Saturday's $200,000 G3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes is the last realistic chance for horses to earn enough graded stakes earnings in hopes to make it to the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
The purse for the winner will be $120,000.
Bob Baffert-trained Castaway is the morning-line favorite (3/1) and he is currently in 25th place on the money list. He has $162,000 so far and with a win it would give him a total of $282,000 and move into a tie for 17th with Went the Day Well.
That would be more than enough to make it inside the Top 20 and on his own to the Run for the Roses the first Saturday of May. It's win or nothing since second place is worth only $40,000.
There are two other horses here, Morgan's Guerrilla ($100,000) and News Pending ($80,000) that have an outside chance at making the Top 20 with a win. But like for the rest of the horses running the Lexington, to make it they would still require more horses from the Top 20 dropping out before the Derby.
After doing all the proper math equations, Castaway is the only one that can directly win his way into the Derby. The others need a lot of help.
But the race promises to be very interesting, even when Castaway is part of Bob Baffert's continuing nationwide three-year-old stakes tour-de-force.
Castaway is the favorite but not a certain thing here. He comes from finishing seventh, beaten 25 lengths in the Sunland Derby after setting a suicidal pace up front with Ender Knivel. He seems to be recovered from that big blowout and has been working out respectably for this race.
He might be the fastest horse over two turns, but he will have maiden winner Johanesbourbon and possibly Morgan's Guerrilla from his inside challenging him early for the lead.
It will be interesting to see the strategy by jockey Shaun Bridgmohan who picks up the mount from Rafael Bejarano here. His best race was when he tracked the pace in the first of the Southwest divisions and won pulling away.
Morgan's Guerrilla picks up the mount of Julien Leparoux—who guided him to a second-place finish in his debut—from Rosie Napravnik who will be active in the Jerome at Aqueduct. He finished third in his last race at the Illinois Derby with a very slow time.
That last race for Morgan Guerrilla's is very puzzling as everyone seemed to be floating to the wire in a snail time and he comes back in two weeks for this race. Maybe he'll like his debut on synthetic and the blinkers off for this race might help him relax and finish better this time.
News Pending came back from his second-place finish to Union Rags in the Fountain of Youth and disappeared on the Florida Derby. Maybe he couldn't recover from his slow start and was never a factor—a tale of two races those two.
Kent Desormeaux was the jockey aboard News Pending in the Fountain of Youth and returns to ride him in this race.
Unbeaten Summer Front puts his record on the line here. He is perfect in three starts—all on turf—and should relish the change to synthetic. Two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez keeps the mount and could benefit from a swift pace up front.
Holiday Promise (second in the Spiral Stakes) and Golden Ticket (second in the Tampa Bay Stakes) come from being outfinished in their last race. Both have the jockey on those races return to ride them here, but there is one that has been working lights out for this race.
That is the Todd Pletcher-trained Holiday Promise. He seems poised to move forward here.
Johanesbourbon was impressive in his debut by winning the maiden race and pulling away by almost 10 lengths at 6.5 furlongs. He steps up in distance and class and picks up the mount of world-class Garrett Gomez filling in for Martin Pedroza, who will miss two to four weeks of racing after being unseated in a spill in Saturday's ninth race at Santa Anita.
Gold Megillah has the far outside post, and is a steadily improving colt who comes from finishing a fast closing third in the Rushaway Stakes on Mar. 24. John Velazquez repeats the mount for trainer Graham Motion and that is reason enough to consider him.
This race might not be filled with marquee-name horses, but we have a trio of two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockeys (Dominguez, Gomez and Velazquez) and a full constellation of some of the best trainers in the nation present here.
It has all the ingredients for a great race where the jockey's strategy will be key, and the preparation of the horses is sure to be top notch.
The Coolmore Lexington Stakes is the ninth race on Keeneland's Saturday card and will go off at 5:13 p.m. ET. You can catch the action on TV on TVG.
Lexington Stakes | Grade III | Purse: $200,000 | Distance: 8.5 Furlongs | Post Time: 5:13 p.m. ET
|1||Morgan's Guerrilla||Julien Leparoux||Michael J. Maker||6/1|
|2||Summer Front||Ramon A. Dominguez||Christophe Clement||9/2|
|3 ||Johanesbourbon||Garrett K. Gomez||Kellyn Gorder||8/1|
|4 ||Skyring||Jon K. Court||D. Wayne Lukas||30/1|
|5 ||Golden Ticket||Manoel R. Cruz||Kenneth G. McPeek||6/1|
|6 ||Holiday Promise||Junior Alvarado||Todd A. Pletcher||6/1|
|7 ||Castaway||Shaun X. Brdigmohan||Bob Baffert||3/1|
|8||Hammers Terror||Robbie J. Albarado||Michael Stidham||30/1|
|9||All Squared Away||Julio A. Garcia||Wesley A. Ward||50/1|
|10||News Pending||Kent J. Desormeaux||Dale Romans||5/1|
|11||Gold Megillah||John R. Velazquez||H. Graham Motion||10/1|
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