On TV's The Biggest Loser there is something called the "Last Chance Workout." The equivalent on the Kentucky Derby Trail is the Coolmore Lexington Stakes from the Keeneland racetrack.
The Lexington is the official last chance for horses to try and earn enough graded earnings to get in the Kentucky Derby Top 20 list. Or, they can get close enough and hope for defections to happen so they can then get in the Top 20 list.
Castaway is the lone horse that, with a win here, is guaranteed of making the Kentucky Derby Top 20. He currently sits in 25th place on the money list. He has $162,000 so far, and with a win, the $120,000 winner's purse would give him a total of $282,000 and move into a tie for 17th with Went the Day Well.
Finishing in second place is worth only $40,000, so there is no debate here, for Castaway is win and he's in or he's going home.
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.
There is a downside to winning here and making the Derby field. That horse would have to come back in two weeks and run against a 20-horse field through 10 grueling furlongs.
This is a race where we are guaranteed to see top-class racing since we have trainers and jockeys that have won multiple Eclipse Awards. You know that strategy and preparation is going to be at a premium here.
This is not an easy race to handicap, and my top three choices have almost equal chance to win today. It's almost a toss-up between them, but I will give you below my race predictions for the entire field.
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|
If he wins he would move into a tie for 21st with Reveron ($220,000) but would lose the tiebreaker to him, and would end up in the Alternate Entry (AE) list. After he broke his maiden, he finished a game second place in the Illinois Derby on his last race, but the wire couldn't come fast enough for him. I think that race took some from him, and coming back in just 14 days is too short for him.
Predicted finish: Eight
|2||Summer Front||Ramon A. Dominguez||Christophe Clement||9/2|
A perfect record on three lifetime races on turf. He should be able to translate that success to synthetic and show that nice late kick. On his last race he overcame a stumble at the start and won over highly-regarded Finale at the Dania Beach. I like this horse a lot, and the only reason why I don't pick him to win is because he is coming a four-month layoff and I think he might be a bit short today.
Predicted finish: Second
|3||Johanesbourbon||Garrett K. Gomez||Kellyn Gorder||30/1|
Impressive is the only word that comes to mind when describing his debut win. He has an ace aboard in Garret Gomez and should take the lead from the inside on this race. But this time, he steps up in class and will have much better pace-pressers here, which ultimately will cost him the race.
Predicted finish: Seventh.
|4||Skyring||Jon K. Court||D. Wayne Lukas||30/1|
In his last race—Illinois Derby—he was coming off his maiden win and finished in a disappointing seventh place. He stumbled at the break and never got going, running flat all the race. Even with a fair start, while this is not an elite field, this horse is just a notch below the ones running here.
Predicted finish: Last
|5||Golden Ticket||Manoel R. Cruz||Kenneth G. McPeek||6/1|
With a win here he would move up to 23rd on the list and would be on the Alternate Entry (AE) list. He is an improving colt that just had his best race on his last race—89 Beyer on the Tampa Bay Derby—when he got outfinished by Derby runner Prospective. That race indicates he is ready to move up and take this race, but I don't think synthetic is his best surface.
Predicted finish: Sixth
|6||Holiday Promise||Junior Alvarado||Todd A. Pletcher||6/1|
This is an improving colt that comes from finishing second on the Spiral to Derby contender Went the Day Well in a race where he made his debut on synthetic. He had to run three-wide and still had dead aim on the winner at the top of the stretch before he was outkicked in the final furlong.
Just like I said about Dullahan last week, this horse's last two workouts are two bullets (four furlongs in :47.0 and :46.6) and show he is sitting on a big race. Expect a better timed race today by Alvarado, here is your winner.
Predicted finish: Win
|7||Castaway||Shaun X. Bridgmohan||Bob Baffert||3/1|
The favorite, and rightfully so. He makes his best race when he tracks the pace early and goes all out in the stretch like he did when he won the first of the Southwest divisions pulling away. He looks recovered from that suicidal race at the Sunland Derby, but I don't think he is fully ready to move forward from that effort. He will do his race today but will give in to the closers in this race.
Predicted finish: Fourth
|8||Hammers Terror||Robbie J. Albarado||Michael Stidham||30/1|
This is the speed from the outside, and I expect Albarado to forwardly place him in the early going to challenge Johanesbourbon and Castaway for the lead. He could have an improved race over his last today, but I don't expect it. I just see too many horses in this race being better than him.
Predicted finish: 10th.
|9||All Squared Away||Julio A. Garcia||Wesley A. Ward||50/1|
This is an allowance runner. Both times he's stepped up to run graded races, he's never shown up. The only thing he has going is he runs fairly well on synthetic, but I expect him to get past only the tiring horses here.
Predicted finish: Ninth
|10 ||News Pending||Kent J. Desormeaux||Dale Romans||5/1|
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. "Hide," this horse will either show up and give you a good performance or just hide in the back and never show up. After finishing second to Union Rags at the Fountain of Youth, he had a slow start at the Florida Derby and was never a factor. Who will he be today? I think he will show a bit of both, contend at the top of the stretch but will not hold the better closers.
Predicted finish: Fifth
|11||Gold Megillah||John R. Velazquez||H. Graham Motion||10/1|
This is another improving colt. On his last race—at the Rushaway Stakes—he hopped at the start, then was eager in the early going before relaxing back to fourth place behind the pace setters, only to come back in the stretch with a steady gain but finish third just a length behind Flashy Dresser and Gung Ho.
The winner is still unbeaten and just won a stakes race in Charles Town last Saturday, while Gung Ho finished a game third to Dullahan and Hansen at the Wood. All this validates his chances here and he seems like he will move forward today.
Predicted finish: Third