With the help of a great kick down the final stretch, Mr Speaker took home the 2014 Coolmore Lexington Stakes.
The race is often considered the "Last Chance Derby," since it's an opportunity for the horses to try and pick up some vital points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby. This year, however, the Lexington Stakes served more as a springboard for future races rather than a Derby decider:
The Lexington Stakes at Keeneland is irrelevant for the #KyDerby. The owner of the only horse with chance, Ami's Holiday, said no Derby.— Steve Andress (@steveandress) April 19, 2014
With the win, Mr Speaker earned 10 Kentucky Derby points. Divine Oath, Supermonic and Ami's Holiday rounded out the top four:
Coolmore Lexington #KYDerby points: 1: 1-Mr Speaker (10) 2: 6-Divine Oath (4) 3: 10-Supermonic (2) 4: 7-Ami's Holiday (1)— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) April 19, 2014
You can see the full order of finish below.
|1||Mr Speaker||Jose Lezcano||$120,000|
|2||Divine Oath||Javier Castellano||$40,000|
|4||Ami's Holiday||Robby Albarado||$10,000|
|5||Solitary Ranger||Florent Geroux||$6,000|
|6||Poker Player||Stewart Elliott||$1,334|
|7||Z Lucky||Jon Kenton Court||$1,333|
|8||Ride Away||Julien Leparoux||$1,333|
Mr Speaker entered the race as one of the top favorites. He had a great jockey in Jose Lezcano and an even better trainer in Shug McGaughey. The three-year-old colt also boasts impressive records in both 2013 and 2014. In seven starts, he had three first-place finishes as well as one second-place and third-place finish.
For almost the entirety of the race, Mr Speaker was right in the thick of the action. Lezcano did a great job of ensuring that the colt remained competitive, but he didn't overextend the horse too early. Instead, the veteran jockey saved the best for last, as Mr Speaker broke free on the final stretch to beat Divine Oath by four lengths.
The finish demonstrated both Vezcano's skill and Mr Speaker's strength on grass.
After the win, McGaughey said that winning the Lexington Stakes was something he's had his eye on for a while. This was a race that had previously eluded the legendary trainer, per the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Shug McGaughey on Mr Speaker winning the Lexington: "This is a race that has been on my bucket list of old races I'd like to win. (cont)— horseracinghl (@horseracinghl) April 19, 2014
(cont) "It looks like the way he ran today, he could handle about anything." said McGaughey re. Mr Speaker— horseracinghl (@horseracinghl) April 19, 2014
Since the Kentucky Derby was never an option for Mr Speaker, McGaughey believes that Saturday's win is huge for the horse's training ahead of the Belmont Derby Invitational later in the summer, per Jennie Rees of The Courier-Journal:
Opting to avoid the Kentucky Derby is arguably the much better decision for McGaughey and owner Ogden Phipps. Mr Speaker has raced only once on dirt, and it was the worst finish of his short career. The colt is much better off focusing on a turf track like Belmont and a race like the Belmont Derby Invitational, where a purse of $1.25 million is on the line.
There's no sense in throwing an ill-prepared horse into the Derby simply for the heck of it. With Mr Speaker's preparations centered on Belmont, he'll be one of the horses to watch come July.