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Robby Albarado and Guest Suite after winning the 2017 Lecomte Stakes (G3)
Photos courtesy of Steve Queen
Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans hosted its "Road to the Derby Kickoff Day Presented by Hotel Monteleone" card on Saturday with five stakes races. Heavy rain earlier in the day downgraded the main track to muddy and the Stall-Wilson turf course to soft, with temperatures in the mid 70's. The highlight of the afternoon was the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds going 1 mile 70 yards on the main track. The race is a points-scoring race in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the points used to determine Derby starting spots. Guest Suite was sent off as the 5-2 favorite in the field of 11, off an allowance win in November after finishing third in the Street Sense at Churchill Downs. In to challenge him included 9-2 second choice Running Mate, third in the Sugar Bowl last out, and 5-1 third choice Untrapped, winner of a maiden in his second start.
Guest Suite wins the 2017 Lecomte Stakes
Running Mate and 40-1 Phat Man dueled for the lead through fractions of 23.42, 46.47, and 1:12.19 while stalked by 13-2 Takeoff. At the top of the lane Running Mate tired badly while Guest Suite, who sat 6th early, swept 4 wide to gain the lead through 1 mile in 1:38.84. Kept to task by jockey Robby Albarado, Guest Suite drew off to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Untrapped in 1:43.20. It was another 1/2 length back to Takeoff third.
Left: Guest Suite in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Neil Howard said, "Everyone has the same goals looking ahead after getting started in a race like this. Obviously it was nothing short of great to see that kind of performance. I thought this was a good gauge for him because it was a nice bunch of 3-year-olds. He has [turned a corner]. He has had a great schedule and hasn't missed a beat training and has trained wonderfully down here."
Right: Guest Suite leads down the stretch. Winning jockey Robby Albarado said, "I had a great trip. He's a nice horse and Neil has done an exceptional job with him. He's growing up. He's a smart horse and that makes it easy. He's been training forwardly. I just show up for the races they do all the work, the Howard stable."
Shortly after the start of the Lecomte Stakes. Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard eventual fourth place finisher Arklow said, He ran well and had a perfect trip. We were behind the winner and I knew he was the horse to beat. We ended up with a good fourth with a horse who was giving up a lot of experience. He has a long run to him, which will be nice later on in the year and will improve as these races stretch out.
Left: Second place finisher Untrapped in the post parade. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said, "Running first time long, I'm happy with him. He ran big and we tried to teach him something. He finished really good." Trainer Steve Asmussen added, "I love how he fought on late, for his first two turn race."
Right: Third place finisher Takeoff in the post parade. Jockey Florent Geroux said, "It was a hot pace. From where we were (in the gate), there weren't many options. It was either take back or go forward and when he broke sharply, I just followed Running Mate. I knew we were going quick, but I knew I couldn't take back at that point."
Farrell wins the 2017 Silverbulletday Stakes
Jockey James Graham sent 17-1 Gris Gris to the lead first time by and she set fractions of 23.80, 47.67, and 1:13.31 while pressed by Farrell and stalked by Summertime Sky. Entering the lane jockey Channing Hill sent Farrell 3 wide to to the lead through 1 mile in 1:39.64. Farrell drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths over late-running 9-1 Wicked Lick in 1:44.01. It was just a head back to pacesetter Gris Gris third.
Left: Farrell in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Wayne Catalano said, "I told (Hill) we would just go to the front and sit right off (Gris Gris). We had a nervous moment (at the top of the stretch), but not a whole bunch. You want to wait until mid-stretch here before you really worry. At that point, she was looking nice and Channing was sitting pretty good."
Right: Farrell returns after the race. Winning jockey Channing Hill said, "This is a very classy filly. She's bred to be a good horse and the whole barn has done a good job getting her to this level. She shut off really nicely for me, took a few deep breaths down the backside and then punched home when [Untapped] came outside of me."
Left: Second place finisher Wicked Lick in the post parade. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr, said, "We had a great trip. I knew I had horse and at the top of the stretch I thought I could maybe out-grind them. She finished off really good and is getting better and better as we go along. Every race is an improvement." Trainer Brendan Walsh added, "I'm really happy with her performance. She keeps getting better."
Right: Third place finisher Gris Gris in the post parade. Jockey James Graham said, "The winner was always outside us, so I broke and said 'let's go'. My filly never stopped running. She wasn't even handling the track that well, but she ran as well as she did, so I hope she moves forward."
Granny's Kitten wins the 2017 Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan sent Western Reserve to the lead first time by and he set fractions of 23.77, 48.80 and 1:12.85 over the soft going while pressed by Chocolate Ride and stalked by Granny's Kitten. Entering the stretch jockey Miguel Mena angled Granny's Kitten outside for room to catch the pacesetter at the 1/8 pole through 1 mile in 1:37.37. The pair dueled to the line with Granny's Kitten prevailing by a neck over Western Reserve in 1:43.61. It was a long 2 1/2 lengths back to favorite Chocolate Ride third.
Left: Granny's Kitten in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Miguel Mena said, "Last time out it was a soft first 1/4 mile and today I hustled him out of there and 23 and change was better than the last race. We had a great trip. Chocolate Ride pressed his partner around the turn and then we fought hard."
Right: Granny's Kitten after the race.
Left: Second place finisher Western Reserve in the post parade. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan said, "I thought he tried hard. He was on the lead but he dug in and gave me a gallant effort."
Right: Third place finisher and beaten favorite Chocolate Ride in the post parade. Jockey Florent Geroux said, "He didn't kick on. I'm not sure he liked (the turf course) that soft."
Hawaakom wins the 2017 Louisiana Stakes
Left: Hawaakom in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Miguel Mena said, "We had a great trip, I was down saving ground where he likes it. I had plenty of horse and was just hoping to get through at the head of the lane. I cut the corner, swung him out and he was full of run."
Right: Second place finisher Dazzling Gem in the post parade. Jockey Robby Albarado said, "I had a great trip. He responded when I needed him and was nice and relaxed early on. He just got outrun today."
Kitten's Roar (inside) wins the 2017 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes
15-1 longest shot Dynazar was quickest away through fractions of 24.14, 49.71, and 1:14.82 while pressed by 9-5 second choice Kitten's Roar. Turning for home Kitten's Roar easily passed the tiring pacesetter, opening up a 1 1/2 length lead through 1 mile in 1:38.88. 9-1 Prado's Sweet Ride rallied from 5th but Kitten's Roar held her off by a nose in 1:44.92. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to 2-1 third choice Cambodia, and another length to 7-5 favorite Cash Control fourth.
Left: Kitten's Roar in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Miguel Mena said, "She's very nice. They asked me to see how it goes from the gate, and we broke on top, and we had it our way today laying second. It worked out great; she was the best horse."
Right: Fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Cash Control in the post parade.
Holy Boss wins the 2017 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes
Left: Holy Boss in the winner's circle. Winning jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. said, "That's one of my favorite horses. I have a lot of confidence in him. It was an easy race for him. There was no speed in the race, and turning for home he took his class out."
Right: Holy Boss returns after the race.
Photos courtesy of Steve Queen
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