2012 Lecomte Stakes An Early Path to The Triple Crown

The Fair Grounds’ road to the Triple Crown kicks off each year with the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile and 40 yards on the dirt main track.

This year’s Lecomte Stakes is expected to feature the highly-regarded Exfactor for trainer Bernie Flint. Exfactor, who won the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs back in June, returned from a more than five-month layoff to win the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds Dec. 17. That return race indicates Exfactor is something more than an early-season flash in the pan, but the Lecomte will be his first time running longer than a sprint distance and it will be interesting to see how he performs as the distances lengthen.

The $100,000 Lecomte, which will be run Jan. 21, 2012, is the first race in the Fair Grounds 3-year-old series that continues with the 1 1/16-mile Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 25 and culminates in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, contested at 1 1/8-miles on April 1. Horses performing well in these races are eligible to go on to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.

The Lecomte is named for the racehorse of that name from the 1850’s. Lecomte was an 11-time winner on the track, but is perhaps best-known for providing the great Lexington, who happened to be Lecomte’s half-brother, with the only defeat of his distinguished career. Lexington would go on to become one of the most influential stallions in the American Stud Book.

First run in 1970, the Lecomte gained in notoriety during the first decade of the 21st century. In 2009, Friesan Fire swept the Lecomte, Risen Star and Louisiana Derby and was sent off as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. However, Friesan Fire disappointed his backers with an 18th-place finish.

In 2007, Hard Spun won the Lecomte and, rather than move on to the local Louisiana Derby, was shipped north to Kentucky for the Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway Park. Hard Spun would win the Lane’s End and go on to be second in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Preakness Stakes and was second in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

The 2006 Lecomte had to be canceled because of Hurricane Katrina.

The Lecomte is annually a good gauge for what types of horses will be coming to the Kentucky Derby from Louisiana and surrounding areas. The long stretch of Fair Grounds, which is similar to the extensive stretch at Churchill Downs, also helps to give fans a better idea on if a horse has the proper running style to be successful in the Kentucky Derby.

Imagine being able to relive the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes from past eras, racing those memorable champion thoroughbreds through the Triple Crown races. Then imagine selecting your favorite historic champions from different eras to compete against each other in fantasy races you create. All of this is available to you in the amazing free virtual horse racing game found at . These Triple Crown races as well as hundreds of other major stake races, like the Lecomte Stakes, The Travers, the Haskell Invitational, Kentucky Oaks, Santa Anita Derby, and the Dubai World Cup, are all available to be relived in stunning 3D graphics displayed in full-screen action in this free online horse racing game.

Notable Past Triple Crown Contenders Denied Victory in The Belmont Stakes

In the rich and textured history of the Triple Crown, most racing fans know full well that there have been a total of 11 champions that have won the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs over 1 – miles, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico over 1 3/16ths miles, and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park over a mile and a half.

However, what fans may not be aware of is that many more horses, a grand total of 19 throughout history, have won the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness and come to the Belmont Stakes with a chance to join those other 11 thoroughbred immortals and win the Triple Crown, but have failed. Why? What is it about winning the Triple Crown that makes it so difficult? It’s so difficult, in fact, that completing the Triple Crown sweep is widely acknowledged as the most difficult feat to accomplish in all of thoroughbred racing. Let’s examine the factors that contribute to the reasons that such an eye-popping number of horses have come up short in their efforts to win the Belmont Stakes and secure the Crown.

First, one must remember that even though the American public gets to experience the Triple Crown series every year from the first Saturday in May to the Belmont exactly five weeks later, the horses that compete in the races get one shot in their entire lives, so it’s not as if a horse that tries and fails to win the Triple Crown can simple try again the next year or the year after that. They get one chance to win all three races in the same year, that magical five week period that horsemen refer to as a crucible, a gauntlet. If they fail, there is no second chance. Thoroughbreds that compete in the Triple Crown series must be three-year-olds. A two-year-old race horse is considered a juvenile, and a three-year-old a late adolescent. Only at four years old and up are they considered fully mature, and fully mature horses cannot compete for the Crown.

As three-year-olds, a key factor to ponder is the distances of the three races. May is considered early in three-year-old’s campaign, and the 1 – , or 10 furlongs, that the Derby demands of it’s field is almost always the longest race that the horses have ever been asked to run, and so therefore trainers simply do not know whether their horse possesses the extra stamina needed to prevail in the Derby. Generally speaking, trainers like to enter their contenders in a 9 furlong, or 1 – mile race, in their final prep race before Kentucky Derby time, and a strong showing in such a race gives them hope of a good shot at the Run for the Roses. But remember, they simple have no frame of reference because their horses have never done it before.

