The Lecomte Stakes was run Jan. 13 on a cold, damp, windy day, certainly by a Californian's standards.
However, Instilled Regard, a 3-year-old up-and-coming colt, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer enjoyed it so much, they're back for more.
“He ran good on the race track and handled the track very well,” Hollendorfer said. “So, we thought we'd give it another try to take another step forward.
“He shipped well (last time), so we knew we could take him on the road if we had to. And, he didn't everything we asked him to do.”
Instilled Regard, who was the 4-1 second choice in the Grade III, $200,000 Lecomte, had an impressive 3¾-length victory over second-place Principe Guilherme. Principe Guilherme had won his previously two races by a combined 18 lengths, although not against the level of competition Instilled Regard faced, and was a big 5-2 favorite.
Now Instilled Regard and Hollendorger are back for bigger spoils. The Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes is the featured race among four big ones Saturday at the Fair Grounds on Louisiana Derby Preview Day.
A victory, worth 50 qualifying points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, would ensure Instilled Regard a spot at Churchill Downs in May. Just as important, it would constitute a huge step in the continued progress and development for Instilled Regard, who finished a close second in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity at Santa Anita on Dec. 9, setting up his fine performance in the Lecomte.
This time, in the Risen Star, Instilled Regard is the overwhelming favorite at 8-5. Principe Guilherme, trained by Steve Assmussen, is the strong second choice at 7-2. Todd Pletcher-trained Indy Nobel is next at 5-1, with Snapper Sinclair, another Assmussen colt, heading three hopefuls at 8-1 odds.
Not surprisingly at this time of the year and with the kind of purse offered in this race, the field has its quality. Instilled Regard (14 points), at No. 9, leads six colts on the Derby leaderboard of national contenders for one of as many as 20 spots. Bravazo (four points), trained by D. Wayne Lukas, is 19th, followed by Principe Guilherme (four) at 20th, Snapper Sinclair (two) at 23rd, Givemeaminit (two), trained by local Dallas Stewart, is 24th, and High North (one), is 35th.
In Horse Racing Nation's rankings, Instilled Regard is seventh, Nobly Indy 12th, Principe Guilherme 18th, High North 23rd, Bravazo 35th and Snapper Sinclair 41st.
Hollendorfer gave much credit to jockey Javier Castellano for Instilled Regard's big win in the Lecomte. He will be aboard Saturday.
“We have a fantastic rider in Javier, and I think the key to our horse is how Javier handles every race,” Hollendorfer said. “You have to have a good rider who can adjust, and if something happens that's unplanned, who can take over and adjust to that.”
Two-time defending Fair Grounds jockey Florent Geroux, also one of the best in the nation, again will be aboard Principe Guilherme. Geroux was very disappointed at the second-place finish in the Lecomte in which Principe Guilherme never got in position to press down the stretch.
“We were just hoping to be more clear when we turned the corner, but (breaking from the far outside No. 12) post position didn't help,” Geroux said. “It probably cost us a few lengths. I'm not saying we would have won, but we would have made Instilled Regard run for his money.”
Instilled Regard broke from No. 10. In the Risen Star, he will be in No. 5, in the middle of the track. Principe Guilherme again will break from the outside, from gate nine in the 10-colt race. Only 30-1 longshot Ebben will be farther out.
“I could make a case either way,” Hollendorfer said. “You have to do the job for whatever you do. If your horse is going to make the Derby, then you have to get better and better.
“We're back here to run well. I would hope that plan works out.”
Snapper Sinclair is perhaps a colt worth watching. At 20-1 odds in the Lecomte, he finished third, just a neck behind Principe Guilherme.
Noble Indy, who will have Hall of Famer and two-time Eclipse Award winner John Velazquez up, also bears watching. He is lightly raced, even for a 3-year-old. However, he has won both his starts – an allowance optional claiming race on Jan. 11 at the same distance as the Risen Star and a seven-furlong maiden special weight on Dec. 3, both at Gulfstream Park.
And, Givemeaminit, a 15-1 shot, is a son of Star Guitar.