By Joe Bianca
After cruising by a combined 18 lengths in his first two starts, it’s obvious that ‘TDN Rising Star’ Principe Guilherme (Tapit) has a significant amount of talent. By the same token, because he hasn’t been challenged yet, it remains to be seen just how good he can be. Racing fans will get a clearer picture of the colt’s prospects Saturday at Fair Grounds, when he goes postward as the likely favorite in the 14-horse GIII LeComte S., the New Orleans oval’s first step on the GI Kentucky Derby trail.
Bought by Three Chimneys Farm for $600,000 as a Fasig-Tipton November weanling in 2015, the bay debuted as a 7-1 chance going seven furlongs Nov. 10 at Churchill, set a reasonable pace and drew off in the stretch to a 6 1/4-length romp despite staying on his left lead. Stretching out to two turns locally Dec. 16, Principe Guilherme showed the way at 2-5, switched leads on cue and powered clear to an 11 3/4-length tally, albeit while jumping back to his left lead late.
Saturday, the Steve Asmussen trainee, who is the first foal out GISW Aubby K (Street Sense), will have to overcome the 12-post and likely much more early resistance.
“Principe Guilherme is out of a Grade I winner and I think he shows some tendencies with her speed,” Asmussen told the Fair Grounds notes team. “We’re just trying to get him to relax and use it effectively with his acceleration and his quickness. I think the LeComte will be a very good test for him with him drawing 12. I think that will answer a lot of questions of how effective he can be at a two-turn race that obviously has plenty of pace in it.”
Asmussen will also start turf stakes winner Snapper Sinclair (City Zip) and recent Fair Grounds graduate Zing Zang (Tapit).
The second choice on the morning line is OXO Equine LLC’s Instilled Regard (Arch). Bought for $1.05-million at OBS March after breezing a quarter-mile in :20 4/5, the dark bay graduated at third asking Oct. 29 at Santa Anita before taking a big leap forward to be second at 17-1 in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 9. The Jerry Hollendorfer pupil was beaten just a head that day by undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ McKinzie (Street Sense), who returned with a facile score in the GIII Sham S. last Saturday in Arcadia.
Larry Jones, who trained three winners of the LeComte in six years between 2007-2012, saddles a trio contenders for this renewal, led by ‘TDN Rising Star’ Kowboy Karma (Kodiak Kowboy). Cruising by 12 1/2 lengths on debut July 19 at Delaware, the bay annexed the Strike Your Colors S. and was second in the Sapling S. Sept. 2 at Monmouth before finishing fourth in the GI Champagne S. Oct. 7 at Belmont. Hammered to odds-on in the James F. Lewis III S. when last seen Nov. 11 at Laurel, he suffered a wide trip and finished second after closing well into a slow pace. Jones will also be represented by Believe in Royalty (Tapit), a $900,000 son of his 2012 GI Kentucky Oaks heroine Believe You Can (Proud Citizen), and Pennsylvania Nursery S. winner Prince Lucky (Corinthian).