Easily one of the best bred colts on the Triple Crown trail, Gold Hawk will have an opportunity to live up to his formidable bloodlines when he makes his stakes debut in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte at Fair Grounds.
The Lecomte, at one mile and 70 yards, anchors the five-stakes "Road to the Derby Kickoff" day at the New Orleans track.
Gold Hawk enters the Lecomte undefeated from two starts for trainer Steve Asmussen, and already has plenty of connections to Louisville and Churchill Downs. Born and raised at Hermitage Farm outside Louisville, the bay is a son of Empire Maker, the 2003 Belmont winner who ran second in that year's Kentucky Derby, and Caressing, who clinched champion two-year-old filly honors with a victory in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies under the Twin Spires.
Despite acting up in the post parade and unseating jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., Gold Hawk comfortably captured his November 30 debut by 2 1/4 lengths going seven furlongs at Churchill. His increasing professionalism was on display again in a December 27 allowance at Fair Grounds, which he won by a widening 3 1/2 lengths over the Lecomte distance.
Also making his first stakes appearance in the Lecomte is Vicar's in Trouble, who rebounded from a debut third at Keeneland with a 13-length demolition of 10 Louisiana-bred maiden rivals going six furlongs on December 14. The Into Mischief colt could make it a great day for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who are likely to be honored with at least one Eclipse Award Saturday evening in Florida.
Among those with prior stakes experience are Albano, a workmanlike winner of the six-furlong Sugar Bowl last month; Roman Unbridled, who coasted by 8 1/2 lengths in the seven-furlong Big Drama at Delta Downs two weeks ago; and Smarty's Echo, the Breeders' Futurity runner-up who finished up the track in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his dirt debut.
A pair of three-year-olds with more success on turf to this point are Got Shades and Rainbow Trip, both trained by Danny Pish. Got Shades won a pair of grass stakes at Louisiana Downs last year before finishing third in the Zuma Beach and a rough-trip fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, both at Santa Anita.
Got Shades has not run on dirt before, but stablemate Rainbow Trip has. After placing in only one of four starts on the main track, the gelding made a successful transition to the infield and promptly won a Retama maiden by more than eight lengths. Third by a head in the El Joven over the same course, Rainbow Trip most recently rallied from 15 lengths back to take a turf allowance at Retama by a half-length.
The Lecomte field is completed by Plug Catcher, a wide-trip third behind Gold Hawk in the aforementioned Fair Grounds allowance, and the maiden Silent Ruler.