NEW ORLEANS (Thursday, January 16, 2014) –Why would a trainer ship two 3-year-olds into New Orleans with such unorthodox past performances as Dennis Foster’s Got Shades and Cesar Parra’s Rainbow Trip for a race like Saturday’s Grade III Lecomte?

After all, the Lecomte is the centerpiece of Road to the Derby Kickoff Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and it is for sophomores with designs on the 2014 Triple Crown later this spring.

Got Shades, a colt by Pollard’s Vision, has never raced on dirt, and Rainbow Trip, a gelding by Sightseeing, has been running on the grass for his last three starts.

Trainer Danny Pish, a former rodeo rider born in Cibolo, Texas, 48 years ago, is quick to answer the question.

“Circumstances change so much in this game,” said Pish, a veteran of the Oklahoma-Texas-Louisiana circuit with 14 training titles at Retama, four at Sam Houston and one at Lone Star Park to his credit. “The fact that both these horses have so much grass experience is not by design. I originally wanted to get both these horses ready for some stakes at Louisiana Downs and Lone Star, but around the part of the country where I race, the only way I could get them any experience going long was in grass races. It’s hard to find races going two turns on the main track in my part of the country. I wanted to teach them to go long early on. I didn’t want to mess around sprinting them in dirt races.

“I’ve been high on ‘Shades’ all along,” said Pish. “This is a horse that wants to go long. But, ‘Rainbow’ has started to come around real good for me lately, too, and I figured he deserves this chance. He had a nice race for me going seven furlongs on the main track at Louisiana Downs and he’s gotten a lot better since then. Both horses are coming into this race in really good shape. ‘Shades’ has the quicker turn of foot. He’s the key. But the gelding might come up and make a big splash of his own. I figure ‘Shades’ may sit just behind the speed, and ‘Rainbow’ might come from out of the clouds at the end.

“I realize that I’m sending them in against some pretty tough horses,” Pish concluded, “but I’m not concerned. I like to do things my own way and it has worked out for me since I’ve been training. As far as I know, I think that’s the reason they never payoff until after the race is run.”

GRADE III LECOMTE AWARDS POINTS AS ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY KICKOFF RACE —As the showcase event on Saturday’s Road to the Derby Kickoff Day at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, the Grade III Lecomte is also part of Churchill’s system of points races that will determine the field in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

Other Kentucky Derby preps that will be offered at Fair Grounds this winter following the Lecomte at one mile and 70 yards are the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Louisiana Derby Preview Day Feb. 22 and the $1 million Louisiana Derby to be run at 1 1/8 miles on Louisiana Derby Day March 29.

The importance of the Lecomte as a prep of future racing stars in recent years is immediately evident through its recent winners.

In 2007, Fox Hill Farms’ Hard Spun, trained by Larry Jones, won the Lecomte and went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont Stakes. The Danzig colt later went on to win Saratoga’s Grade I King’s Bishop, Turfway’s Grade II Kentucky Cup Classic and then in the final race of his career ran second to Curlin in Monmouth’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic.

In 2010, Jack Hammer’s Ron the Greek won the Lecomte under the tutelage of Tom Amoss. That horse later went on to win Churchill’s Grade I Stephen Foster and concluded his career with a victory in Belmont’s Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Last year, Calumet Farm’s Oxbow, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, won the Lecomte, went on to win the Preakness and then ran second in the Belmont Stakes.

As a 17-point Kentucky Derby qualifying race, the winner of the Lecomte will earn 10 points toward Kentucky Derby qualification, while the Lecomte runner-up will be award four points toward that goal. The third-place finisher in the Lecomte will earn two points and the fourth-place finisher will earn one point.