Lexington Stakes Preview: Horse-by-Horse Analysis of Saturday's Grade III Race @KEE

Jockey John Velazquez (pictured above) is aboard Mike Stidham's good-looking colt by the name of Proxy. We assess his chances, as he tried to garnish a few more last Derby Points.
Jockey John Velazquez (pictured above) is aboard Mike Stidham's good-looking colt by the name of Proxy. We assess his chances, as he tried to garnish a few more last Derby Points.

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1 1/16th (Dirt), Lexington Stakes, Purse $200k, 3

The Grade III Lexington Stakes is the last gasp for the Kentucky Derby Prep Trail. Up for the taking are Points that include, 20 for the winner, 8 for the place horse, 4 for the show runner, and a measly 2 for the entry who rounds out the Superfecta. In the past, this race has served as the playground for some quality route runners (though little that have started in the KYD), who include the likes of Derby Kitten, Winning Cause, Divining Rod, Collected, Senior Investment, My Boy Jack, and last year’s champ, Owendale. Whomever scores in this contest can add to their Derby pile. Most will be looking just to hit the board. Whatever the case, it should be a blast, as another Keeneland Saturday arrives.

Now, let’s find out about this field…


#1 Noble Reflection (Jky: J. Castellano/Trn: R. Baltas):

Trainer Richard Baltas does not venture out of SoCal that often, but when he does, you know it is for a good reason. In early March, he sent this young and inexperienced colt into Oaklawn for a litmus test that amounted to a MSW63k event. Posting a 93-speed fig, he wowed the online betting public who believed he was a deserving favorite. Now, he comes into Keeneland primed for a more meaningful laurel. Getting Javier Castellano looks to be a major plus, as Baltas hopes for a step-up score. My issue is that he is untried at 2-turns.

Grade: B-


#2 Swiftsure (Jky: I. Ortiz/Trn: S. Asmussen):

If you had to name a Top 5 rider in North America, there is none hotter than Irad Ortiz. The Eclipse Award Winner keeps racking up wins and trophies for his elongated glass cases. In this spot, he draws a speedster that looks fast as fast can be. Steve Asmussen’s colt out of Uncle Mo is of course well-bred, but he also proved something on the track down at the Fair Grounds and back in January at Oaklawn. Those both were sprints, so he has the same problem the #1 does—lack of 2-turn experience. Still, getting Ortiz makes this one to watch, and this conditioner has a record in these types of races that excites. If he wins, having no Derby Points to his name, probably will not get him to Churchill. Still, the goals may be more down the road anyway.

Grade: B-


#3 Bezos (Jky: D. Van Dyke/Trn: B. Baffert):

There is no way we can have a Derby Trail Prep without an entry from the barn of Bob Baffert. Here is the 400k colt that could, and we know that these Empire Makers are hard to stop. He obviously has talent, otherwise SF and Starlight would not be involved. His first trip out onto the stage at Santa Anita was panned by the critics after he finished 15-lengths back behind Dream Shake. Baffert was puzzled probably, but not undeterred. He recently returned to the scene, and out of the wings, flew home in what was a stellar rehearsal for this race. Drayden Van Dyke rides here for the HOF conditioner, and if his mount runs back to what he did last time, look out. He can win! P.S. Whatever you do, don’t get this runner confused with O Bezos!  

Grade: A-


#4 It’s My House (Jky: U. Rispoli/Trn: B. Hess):

Trainer Bob Hess claimed this runner a race back, and promptly sent him to Turf Paradise for a 50k “Non-G” event going 1 1/16th around 2-turns. That result was a nice win for the new barn, so Hess concluded it was time to get aggressive, and come to Lexington for a namesake race. Back when this runner was with the Thomas barn, he tried the El Camino Real Derby 100k at Golden Gate. Missing the board (4th) was not a poor showing considering he only had 2-career races under his belt. However, it is hard to believe that Hess can expect this entry to win at Keeneland. He sends Umberto Rispoli in to ride from SoCal, and maybe the 2 can make some noise. Unlikely . . .    

