. With the right set-up could surprise 1 out of 20 tries but needs that help and is not going to just take this race himself.

#9 Presidential 20/1

This stablemate to co-favorite #5 Epicenter enters with the highest auction price of today's field. Could be any horse here as the most rested of the field not seen since starting career back in August. Was a COMP on debut before an easy Reversal (REV) winner next out. Workouts started super slow and inched faster over last couple months without a break. Interesting one but trainer is 0 for 9 in graded stakes with these owners while he's already got a couple runners into the Derby gate for #5 Epicenter's owners.

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