Mandaloun hard to look past in Lecomte

The Grade III, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes kicks off Louisiana’s road to the Kentucky Derby at the Fair Grounds this Saturday. Offering a total of 17 Derby points (10-4-2-1 from first to fourth), the 1 1/16th-mile Lecomte attracted 11 three-year-old runners. Post time for the Lecomte, the 13th and final on the Saturday program at the New Orleans oval, is 6:49 p.m. ET. The race can be seen nationally on TVG.

#10 MANDALOUN (3-1, morning-line favorite) is a deserving favorite based on his brief résumé. He came from well off the pace to break his maiden at first asking at Keeneland going six furlongs last October. MANDALOUN followed that with a convincing victory against winners going seven furlongs at Churchill Downs. The son of Into Mischief gives no indication that he won’t handle the distance in the Lecomte. MANDALOUN is the one to beat on speed figures for Brad Cox, who once again names Florent Geroux to ride.

#9 MANOR HOUSE (8-1) intrigues invading from Laurel Park following a blowout 12-length score on debut. Even more impressive was that the victory came going a mile, so today’s distance should pose no problems. MANOR HOUSE has potent connections in his corner in trainer Michael Stidham and jockey Adam Beschizza.

#3 BEEP BEEP (12-1) cruised to a 3 1/2-length victory in his unveiling at Churchill Downs last November. The speed figure he earned in that seven-furlong heat was on the soft side, but he has plenty of room to improve at a nice price. Joe Talamo sees fit to take the call on BEEP BEEP for Norm Casse.

#1 MIDNIGHT BOURBON (7-2) and #2 ARABIAN PRINCE (6-1) should also be included in any exotic plays. The former placed in both the Grade III Iroquois and Grade I Champagne Stakes at two, and represents the dangerous tandem of jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. and trainer Steve Asmussen.

The latter closed for third in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes when last seen. Brian Hernandez Jr. has the assignment.

The play: $3 exacta 10/1,2,3,9 ($12)

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