Saturday's Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland serves as the first of two wild-card races preceding the Kentucky Derby. With 20 points awarded to the winner, several thoroughbreds will have a chance to grab a post at Churchill Downs for the first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown.
Pure Fun is the odds-on favorite at 2-1 to emerge victorious, but the Ken McPeek-trained horse is attempting to make the Kentucky Oaks, not the Derby (h/t ESPN via Bloodhorse.com).
Below are projections as to how the $200,000 purse race in Lexington will play out.
Note: Odds are courtesy of SportsBook.
Win: Sunbean (3-1)
Three-time Kentucky Derby winner Gary L. Stevens will be in the saddle for Sunbean, who is coming off of a disappointing eighth-place finish at the Louisiana Derby (h/t Keeneland.com).
That led to changes in jockey and trainer, and now the horse is being guided by trainer Mike Maker.
This is the prime opportunity for Sunbean to bounce back on the Polytrack surface. Maker is renowned for training horses on turf, which will give Sunbean adequate preparation to make a strong run at Keeneland.
The combination of Maker's pedigree and the experience of Stevens should lead to a greatly improved run this time around in the sixth post and ultimately net Maker and Co. a post for the Derby in early May.
Place: Winning Cause (4-1)
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Prominent trainer Todd A. Pletcher already has an impressive stable of horses headed for the Run for the Roses, with four in the top 20 of the points standings (h/t The Daily Racing Form).
That track record of recent quality should give Winning Cause a viable chance to live up to his name.
Winning Cause won an allowance race at Keeneland in his first experience with Julien R. Leparoux as jockey (h/t HorseRacingNation.com) and won a previous race at the track as well.
Absent any Kentucky Derby points to date, this is a must-win situation for the three-year-old. However, a strong push won't quite be enough, as the superior jockeying by Stevens will allow Sunbean to edge it out down the stretch.
Show: Pure Fun (2-1)
The incentive to win this race simply isn't as high for the filly in light of a recent report that stated Live Lively would no longer run in the Kentucky Oaks (h/t TheDowneyProfile.com).
McPeek is still going to run his horse, but she no longer needs a win to make an appearance at the Kentucky Oaks a possibility. Eight points for second place wouldn't have been enough before, as Pure Fun would be six points short of the 34-point cutoff (h/t Bloodhorse.com).
While there will still be a need for a strong showing, Pure Fun no longer requires a full-tilt effort to obtain her ultimate goal.
Pure Fun may emerge with the Lilies for the Fillies in a couple of weeks, but don't expect a victory in this race, despite her favorable odds and exceptional speed.