You know how every week I remind you that you can check out Brian’s handicapping for NYRA races at Horseplayernow.com? That he participates in a live chat about three-year-olds every Friday at 2pm? He also participates in chats on Saturdays during the Derby preps, and if you’d been listening last Saturday, you’d have heard him give out the 40-1 winner of the Bluegrass.
As I am off to Keeneland later today, you can bet that I’ll be hoping that Brian’s lightning strikes the Polytrack twice.
No idea what the posting schedule might be like this weekend, but Keeneland updates will be coming along at some point, and if we’re lucky, some news on Derby contenders from the Churchill Downs backstretch. Stay tuned…
And don’t forget that today is your last chance to add two horses to your Road to the Roses stable…
OK, Brian…who ya got?
And then there was one. The Derby Trail comes to a halt with Keeneland’s Lexington, which is always a good bet to send a runner or two to Churchill Downs for the Run for the Roses. This year there are very few potential Derby runners, but a couple of last minute additions could crack the top 20 in earnings with a win. Let’s take a look.
Keeneland: The Grade II, $300,000 Lexington Stakes at 1 1/16 miles
1. Krypton: Brings a bit of speed to the party and that’s not a bad asset to have as the front doesn’t appear too crowded in this wide-open field. Turf form stacks up well in these Polytrack races and with this tidy rail draw, he should save all the ground and be in a good spot turning for home; one of many contenders.
2. Uptowncharlybrown: He’ll certainly be the sentimental pick with the sad news of trainer Alan Seewald’s shocking death earlier in the week. Talented runner exits a troubled trip in the TB Derby behind Odysseus, Schoolyard Dreams and Super Saver, three pretty solid 3yo’s, so you know there’s talent here. Added blinkers that day and it did throw some tactical speed into the equation, so there’s a chance that he’s breathing fire right off the pace when they turn for home; major contender and easy to root for.
3. Distorted Dave: Comes east for the white-hot Sadler and he gives every indication of a colt peaking at the right time. His last was a real solid effort; he settled nicely, took command in the lane and then drew off with ease. On paper he’s not the fastest horse in the race, but it’s not like anyone else is throwing up big numbers either; add another name in the hat of contenders.
4. Bushwhacked: Sheppard runner exits a swift maiden win over the track earlier in the meet and now tries the two-turn thing for the first time. Ran well against some tough youngsters down at GP, and that experience paid off in his local bow when he broke slowly, bided his time inside and then drew off late. The Master isn’t one to rush them to the party, so the fact that he tries this GII just 14 days after exiting the maiden ranks speaks volumes in this corner; call for the win in a complete head-scratcher.
5. Call Shot: Proven turf stakes performer owns a win over the track (via DQ) last fall, so you know the surface switch won’t be a problem. Showed a big turn of foot in the Dania Beach on the lawn at GP behind a pair that won their next starts, so he brings some quality to the table for a top trainer; big chance for all the marbles.
6. Prince Will I Am: Relative newcomer tries the synthetic game for the first time, and his closing style is appealing as it usually works well over the surface. Check out who he’s faced down at GP: Eskendereya twice and Drosselmeyer too, and though he never got close to the former, he did threaten the latter in an allowance two-back. Love this pedigree, especially with Dynaformer on the bottom, and former Pletcher assistant/exercise rider Nihei has done some good work with limited stock while on her own; don’t be shocked if this guy is rolling late to nab a big, big piece of the pie.
7. Lonesome Street: Tracked rival Exhi the entire way in the Rushaway and came up a tad short in a much improved run. Figures to try and get that same trip again today, but there are a few others with that same intention, so not quite sure he’s going to have such an easy ride this time around. The last was a real breakthrough, so you need to worry about a bounce this time around and with more depth in the field, he’s up against it; siding against.
8. Exhi: The aforementioned Pletcher charge looked good wiring the Rushaway over Turfway’s Poly and there’s a chance he makes the point again today. Not necessarily sure that’s a good thing over this strip, as speed has a way of coming back to the pack no matter how fast or slow they go. Still, you do have a talented runner who is improving and could very well hold a pace edge over his rivals; catch him to cash.
9. Heavenville: Broke his maiden over the Headley Course last spring, but that was 4 ½ furlongs and you know that Asmussen loves to crank them early in those 2yo dashes, so tread lightly. He’s got a big stretch kick and just exited a powerful win at FG over fellow La.-breds. And therein lies the problem; he’ll be an underlaid price against a group eons better than what he just handled; trying to beat at false odds.
10. Connemara: Pletcher’s second runner might go favored, and while he’s talented, he’s never really run fast in his life, so not really sure he deserves all the attention. That’s not to say he’s got no shot, just that there’s about a 10-pack in here that are fast or faster and will be a better price at the windows to boot. The lone graded stakes winner in the field (albeit in a weak GIII at GG) deserves respect but not your money in the win pool; comfortable playing against.
11. Kettle River: His allowance win over SA’s synthetic surface two back was a real coming out party and stamped him as a future stakes performer, but he must have eaten too much cake because he was nowhere at 7-2 in a modest renewal of the GIII Sham Stakes. Harty regrouped, passed on the SA Derby and shipped here, and now shoots for a more modest goal, which makes perfect sense. He seems to have enough tactical speed to get out of this tricky draw, and if he gets away on the board, there’s no reason you can’t throw his number on your tickets; expecting much better today.
12. Chief Counsel: WinStar runner ran a commendable race in the GII Lane’s End at Turfway in his first graded stakes and first two-turn try. Drew the parking lot today and Desormeaux will have to use all his guile to make sure he’s not 6-wide into the first turn. If he can save some ground, there’s no reason he can’t be scary and then some in the lane with that stakes experience now behind him; look out.
6. Prince Will I Am
12. Chief Counsel