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Lecomte Stakes History

For a race that carried a mere $40,000 purse as recently as 1996, it’s impressive how quickly the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds has developed into an important stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

The Lecomte pays homage to the equine Lecomte, a New Orleans sensation who received widespread acclaim in 1854 when he ran four miles in the record-shattering time of 7:26.

The rise of Lecomte’s namesake race has been slow but steady. First run in 1943, the race was open to older horses until 1962, when it became an age-restricted test for 3-year-olds. Early winners tended to be local stars more than national standouts, and the Lecomte didn’t receive graded stakes status until 2003.

Nevertheless, the Lecomte occasionally produced nationally prominent horses. Future Preakness (G1) runner-up Linkage claimed the Lecomte in 1982. Risen Star used a second-place finish in the 1988 Lecomte as a springboard to victories in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes (G1). Then in 2002, War Emblem became the first Lecomte starter to claim victory in the Kentucky Derby.

Since achieving graded status, the Lecomte has grown rapidly. Hard Spun (first in 2007) and Golden Soul (second in 2013) kicked off their sophomore seasons in the Lecomte before going on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby. Oxbow (runaway winner in 2013) and War of Will (triumphant in 2019) went on to score victories in the Preakness. Even the 2016 fourth-place finisher Destin went on to achieve major success, battling to victory in the Belmont Stakes.

During the 2010s, the Lecomte produced 13 Kentucky Derby starters, averaging better than one per year. In 2020, Fair Grounds lengthened the race from 1 mile and 70 yards to 1 116 miles. With its growing prestige and prominent placement on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (offering 10 qualification points to the winner), you can bet the Lecomte will maintain its steady ascent for the foreseeable future.

By J. Keeler Johnson

Lecomte Stakes Recap

Racing fans who expected a clash between Epicenter and Pappacap in the Lecomte S. (G3) at Fair Grounds Jan. 22 weren’t expecting a 28-1 shot to play party pooper.

They reckoned without Call Me Midnight, who rallied strongly off a robust early pace to nab Epicenter on the line and earn 10 points in the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

Epicenter earned four points for finishing second, with Pappacap taking two points for his third-place finish. These points meant Pappacap and Epicenter now jointly head the Derby Road table with 14 points, although Pappacap is ranked first because he has more non-restricted stakes earnings. Trafalgar earned one point for finishing fourth, about 4 14 lengths behind the winner.

Call Me Midnight entered the race with one victory from six starts. He didn’t register a top-three finish until his fourth start, when he finished second in a Keeneland maiden behind subsequent Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) third placegetter Giant Game.

He then franked that form by winning a maiden at Churchill Downs, but was a little disappointing when seventh to Smile Happy in the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) Nov. 27, his last start prior to the Lecomte.

Trained by Keith Desormeaux, Call Me Midnight is by Midnight Lute out of the First Defence mare Overseen. Most of the good horses in the first two generations of his pedigree were best around a mile, but his third dam Slightly Dangerous was second in the 1 12 mile Epsom Oaks (G1). Slightly Dangerous produced Epsom Derby (G1) winner Commander in Chief. It suggests 1 14 miles at Churchill Downs is not out of the question.

Epicenter, who set the pace, and Pappacap both ran solid races given the demanding early speed and should still be strong players in the lead-up to the first Saturday in May.

By Alastair Bull