2023 Lecomte Stakes Recap

Instant Coffee looked better than ever with a devastating last-to-first triumph in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds Jan. 21.

The son of Bolt d’Oro was sent out the 1.3-1 favorite after overcoming slow fractions to win the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in November, and he was even more impressive here.

Taken to the rear by Luis Saez as Echo Again carved out fractions of 24.20, 47.19 and 1:12.02, Instant Coffee made a quick move on the far turn and stormed down the outside, overtaking Two Phil’s and drawing away for a 2 12-length victory in the 1 116-mile event.

It was an effort that suggested Instant Coffee had continued to improve and that he would be suited to the 1 14-mile Kentucky Derby (G1) trip.

Points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby table had not only been stretched to include the fifth-place finisher, but the Lecomte for the first time had its points doubled. This meant that Instant Coffee earned 20 points for his victory, which combined with his 10 for the Kentucky Jockey Club win and 2 for the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) fourth, took him to 32 points and second on the table behind only Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Breeders’ Futurity conqueror Forte.

Two Phil’s, a son of Hard Spun prepared by Larry Rivelli, went home with 8 points on the Derby Road table, his first points in the series. Confidence Game, earner of 1 point when fifth in the Iroquois (G3), stuck on for third and 6 points, taking his total to 7. Denington added to his tally earned in the Kentucky Jockey Club and Smarty Jones with 4 points, taking his total to 8 points, while Bromley earned his first 2 points for his fifth-place finish.

By Alastair Bull

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 20 qualification points to the winner), you can bet the Lecomte will maintain its steady ascent for the foreseeable future.

By J. Keeler Johnson