Mr. Bowling guts it out in LeComte/ Motion exacta in Kitten’s Joy/ Impressive maiden breaker for Pletcher

The Grade 3 LeComte Stakes provided a thrilling finish with Mr. Bowling holding on by a neck over Z Dager, but it’s questionable whether a serious Kentucky Derby contender will come from the race.  The large field was strung-out wide and most appeared to be laboring down the stretch.  Although it wasn’t necessarily visually impressive, the winner did defeat 12 mostly promising sophomores.

Mr. Bowling failed as the favorite in his last race in the Iroquois (G2) at Churchill Downs in November.  His third-place showing was admirable however, especially considering it was not the best of trips darting from the outside, in, and outside again. 

Training steadily since then and posting strong workout times, he was the second favorite in the LeComte.  Jockey Robby Albarado kept the son of Istan in a good spot early just behind the pacesetters and triggered a bold move into the final turn.  A sustained run down the stretch, with a little swerving, was just enough to hold off the charging Z Dager and Shared Property.  The latter had to stay wide almost the entire race and could be heard from down the road. 

Mr. Bowling’s trainer Larry Jones, who is no stranger to the Derby trail, said the Risen Star (G2) would be the next logical target.  Those with high expectations that disappointed included the little Oklahoma-bred Ted’s Folly, graded winner Exfactor who was stretching out for the first time, and Seven Lively Sins who was piloted by leading Fair Grounds jockey Rosie Napravik.

Another 3-year-old stakes (ungraded) was held on turf at Gulfstream Park.  The Kitten’s Joy Stakes was won by Howe Great. Graham Motion trained both the winner who has already won on dirt, and runner-up Lucky Chappy// Tarpy’s Goal, the inaugural CTD Notable performer, got back on track in a 7 furlong optional claimer at Gulfstream.  The son of High Cotton was coming off 5 straight defeats, including a turf try just last weekend// Thursby, a half-brother to last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, finished 7th in his latest maiden race at Gulfstream.  The colt has now finished 12th, 10th, and 7th// Todd Pletcher had an impressive debut winner in the 9th race at Gulfstream named Liberty Bound.  The Mr. Greely-sired colt beat his stablemate Z Vilna by a winning margin of 4 and a quarter lengths// Steve Haskin offers his first Derby trail column, which focuses on the top 12 contenders based on pedigree// Nick Zito’s Casual Trick had a strong workout at Palm Meadows.  The trainer had said he will skip next weekend’s Holy Bull, but you never know…

Graded Stakes Results:

LeComte S. (G3)- Fair Grounds
Winner: Mr. Bowling
Wrap-up articles: Bloodhorse / Brisnet / DRF / TTimes / The Times-Picayune

Other Results:
Kitten’s Joy Stakes- Winner: Howe Great- chart / video
Gulfstream Race 9 MSW- Winner: Liberty Bound- chart / video


Consortium PMM- 5F- 1.01:22- B- 6/28
Battle Hardened- PMM- 5F- 1.01:77 B-11/28
Casual Trick- PMM- 4F- 47:33- B- 3/72
Souper Speedy- PMM- 3F- 39:88- B- 7/7
State of Play- TAM- 6F- 1.14:40- B- 2/3