After five starts on turf last year, Dennis Foster's Got Shades will move to the main track when he makes his 3-year-old season debut Jan. 18 in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds.
The Pollard's Vision colt will try to take an initial step on the Triple Crown trail for trainer Danny Pish when he faces an expected eight other 3-year-olds in the one mile and 70-yard Lecomte. Last year Got Shades won two stakes races at Louisiana Downs and wrapped up the season with a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita Park, outrunning his 37-1 odds there.
Bred in Kentucky by Inman Barr, Foster landed Got Shades for $30,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale from the consignment of John J. Greely III, agent.
While Got Shades attempts to find his best footing on the Fair Grounds dirt, two of his chief rivals will be looking to add to their success at the New Orleans oval.
Brereton Jones homebred Albano earned his maiden score in his second career start Nov. 24 at Fair Grounds and then won the Sugar Bowl Stakes there Dec. 21. The Istan colt will stretch out to two turns for the first time after making his first three career starts at six furlongs for trainer Larry Jones. He is a half brother to Brereton Jones' homebred Mark Valeski, who was saddled to a runner-up finish in the 2012 Louisiana Derby by Larry Jones.
Winchell Thoroughbreds' Gold Hawk improved to 2-for-2 in his career when he captured an allowance optional claiming race Dec. 27 at Fair Grounds, at the same one mile, 70-yard distance. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the Empire Maker colt won his debut Nov. 30 at Churchill Downs.
Smarty's Echo, runner-up in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last October but unimpressive in Santa Anita’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 2, bears consideration. Windy Hill Farm’s son of 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones has been training forwardly for conditioner Anne Smith and impressed her with a half-mile move in 48 ⅘ Jan. 12 at Fair Grounds. James Graham will be in the irons for the first time Saturday.
The Lecomte is the centerpiece event of Saturday's Road to the Derby Kickoff Day at the New Orleans oval. It's the first of Fair Grounds' three-race series for sophomores that will continue with the Risen Star Stakes Feb. 22 on Louisiana Derby Preview Day and conclude with the $1 million Louisiana Derby as the highlight of the local season March 29.
A Road to the Kentucky Derby race, the Lecomte awards the top four finishers points on a 10-4-2-1 schedule toward making the Louisville classic's field that is capped at 20 horses.