Unique to the Derby is the size of the field. In recent vintage, the Derby is always the largest field that a horse has ever had to run in. In the last 20 years, there have always been a field of at least 15, and sometimes as many as 20 horses to compete against. This means that many talented horses get squeezed out of position, forced wide, or caught inside with nowhere to go and become Derby afterthoughts.

But 19 horses have won the first two legs, the Derby and the Preakness. Why so many? For one, the Preakness Stakes is run a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Derby, and is therefore more of a speed race that the stamina contest that Derby is. More importantly, many trainers nowadays choose not to run their Derby horses in the Preakness if they fail to win because they figure since they cannot win the Triple Crown, then why run their horses in a race nearly the same distance as the Derby with only two weeks in between? What this means to the winner of the Derby is that the field for the the Preakness is ALWAYS smaller than the Derby. Of course, the field also features many horses that haven’t run in the Derby or any other race for five weeks time, as well, so the Derby winner must contend with some well rested opponents. But 19 Derby winners have gone on to win the Derby and the Preakness but come up short in the Triple Crown, so what is it about the Belmont Stakes that makes it such a graveyard of champions?

Two words: Twelve Furlongs. That’s the key to understanding why it’s so tough to win the Triple Crown, why 19 horses have to come to the Belmont Stakes with a chance to become immortal and failed. Not only are they being asked to run in a third race in a third state on a third track over a third distance in five weeks against top competition, but that third race is run at the staggering distance of a mile and half, which is a full quarter of a mile, or two furlongs, farther than any three-year-old has ever been asked to run in his life. Some, actually most, horses simply cannot compete against rested competition over that distance. Indeed, some horses simply cannot compete at that distance, period. They are simple beyond their limit. The most recent time that a horse won the first two legs was 2008 and Big Brown. He dominated the field in the Derby and the Preakness, but sustained a quarter crack in a hoof and was crushed, never even in contention, during the Belmont Stakes.

Injury, lack of stamina, and sometimes even bad luck can all conspire to ruin a chance at immortality. Will 2012 be the year the long drought (1978 and Affirmed was the last Triple Crown Winner) will finally end? Stay tuned and find out!

2012 Gotham Stakes New York’s Road to The Triple Crown

Sometimes the contacts of the Kentucky Derby potential customer are forced to contact an audible on the path to the Triple Crown. Such may be the case with last year’s 2-year-old champ, Hansen. After a unsatisfactory runner-up finish towards the highly-regarded Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Recreation area last month, trainer Mike Manufacturer offers opted to dispatch Hansen out of south Florida to NY to try his submit the Quality 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 3.

The 1 1/16-mile Gotham Stakes signifies New York’s penultimate stage on the path to the Kentucky Derby, which concludes using the Quality 1 Real wood Memorial Stakes on Apr 7. Alpha, New York’s leading Derby contender centered off his wins in the Count number Fleet and Withers Stakes previously in the meet up with, is missing the Gotham and going right to the Wood.

The Gotham Stakes, named after NEW YORK, goes back to 1953 when it had been first run at old Jamaica Racetrack. Since becoming shifted to Aqueduct in 1960, the Gotham has already established a tiny checkered history. Until the 1990’s, a few of racing’s biggest titles earned the Gotham on the way towards the Triple Crown. But over the last 20 years roughly, the winners from the Gotham experienced little effect on the Triple Crown.

Nevertheless, the Gotham could possibly be in line to get a tiny renaissance. Because of slot machines heading on-line at Aqueduct this winter season, purses in NY possess exploded. The Gotham Stakes distributed in the prosperity as its handbag was bumped from $250,000 in 2011 to $400,000 in 2012.

Previous winners from the Gotham include Indigenous Dancer, who received a division from the inaugural Gotham in 1953; Dr. Fager, the 1967 champion and four-time champ in 1968; and Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown champion.
Hansen is likely to face a big field in the 2012 Gotham Stakes. THE BRAND NEW York Race Association said as much as 12 3-year-olds could fall into line for the Gotham. Additional major contenders consist of two colts through the effective Todd Pletcher barn-Raconteur and Dan and Sheila-Stakes champion My Adonis for trainer Kelly Breen and Consortium for Kiaran McLaughlin.

Raconteur enters the Gotham Stakes off consecutive victories in Aqueduct, even though Dan and Sheila was a decent 4th in the Quality 3 Lecomte Stakes in Fair Grounds in only his second profession begin. My Adonis earned a Stakes at Delta Downs last Fall and exits a third-place end behind Hansen in the Holy Bull. Consortium was a unsatisfactory 6th in the Holy Bull in his last begin.

The Stakes record at its current distance of just one 1 1/16-kilometers was set by I’D LIKE Revenge, who won this year’s 2009 running in 1:42.65.

New York-based trainer Claude “Shug” McGaughey has received 3 Gotham’s to lead all instructors. Five jockeys possess earned the Gotham 3 x to business lead their particular category. The only person still active can be Southern California-based jockey Mike Smith.