Lexington Stakes Picks: A 15-1 shot is the Value Bet
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The Arkansas Derby may be the bigger of the two Derby prep races on Saturday but the Grade III Lexington Stakes at Keeneland may have more of an impact into the final field of 20 who line up for the Run for the Roses on May 1.
Our in-house handicapper and turf-man both have a look at the race as part of their continued Keeneland Betting Battle...
Sean's take . . .
There’s no question Proxy (#7) is the horse to beat in the G3 Lexington as he’s earned a string of Beyer Speed Figures in the 90’s that tower over this field, but this does feel like a bit of a desperate move to get him into the Derby after he failed to earn a significant number of qualifying points at Fair Grounds. A Godolphin homebred with a sparkling pedigree, Proxy really came alive in Louisiana over the winter for trainer Mike Stidham and acquitted himself well in all three preps at Fair Grounds, including last time when he added blinkers for the G2 Louisiana Derby. If he runs back to those efforts he’s going to be very tough to beat, however this race is obviously a Plan B for him as he runs the risk of being left out of the Derby field with his current number of points. As a heavy favorite in the Lexington, I think it’s worth taking a couple shots against him.
My preference in this race are a pair of compelling up-and-comers, Noble Reflection (#1) and Swiftsure (#2), who are stretching out in distance following sharp sprint scores at Oaklawn Park. They may not yet be able to rival Proxy in terms of speed figures, but these two clearly have an abundance of talent and pedigree to handle this trip. That probably applies more to Noble Reflection, who is going to be a bigger price and as such is my top pick in the Lexington. A son of versatile sire Liam’s Map out of a Tiznow mare, Noble Reflection dusted a field of maidens on March 7 at Oaklawn and the runner-up has since come back to win, corroborating the 89 Beyer this guy earned in victory. He’s giving up experience to most of this field, but the future is obviously very bright and he’s drawn well for his first stakes test. At double-digit odds I think he’s a worthy bet in this race.
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J.N.'s take . . .
In drafting this précis for this race, I will make the argument that it is the toughest race on the entire card. Anyone of these runners in this Grade III could win.
Of course, most bettors will gravitate towards Mike Stidham’s Proxy #7, since this beautiful Godolphin homebred (a ½ to Essential Quality) has quite an LA stakes feeder resume. The colt did a ton of running at the Fair Grounds, and only missed the board on his last occasion—the Louisiana Derby (G2). I expect him to be well-bet once again, but as my colleague Sean Morris likes to say, “I want no part of him.” At least when we are talking about for the “win.”
There is much more value to be had in this race, and Keeneland has drawn a nice field that includes 9 others that are worthy of a peek. Of course, Bob Baffert’s Bezos #3 and Steve Asmussen’s Swiftsure #2, are both runners with a ton of upside coming from HOF-trained barns. They will take money simply because . . . I like them, don’t get me wrong, but if we are talking about entries that are short on experience, how about one that will be double the price of the ones previously mentioned?
For my money, (. . . and I wish I had a bag full) I want to nom Ricahrd Baltas’ gelding as my pick. That might sound rather rash, but hear me out. Noble Reflection #1 is untested, but he is fresh as can be. Last out at Oaklawn, in one of those tough MSW63k events, he was excellent from start to finish. Go watch the playback, it was a glimpse of talent on the verge of what could be an absolute explosion. The speed fig was an improvement since he last ran way back in August at Del Mar.
I know what detractors will say . . . too soon . . . soft field . . . others faster . . . But I like the fact that he draws the 1-post again, and getting Javier Castellano is a big deal. He deserves some due for his dirt abilities. I am hoping this beautiful gray out of Liam’s Map can get to the lead and hold the fort. If he can, the day may be his!
Wagering Recommendation: $100 Bankroll, Graduated Wager WPS, #1 ($10-W, $15-P, $75-S) and/or $2 Trifecta Box, 1/2/3/7