NEW ORLEANS -- Instilled Regard did everything right Saturday at Fair Grounds and was rewarded with his first stakes win as he captured the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths.
Instilled Regard, in from California for Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden for the first time by Javier Castellano, broke sharply from post 9, tracked the pace from third, then fifth on the backstretch, assumed command in upper stretch before really being asked for run, and continued on strongly to the wire, galloping out well in front of the field.
Off strong early fractions of 23.48, 47.52, followed by three quarters in 1:13.18, and one mile in 1:38.58, Instilled Regard ran one mile and 70 yards in 1:42.59. Three-year-old fillies two races earlier in the Silverbulletday Stakes went a similar pace but fell apart late in a race over the same distance timed in 1:44.28.
"I like the way he conducted himself," said Castellano. "The way he did it, he was very professional. With a young horse, that's the most important, the way he develops. He's got a good mind."
The Lecomte is part of Churchill Downs' Road to the Kentucky Derby, and Instilled Regard earned 10 points to bring his total to 14. Principe Guilherme got 4 points, Snapper Sinclair 2, and Zing Zang 1.
Principe Guilherme lost for the first time in three starts but didn't run discouragingly, finishing second and leading a two-three-four finish for Steve Asmussen's three Lecomte starters, Snapper Sinclair, who raced on or near the pace, held gamely for third, a neck behind Principe Guilherme, with Zing Zang, a huge lumbering colt, coming from 12th to finish fourth, three lengths out of third.
Principe Guilherme, a sharp winner in his first two starts who was making his stakes debut, went forward from post 10 but was caught four wide on the first turn and lost ground the entire trip.
"I was not where I wanted -- too wide," said jockey Florent Geroux. "You can be wide one turn, but not four wide the whole time. He's still learning, so he's not taking me there yet."
Behind Zing Zang came Kowboy Karma, Ebben, Prince Lucky, Night Strike, Lone Sailor, Zeke, Analyze This Jet, pace-setting Believe in Royalty, and Trigger Warning. Wonder Gadot and Ciaran were scratched.
Instilled Regard, the second choice, paid $6.60 winning for the second time in five races, and he further franked the form of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity, in which he finished a close third and was placed second after Solomini was disqualified. McKinzie, the runner-up in that race who was promoted to first, returned to win the Sham Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths. Instilled Regard has run against most of the best Southern California-based horses of his generation, holding his own, and has run well in all his starts.
"I think he got a good preparation out there," said Hollendorfer, who won for the first time at Fair Grounds. "He broke well, rated well, finished well. I think he's taking the right steps."
Hollendorfer said Instilled Regard will ship back to California. He didn't commit his colt to the Risen Star Stakes here Feb. 17, but hinted that race was a strong possibility for Instilled Regard's next start.
Principe Guilherme will stay at Fair Grounds, trainer Steve Asmussen said, and likely run back in the Risen Star. Plans are uncertain for Snapper Sinclair, who did his best work on turf last year at 2. Asmussen wants to get Zing Zang in longer races as soon as possible.
"He was on the bridle in hot pursuit and running best at the wire," he said.
Instilled Regard is by Arch out of Enhancing, by Forestry, and with pedigree to match his good looks and obvious talent, the colt was sold at a 2-year-old auction to Lawrence Best's OXO Equine for $1,050,000.
"I think Larry bought a good horse," said Hollendorfer.