Grade: C-


#5 Unbridled Honor (Jky: J. Leparoux/Trn: T. Pletcher):

To many a handicapping eye, this Pletcher entry looked like a massive overlay last time in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). He made some headway as the race began to unfold, but no one was going to catch Helium or Hidden Stash, who ended up being the frontrunners, 1-2. You might think that underestimating this colt is the play, but may I remind you that Pletcher’s power stable is churning right now, and has proved in a matter of weeks that he has some aces for the Derby. With 5pts. to his name already, this son of the great Honor Code, is going to have to win this one. Then the waiting game ensues . . . he will need help when withdrawals come around. It happens, so he has a shot. Pletcher could have multiple starters, yet again . . .  

Grade: B-


#6 Hockey Dad (Jky: M. Gutierrez/Trn: D. O’Neill):

The Doug O’Neill-trainee is not at the top of the stable list, that nod goes to Hot Rod Charlie. But he does have much promise (3 wins in a row back at Santa Anita). Once again O’Neill’s Derby Champion from 2016, Nyquist, is playing a role here as sire. It was less than 14 days ago that he ran in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway to the tune of a 3rd place finish. Now, with 20pts. in his saddle, O’Neill appears to be after more here in the Lexington (G3). If his colt wins, which he could, based on his high-level of fitness in his possession, then decisions will have to be made. The move from AW to dirt will not be an easy one. Mario Gutierrez hops a flight to SoCal to ride for Reddam Racing, who has paid his bills for some time.   

Grade: B+


#7 Proxy (Jky: J. Velazquez/Trn: M. Stidham):

Along the Derby Trail, I think that you will not find a more seasoned runner than this one from the barn of Mike Stidham. He has developed so many nice horses over the course of the past year, despite major challenges. Godolphin sees something bright in him, and rightly so, because they entrust their best NA stock to the conditioner--Mystic Guide, Micheline, and this Tapit colt. In the Fair Grounds Series, he was pretty consistent, with a tapering off that took place in the LA Derby (G2). His level of fitness and strength is still pretty high, even though Stidham has intimated that they will probably skip the Derby. Godolphin probably does not want anything to impede the triumph of “EQ.” Really nice spring nonetheless, and great to see Stidham get all the plaudits he deserves. Johnny V’s arrival to ride this one, once again, appears as a welcome sight.

Grade: B+


#8 Ultimate Badger (Jky: C. Lanerie/Trn: D. Romans):

When it comes to members of Dale Romans’ stable, I have little in the way of faith. His Derby tries seem to be a preponderance of mediocrity. That is not to say that a runner like this one does not have ability, because clearly last fall he flashed some speed. It seems like when Romans gets away from Churchill, he becomes extremely pedestrian, and I am not sure exactly why that is the case. He is trying to toss a dart at a board, as far as I am concerned against a well-matched field that is clearly better. Corey Lanerie probably will not be able to help get this son of Commissioner home any better. Form follows function . . . doesn’t it?

Grade: C


#9 King Fury (Jky: B. Hernandez/Trn: K. McPeek):

Speaking of form, what do you do with a horse that is coming off a long rest, and has not run in a race since late November. That is the situation that this son of Curlin finds himself in for Kenny McPeek. The last time we saw his entry, he was trying to keep pace with Diodoro’s Keepmeinmind (result . . . 5th/5-back). A month before he did turn in a game effort in the Street Sense 98k, which was a nice victory. Hard to imagine that he can win a race like this one. McPeek’s intent probably is more macro-oriented, and he is looking down the road at a much bigger target. Brian Hernandez will serve as pilot, and he turned in a nice meet down at the Fair Grounds over the winter.

Grade: C+


#10 Starrininmydreams (Jky: L. Saez/Trn: D. Stewart):

The final horse that completes this line is one that is full of potential, but given a couple of chances this year in both the Risen Star (G2) and the LA Derby (G2), he failed to impress. His breeding by Super Saver speaks to route ability, but maybe he just has not found the right race. At post time on Saturday, he is going to be a massive price, and when you see Dallas Stewart runners like this one, you might want to make a wager. This conditioner continues to toss “Hail-Marys” when you least expect it. I would seriously consider including this one in your exotic plays. He could end up being a tasty overlay with a jockey who can make lemonade out of lemons—Luis Saez. Hard to turn your back on him . . .

Grade: B


Join us Saturday for all of our Keeneland selections! Should be a great set of races from Central Kentucky!

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