OXO Equine LLC’s Instilled Regard earned his first stakes victory and took his first step toward the May 5 Kentucky Derby (GI) with a handy 3 ¾ length victory from just off the pace in the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes (GIII) at Fair Grounds. The $1.05 million 2-year-old in training purchase is trained by Southern California-based Jerry Hollendorfer and was ridden by fellow Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
As the public’s near-5-2 second choice in the 13-runner field, Instilled Regard paid $6.60, $3.20 and $3. Principe Guilheme, as the 6-5 favorite, capped off the $16 exacta ($2) and returned $3.20 and $2.80. Snapper Sinclair, a 28-1 outsider, was good for $9.60. The trifecta was worth $165.20.
Zing Zang, Kowboy Karma, Ebben, Prince Lucky, Night Strike, Lone Sailor, Zeke, Analyze This Jet, Believe in Royalty and Trigger Warning rounded out the order of finish.
After a clean break from all, Believe in Royalty and jockey Robby Albarado sped to the lead where they set the early pace in splits of :23.48 and :47.52 for the first half-mile with a pack of five, including the winner, in hot pursuit. The early frontrunner gave up the lead to a charging Snapper Sinclair as the field headed toward the far turn and that one set the three-quarter-mile split in 1:13.18. Meanwhile, Instilled Regard was on the move on the far outside and gaining on the leaders with every stride.
Just as he straightened out for the drive, while racing wide into the lane, Instilled Regard snatched up the lead from his tiring rivals and began to draw away, first receiving several taps from the whip and then under a hand ride in deep stretch to the wire, posting a mile in 1:38.58 and finishing up in 1:42.59 over a fast main track.
“I like the way he conducted himself,” Castellano said. “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.”
Instilled Regard went into the LeComte off a troubled third-place finish in the controversial Los Alamitos Futurity (GI) in December but was placed second after the actual winner was disqualified and placed third for bumping him — and the declared winner McKinzie — in mid-stretch. That race, despite the loss, set him up well for his cross-country voyage and the LeComte, according to his conditioner, who saddled his first-ever winner at Fair Grounds.
“I think he got a good preparation out there,” Hollendorfer said. “He broke well, rated well, finished well. I think he’s taking the right steps.”
Instilled Regard was bred in Kentucky by KatieRich Farms and was first a $110,000 Keeneland September yearling in 2016 before selling to Larry Best’s OXO Equine for the impressive seven-figure number as an Ocala March 2-year-old in training 10 months ago. So far he’s won two of his five career starts, with two seconds and a third, and has banked $228,000.
According to Hollendorfer, Instilled Regard will head back to California to prep for his next start, which could very well be the Feb. 17 Risen Star Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds. He earned 10 Derby points to bring his total to 14, third behind Good Magic, McKinzie and Firenze Fire and tied with Bolt d’Oro and Solomini.