• Prep race news plus ante-post prices generally available in Britain
By Nicholas Godfrey
16-1 Midnight Bourbon (Steve Asmussen/Joe Talamo)
Fair Grounds (Jan 16): Lecomte Stakes G3, $200,000, 1m½f, dirt
Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds
Likely target: Risen Star (Fair Grounds, Feb 13)
The Louisiana route to Kentucky kicked off with a stacked edition of the Lecomte featuring well-regarded individuals from both Juddmonte (much-vaunted Mandaloun) and Godolphin (Proxy) who were already prominent in Classic betting.
However, it was Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon who made all to score by a length with Proxy just getting the better of Mandaloun for second.
Although the winner had decent stakes form at two, the son of Tiznow also had the run of the race here, allowed to set a moderate tempo on the rail while 4-5 favourite Mandaloun in particular was fanned wide.
Midnight Bourbon, who should benefit from extra distance, was able to poach a couple of lengths at the head of the stretch and, though the others closed a bit, they were never getting there.
Shall we talk about it?
Steve Asmussen (Midnight Bourbon’s trainer): “Lovely horse, he’s a beautiful individual. Obviously he had run some solid races, but we were very much looking forward to getting him into two-turn races. His pedigree, we think that going further will help him. He’s got a beautiful stride to him. He’s going to develop into an excellent three-year-old.”
Mike Stidham (Proxy’s trainer): “Very, very happy with that. He was a little green last time and both of his wins were on the lead so he didn’t really learn a lot. But the way he dug in and held off the favourite in the end, and was getting to the winner, I couldn’t have been happier. I think the farther the better – we needed him to do what he did today (to keep going on) and he did it.”
Maiden winner Concert Tour impresses for Baffert
14-1 Concert Tour (Bob Baffert/Joel Rosario)
Santa Anita (Jan 15): maiden special weight $61,000, 6f, dirt
Sire: Street Sense
Owner: Gary & Mary West
Likely target: unspecified
Following the exploits of Justify and Charlatan in recent years, everyone is on the lookout for a potential top-class performer lurking among Bob Baffert’s unraced horses early in the new year at Santa Anita. Step forward Gary and Mary West’s homebred Concert Tour, who made an impressive winning debut on Friday.
Sent off even-money favourite, the son of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense (out of a Tapit mare) scored with little difficulty, pressing the longshot leader for the first couple of furlongs before taking over. Eased down in the closing stages, he scored by 3½ lengths over well-bred Mr. Impossible.
While a Beyer of 88 wasn’t as flashy as the likes of Justify and Charlatan first time up, this 6f trip looks the bare minimum. He had blinkers and Lasix; the latter will be prohibited if he steps into graded-stakes company.