By Margaret Ransom
Triple Crown hopefuls in Louisiana take their first steps in 2021 toward the Kentucky Derby (G1) in Saturday’s the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds.
The 1-mile, 70-yard race offers Derby qualifying points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers seeking a spot in the gate for the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs in 3 ½ months.
A year ago, John Oxley’s well-bred Enforceable was the handy winner for trainer Mark Casse, who also saddled Gary Barber’s 2019 winner War of Will — who went on to win the Preakness (G1).
A field of 11 has been entered, including likely top choices Mandaloun, trained by rising star Brad Cox, and Midnight Bourbon, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen.
Race named for a horse
The Lecomte was named after a racehorse from the 1850s, who was known as the main rival to the great Lexington. Lecomte was out of the legendary broodmare Reel, by Glencoe, whose blood has been or currently can be found in a number of notable racehorses and their relatives, such as Winning Colors, Chief’s Crown, Chris Evert, Prioress and Tim Tam.
The racehorse Lecomte was named for breeder General Wells’ friend Ambrose Lecomte, of Natchitoches, Louisiana, who founded Magnolia Plantation, which is located in the Cane River Creole district and currently is listed as one of the state’s national park landmarks.
Though pre-Civil War slaves were a part of the operation of Magnolia Plantation, after the war the owners made significant changes and lent significant support to the Civil Rights movement.
From the plantation’s website:
“After the Civil War and through the Civil Rights Movement Magnolia continued to function, though in a distinctly different way. Among the many challenges was establishing a new relationship with the formerly enslaved workers who remained on the plantation as sharecroppers, tenants, and day laborers. All of Magnolia’s residents worked to find a new level of social and economic understanding and accommodation.”
Lecomte has produced several top horses
Some of the more recognizable names to have won the Lecomte include 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow, Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Friesen Fire, Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) runner-up (and now standout sire) Hard Spun, and 1982 Preakness runner-up Linkage. It has traditionally served as the first prep for Derby runners from the Pelican State and is followed by the Risen Star in February and Louisiana Derby in March.
The weather in the New Orleans area on Saturday is expected to be pleasant with highs near 60 under sunny skies.
The 2021 field
The Lecomte has been carded as the afternoon’s 13th race with a post time of 5:49 p.m. CT. The field, in post-position order, with riders and trainers, is:
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.
After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.
In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”
Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.