New Orleans, LA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Louisiana road to the Triple Crown begins Saturday with the running of the 70th edition of the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course. Nine 3-year-olds have been entered in the one-mile, 70-yard stakes.
The Lecomte is the first of three stakes for 3-year-olds on the way to the Kentucky Derby. The $400,000 Risen Star will be Saturday, Feb. 22, and the $1 million Louisiana Derby on Saturday, March 29.
Making his first start of the year will be highly regarded Smarty's Echo, a son of 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones. Owned by Windy Hill Farm, the chestnut colt will break from post 5 with James Graham getting the ride.
Smarty's Echo, trained by Anne Smith, broke his maiden in his second start at Arlington Park and followed with a second-place finish in Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity on Oct. 5.
"Smarty is still just a little bit too playful," said Smith. "Athletically, he is very talented and now we're trying to get him to focus a little better to utilize that talent."
The colt was 10th behind New Year's Day in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2.
"I don't even like to talk about that race," said Smith. "It was his first start on dirt and a whole bunch of other things went wrong. The owners were very disappointed. Hopefully, we've put that race behind us now."
Smarty's Echo has earned $106,600 in his four career starts.
Trainer Larry Jones will saddle Albano on Saturday. Owned by Brereton Jones, the colt will start from post 6 with Kerwin Clark riding.
Albano won his second start on Nov. 24 at Fair Grounds and captured the Sugar Bowl Stakes on Dec. 21. The 3-year-old has banked $58,100 with his two wins and a third.
The Joneses won the 2012 Lecomte with Mr. Bowling, while Larry Jones won the stakes in 2007 with Hard Spun and two years later with Friesan Fire, both owned by Fox Hill Farm.
Here is the full field in post position order for the Lecomte: Roman Unbridled, Kevin Smith; Rainbow Trip, Chris Landeros; Got Shades, Robby Albarado; Gold Hawk, Shaun Bridgmohan; Smarty's Echo, James Graham; Albano, Kerwin Clark; Vicar's in Trouble, Rosie Napravnik; Silent Ruler, Mark Guidry; and Plug Catcher, Miguel Mena.
Post-time for the Lecomte will be approximately 5:23 p.m. ET.