Brian’s Derby preps: The Lexington

The Lexington Stakes – Keeneland – Grade II – $325,000 – 1 1/16 Miles, by Brian Nadeau

We have arrived. Saturday’s Lexington marks the final prep for the May 2 Kentucky Derby, and anyone with last ditch aspirations for the big race has 1 1/16 miles to show that they belong. The Lexington drew a mixed bag this year; race favorite Square Eddie will try to right the ship while several newcomers will look to slip in through the Derby’s back door. Let’s take a look.

Jeranimo: Not a big fan of Pioneerof The Nile but also not sure how many in here could run within 2 ¼ lengths of him like this guy did in the San Felipe out west. It was probably a wise move to skip the Santa Anita Derby and head in for this spot, and he benefits from a cozy rail draw today. We saw what I Want Revenge and Papa Clem did once they left California, so right away you know to respect this colt. And unlike those two, this guy gets to play over a synthetic surface, which you know he doesn’t mind. That’s more than the others can say and when you factor in a square price as well, he gets the call for the win.

Omniscient: Hardly surprising that a son of Pulpit put things together once he stretched out to two turns, and the way this guy laughed at winners last time says he’s one to watch. No synthetic form to speak of, but he did win over a sloppy track, so that alleviates the worries a bit. Well drawn and in expert hands, so he must be respected.

Pitched Perfectly: Looks like a private purchase shortly after his big win in an optional claimer over the inner dirt at Aqueduct. Well, that’s a long way from a Grade II over the Polytrack at Keeneland. At least you know Tagg is going great guns here so far, but that last race seems like it came from nowhere and you have to wonder if he can do it again. Theft seems to be on the agenda, but with other speed signed on, wiring this field seems like a tall order.

Brave Victory: He’s quietly done some good work this spring and there’s no reason to be disgraced by that fourth-place run in the Swale. The issue lies with all the hurdles he needs to jump over today, most notably trying two turns and a synthetic surface for the first time. If he gets forgotten on the board he’d be enticing, but we’d draw the line in the sand at 10-1.

His Greatness: He didn’t run poorly in the Illinois Derby and he actually stuck a nose in front late in that one, so you know there’s some talent here. He’s also got a bit of history over the fake stuff, so that shouldn’t be much of a concern. Deserving longshot has a bit of price appeal for the bottom of the exotics.

Masala: Loved this colt in the Gotham and he really had no excuse. Sure, I Want Revenge freaked, but second was there for the taking and this guy just didn’t want it. Now the blinkers go on, which should have him more focused and involved early, but that might not be the best scenario with a lot of other speed signed on. He seems to be the buzz horse in here as well, so look for an underlaid price. If he drifts on the board he’s worth a look, but with the predicted short price, we’re OK looking elsewhere.

Conservative: Shug didn’t ship in just to show this guy what Versailles Road looks like, so know right off to respect his chances. He seems to have turned the corner this season after struggling last year as a freshman, and his last two might have him sitting on edge as he tries stakes foes for the first time. There’s no doubt he needs to improve to factor, but the thinking here is that we haven’t seen the best of this colt who hails from Grade I-winning connections. Look out.

Square Eddie: Classy juvenile will try to use this race as a springboard to the Derby. The problem is that he was injured and deemed off the trail after his second in the San Rafael back on January 17. Now after a decent work or two he’s back and ready to try to and make the world’s most demanding race? Hmmm. He sure looked good winning the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity here last fall at today’s distance, but that was a long, long time ago. If he’s right and if he’s ready he’ll lap this field, but do you want to take about 2-1 to find out? No time like the present to try and beat this nice colt.

El Crespo: Toss the Holy Bull effort on conventional dirt and his form really comes into focus. Well-bred colt has run big in all three two-turn starts he’s made with blinkers and that points to him as a big player in here. Sure, those efforts were on turf, but we know that’s a good thing when handicapping these Polytrack races. The two he beat last time are nice 3-year-old turfers, so we know there’s some class in this corner as well. Castellano, perfect in two starts aboard this runner, comes in for the ride and his tactical speed should have him in the thick of things all the way around. Very interesting.

Parade Clown: Well-bred sort has that good-race/bad-race pattern going, so there’s a chance he might regress off his decent run in the Lane’s End. If he does somehow move forward, he’s in with a real shot. The problem is that he’s had a few chances in the past to make a dent against stiff competition and he’s come up wanting. And sure, this isn’t the toughest field in the world, but they won’t exactly lay down for him either. Mixed feelings.

Advice: The second from Team Pletcher just hasn’t improved as a sophomore after flashing promise in 2008. He did run well last fall over synthetics, so maybe the return could wake him up a bit. The blinkers go off today and even if you toss the Sunland Derby, it’s not like he’s scaring any of the contenders in here with that third in a Santa Anita allowance race. Talented and in expert hands, but we need to see it to believe it.

Hull: Speed to spare in this corner and with this disadvantageous outside draw, he’ll have to go early. But with Pitched Perfectly breaking to this one’s inside it’s doubtful he clears, and that could leave him in a pretty salty speed duel early. Unbeaten and untested in his two career starts, but this represents a stiff rise in class. Looks like he could be any kind but there’s a lot going against him today, including a short number, so let’s take a strong stand against him.

A note from Teresa: A very happy 12th birthday to nephew Michael, a third generation racing fan who picked a 30 – 1 winner last summer on Travers day…and whose father got shut out before he got the bet in. He still owes you, Mikey.

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