Brian’s Derby Preps: The Lexington

Keeneland: The Grade III, $200,000 Lexington at 1 1/16 miles

#1 Winning Cause: Well-bred son of Giant’s Causeway closed like a freight train when winning at seven furlongs earlier in the meet to raise his local mark to 2-for-2, and he rates as a real up and comer in this wide open GIII. Stretch runner has never been two turns on the main track but is bred to relish the trip, and this cozy inside draw should have him saving all the ground into the first turn. On paper this isn’t that tough of a GIII, and you figure he’ll be a little closer to the pace on the stretchout, so it all adds up to a winning chance; huge threat.

#2 Pick of the Litter: Lightly raced Romans runner bombed when he was thrown to the wolves in Gulfstream Park’s GI Florida Derby last month and now tries a synthetic surface for the first time. Son of Kitten’s Joy is bred to handle the surface, but he was beaten 12 3/4 lengths in his lone start on turf, so you’re allowed to wonder if this will be his true calling. There’s talent here, as evidenced by his romping nine-furlong MSW win on the main track, but you wonder if he needs the real stuff to show it; siding against.

#3 River Rocks: Speedster just missed in his two-turn debut in a GP optional claimer on the dirt last month and makes his synthetic debut today from a nice draw. We all know they don’t run the races on paper, but if they did, this colt would be loose as can be for Catalano, who knows what to do with a nice horse. Sure, this is a class rise, but there are no monsters in here, and if they let this son of Western Pride go early, they might never see him again; theft is on the agenda.

#4 Hip Four Sixtynine: Longshot bombed in Fair Grounds’ GII Louisiana Derby last month and figures to be long odds again here in his synthetic debut. Son of Southern Image showed speed last time and could be a pace presence, but that’s about the highlight of his prospective run; easy toss.

#5 Where’s Dominic: Laurel invader surfaces in Lexington for Trombetta, who usually takes the patient approach, so to see him ship here for his synthetic debut is somewhat intriguing. Son of white-hot sire Midnight Lute was recently fourth in the Private Terms behind Mr Palmer, who was fourth in Aqueduct’s GI Wood earlier this month, so at least you know he’s kept some good company. Tactical sort adds blinkers and he was close early in his two-turn debut at Laurel, so expecting him to be just off the pace, which could put him in the right spot off the far turn; don’t ignore.

#6 Sunbean: Louisiana-bred makes his first start for Maker after a brutal eighth in the Louisiana Derby when he was full of run inside yet got stymied early and often through the stretch. Son of Brahms, who was a Grade I winner on turf, has done some good things against his own kind, but that last run against open company says he can play with the big boys, so with smooth sailing he’s rates a long look; runs by them late.

#7 Examen: Homebred heads to the Midwest after winning on the turf and dirt at Santa Anita and looks like a real comer for Proctor. Son of Giant’s Causeway has done little wrong in winning both his starts this year, is certainly bred to handle the Polytrack and should sit the right kind of stalking trip. Proctor is on record as saying he’s here to win and that the Derby isn’t even on the radar, so you know he’s cranked and  it’s always nice to see Gomez come in for the ride; seems like the one to beat.

#8 Cerro: Irish-bred entered GP’s GII Fountain Of Youth as an inviting newcomer but got fried chasing a suicidal pace and was reportedly knocked out from that effort. Motion regrouped and pointed here, and this son of Mr. Greeley has plenty of works in preparation for his synthetic debut. Versatile colt should be sitting mid-pack and looking to make his move off the far turn, and while it’s foolish to dismiss anything from this barn, others do rate a tad higher; limiting his use to the bottom of the exotics.

#9 Wings Of Fortune: Maker’s second runner ran a solid second in his turf debut in an optional claimer at FG last month and now forges on for a barn that has been firing on all cylinders this meet. Son of Fusaichi Pegasus has plenty of upside with only three career starts and should offer value, which is not normally the case with this barn, so fans may want to take a second look. On paper he’s about as fast as anyone and is another who should trip out nicely; contention runs deep.

#10 General Election: Tough-to-read Harlan’s Holiday colt looked great rallying over the Polytrack to win Turfway Park’s Battaglia in March, then completely flopped there in the GIII Spiral just three weeks later, so it’s tough to figure who you’ll get today. If he runs back to the Battaglia, then he’s in with a big chance, but there wasn’t much excuse for the flop last time, so there are obvious questions to answer. Still, it’s nice to see Gorder forge on, and he’s quickly becoming the best trainer you’ve never heard of, so if it’s good enough for him, then it’s good enough for us; not impossible at a nice price.

#11 Pure Fun: The lone filly in the race will likely go favored for McPeek, who is talking up a big game this week about this Grade I-winning daughter of Pure Prize. Stretch runner inhaled the field over the Cushion Track in the Hollywood Starlet to end her 2yo campaign in December but was a wide and flat third as the heavy favorite in the GIII Bourbonette on the Spiral undercard, so while she probably needed the race, do you want to take a short price here while tackling males? It’s also important to remember she’s using this as a prep for the GI Kentucky Oaks, so who’s to say the screws are all that cranked today, either, with the big race just 13 days and 75 miles away; willing to play against this big underlay.

Selections:

#6 Sunbean

#3 River Rocks

#1 Winning Cause

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