Keeneland’s Grade 3 $200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes is the last chance for many Kentucky Derby hopefuls to earn the graded stakes needed to make the Derby’s limited field. The Kentucky Derby’s 20-horse field, plus four also eligibles, is limited to horses with the most graded stakes earnings. Currently, the magic number is just over $184,700.
The $120,000 to the winner of the Coolmore Lexington may be enough to move several of Saturday’s runners into contention. Whether the connections of these horses are currently considering the Derby or still on the fence, a win that puts their horse onto the entry list will certainly have them re-evaluating the situation. Horses with a win-and-you’re-in possibility are Castaway, Morgan’s Guerrilla, Golden Ticket, and News Pending.
Bob Baffert’s Castaway headlines the eleven-horse field at a morning line of 3-1. Although it took Castaway six attempts to do it, when this son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, finally broke his maiden in a 1 1/16 mile race at Santa Anita, he earned a 102 Brisnet speed figure. This win was impressive enough that Baffert entered him in the one mile Grade 3 Southwest Stakes. Castaway impressively won by nearly four lengths and looked like he was on the road to the Derby. However, in his next Derby prep, the Grade 3 Sunland Derby, he faded halfway through the race and finished next to last. Maybe he bounced and that race should be tossed or maybe he’s regressed to his paltry form before breaking his maiden.
Morgan’s Guerrilla finished second to Done Talking in the Illinois Derby only two weeks ago. Owned in part by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway whose Stately Victor finished 8th in the 2010 Kentucky Derby, there is no doubt the connections of Morgan's Guerrilla are trying to get back to the Derby. Morgan’s Guerrilla is a lightly raced son of Ghostzapper and trained by Mike Maker. He has finished first or second in three lifetime starts. He appears to be an improving colt whose pedigree and early running style should help on the Keeneland Polytrack. He also picks up Keeneland’s leading rider Julien Leparoux.
Dale Romans will saddle two Kentucky Derby runners if News Pending wins the Coolmore Lexington. Romans' Toyota Blue Grass winner Dullahan already has his spot among the Kentucky Derby field. In the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, News Pending finished second, four lengths behind Union Rags. In his next start, the Grade 1 Florida Derby, he was never able to move beyond seventh place after a slow start. Interestingly, he hasn’t had a published work since before the Florida Derby. Assuming there’s no issue there, if he can stick close to the pace, he could be dangerous.
A win by Golden Ticket would put him on the Derby’s also eligibles list. He finished second in his last race, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, ¾ of a length behind Prospective, who finished sixth in last week’s Toyota Blue Grass. Cozzetti finished three lengths behind Golden Ticket in the Tampa Bay Derby and just missed a third place finish in last week’s Arkansas Derby. In two starts at Keeneland last fall Golden Ticket finished third and fourth.
Although it won’t mean a bid to the Kentucky Derby, there are plenty others in this field that have the potential of gobbling up the money. The undefeated Summer Front makes his season debut and comes in with two bullet works. In a nearly 10 length win, Johannesbourbon broke his maiden at first asking and has shown some sharp works at Keeneland. Skyring may have finished seventh in the Illinois Derby, but is by turf champion English Channel and should do better on turf or synthetic. Todd Pletcher’s Holiday Promise finished second to Went The Day Well in the Vinery Racing Spiral and comes in with a couple sharp works on the Keeneland track. Hammers Terror has been in the money in four of five lifetime starts and may improve in his second start after a short break. All Squared Away will make his first start for trainer Wesley Ward, but has not won since breaking his maiden in January. Lastly, Gold Megillah finished 1 ¼ lengths behind Flashy Dresser, who went on to win the Robert Hilton Memorial at Charlestown, and ¾ of a length behind Gung Ho, who ran a game third in the Toyota Blue Grass.
The race is the 9th on Keeneland’s Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 5:13 p.m. It can be seen on TVG.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby