The $200,000 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds is a key lead-in race to the 2022 Kentucky Derby and a quality field has emerged.
Nine runners contest the Grade III feature, including Epicenter, who is closing in on favoritism after winning the Gun Runner. However, it won’t be easy to beat the likes of Pappacap, who has the experience edge.
Horse racing odds are available for Saturday’s featured 3-year-old contest.
Epicenter is a Gun
The career of Epicenter didn’t start well after finishing sixth at Churchill Downs, but he hasn’t missed a beat since.
The son of Not This Time scored a comfortable maiden win at Churchill Downs over a mile before destroying a quality field in the Gun Runner. He scored emphatically by 6½ lengths, which forced the sportsbook to trim his Kentucky Derby odds.
Trainer Steven Asmussen has a nice type on his hands and assistant trainer Scott Blasi was thrilled with the result.
“We love his tactical speed, his ability to put himself in position to do well and Brian did a great job with him today to let the speed go on, and change sides,” Blasi told Americasbestracing. “He’s still lightly raced, still learning, but hopefully there are some big things to come.”
We think there will be much more to come and betting online markets have him close to favoritism. He’s just behind Pappacap at 9-5, but we expect money to come for him on race day.
If he runs anywhere close to his Gun Runner performance, Epicenter could be the star attraction at Fair Grounds.
Pappacap all Class
The class runner of the Lecomte Stakes is Pappacap after he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind Corniche. However, Corniche may not be able to run for the Roses since he is trained by Bob Baffert, who is suspended by Churchill Downs.
It was the second consecutive time the son of Gun Runner has finished behind Corniche, who is well-favored to win the Derby.
He is a two-time Grade I placegetter, so he demands respect at this level of racing. His win in the Best Pal at Del Mar was classy and he hasn’t lost any admirers since.
Pappacap currently leads the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 12 points. He is trained by Mark Casse, who has won the Lecomte Stakes twice from the last three years.
“I never questioned where I wanted to go after the Breeders’ Cup,” Casse said. “I feel really comfortable at Fair Grounds. We had a lot of success over that track with War of Will and Wonder Gadot.”
The sportsbook has Pappacap as the slight favorite and we expect him to be fighting out the finish with Epicenter in what could be an epic battle.
Trafalgar Has Track Experience
Having winning experience at Fair Grounds can be key and Trafalgar looked good winning last start.
The son of Lord Nelson finished second on debut at Saratoga before winning at Churchill Downs over a mile. He stepped over more ground last start and it paid off, so he’s working nicely towards the Derby.
Bookmakers have Trafalgar on the third line of betting at 5-1, so he’s being respected. We have him running third behind the favorites, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see him win the Lecomte Stakes.