Lecomte Stakes begins Fair Grounds’ road to Churchill

New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) – Fair Grounds commences its road to the
Kentucky Derby Saturday with the 71st running of the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes.
Eleven newly turned 3-year-olds have entered for the mile, 70 yard stakes with
a post time of 6:24 p.m. ET.

Team Valor’s Savoy Stomp makes his first start of the year and will break from
post 6 with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith riding the colt for the first time.

“You certainly try this time of year to get on good young horses – especially
Kentucky Derby horses,” said Smith. “Todd (Pletcher) is definitely one you
want to ride for.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher conditions the 3-year-old who will be making his fourth
career start. Savoy Stomp won his debut race in September at Belmont Park but
was fifth in the mud in Aqueduct’s Nashua Stakes in November.

“He didn’t like the wet dirt (in the Nashua); (the kickback) stung him and he
ran horribly,” Team Valor’s Barry Irwin explained. “Then in his (Dec. 17) race
the rail was golden and he could have stayed there, but (jockey Javier
Castellano) was so worried about the kickback that he stayed outside. On a
normal track like Fair Grounds going two turns, he should do well.”

Savoy Stomp was favored in the Gulfstream Park allowance in December but
finished third to Bluegrass Singer, winner of this month’s Mucho Macho Man

“Pletcher has always liked the horse,” Irwin said. “The question with him
is what his best trip is. I always thought he wanted to run longer and
Pletcher is hopeful he will, but (Pletcher) told me that if he turned out to
be a late-running sprinter, he wouldn’t be surprised. You never know which way
they’re going to go. It’s a matter of timing and what their progression is.”

Leaving from the far outside post will be Eagle with Brian Hernandez Jr. in
the saddle. The chestnut colt is owned by William S. Farish and trained by
Neil Howard.

Eagle, a half-brother to Shared Belief, has two wins, a second and a third
from four starts. He was third in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes behind El
Kabeir at Churchill Downs in November. The colt has banked $81,602.

Mike Maker’s stakes winning colt International Star has drawn the inside post
with Miguel Mena riding.

Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, International Star won the Grey Stakes at
Woodbine last October and earlier recorded seconds in Belmont’s Rockville
Center Stakes and Saratoga’s With Anticipation on the turf.

International Star was ninth, just 3 1/4 lengths off the winner, in the
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 31. The colt has earned
$200,979 from six starts. The Ramseys and Maker combined to win last year’s
Lecomte with Vicar’s in Trouble.

Here is the field for the Lecomte in post position order: International Star,
Miguel Mena; Tiznow R J, Robby Albarado; Four Leaf Chief, Florent Geroux;
War Story, James Graham; Hero of Humor, Alexander Reznikov; Savoy Stomp, Mike
Smith; Runhappy, Shaun Bridgmohan, Killingit, Jamie Theriot; Dekabrist, Sal
Gonzalez Jr.; Another Lemon Drop, Calvin Borel and Eagle, Brian Hernandez Jr.