Preakness profile: Lebda

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 23rd, 2020

Speed isn’t a question mark for Lebda. He has plenty.

And he clearly loves the Maryland circuit, where he has compiled a 3-for-4 record at Laurel Park.

But does Lebda have the class to hold his own against graded stakes competition? That’s the question handicappers will have to consider if he lines up in the Pimlico starting gate for the Oct. 3 Preakness (G1).

Bred by Calumet Farm, Lebda was purchased for just $1,000 as a yearling by Joseph Besecker. The inexpensive price was surely due, in part, to Lebda’s pedigree. As a son of Raison d’Etat, out of the Hook and Ladder mare Lenders Way, Lebda is bred like a sprinter/miler, and his bloodlines aren’t commercially popular.

Nevertheless, Lebda has shown plenty of promise under the care of trainer Claudio Gonzalez. After he finished second in his debut at Aqueduct, Lebda won a maiden race at Laurel and an allowance at Delaware Park, which prompted a step up in class and distance for the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs. Even against tough competition, Lebda held on from a pace-pressing position to finish third.

Lebda failed to repeat the feat when he finished last in the 1-mile Nashua (G3), and after the race he was entered in the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Mixed Sale. The dark bay colt brought a final bid of $100,000, a solid return on investment when coupled with the $84,525 he earned across his first five starts.

In his first race for new owner Euro Stable, Lebda finished third in the 7-furlong Heft S. at Laurel, but the setback was temporary. During the winter, Lebda wired the 1-mile Miracle Wood S. and dominated the 1 1/16-mile Private Terms S. with a pace-tracking trip. He has emerged as a capable listed stakes performer with enough speed to work out clean trips.

Lebda took time off during the spring, when racing was largely shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and his return to action was a significant step up the class ladder. In 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby (G3) and Haskell Invitational (G1), Lebda tired to finish sixth in both, which dashed plans to compete in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Lebda wrapped up his summer campaign against an easier field in the 7-furlong Robert Hilton Memorial. Over the tricky, bullring track at Charles Town, Lebda carved out too ambitious of a pace and weakened to finish third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths, against a small but competitive field.

Considering Lebda is 1-for-7 outside of Maryland, but 3-for-4 in the state where he is based, one has to think he’ll appreciate a run in the Preakness. But since Lebda’s pedigree and past performances suggest he is best as a sprinter or miler, the 1 3/16-mile distance of the Preakness — coupled with the caliber of competition — will be his stiffest challenge to date.