Apr 20, 2012
One last Kentucky Derby prep race at Keeneland
By: By Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor
(Sports Network) - Bob Baffert might have the early Kentucky Derby favorite in Bodemeister, but there is another 3-year-old race on tap this Saturday - the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland - that features a couple of horses, including one trained by Baffert, with a chance to make it to the first Triple Crown race on the first Saturday in May.
The silver-haired horseman sends out Castaway, a colt that could see his graded earnings topple the $280,000 mark if he were to win the Lexington.
Castaway's last race was a forgettable effort as the 8-5 favorite got into a speed duel with Ender Knievel in the Sunland Derby and tired badly to finish seventh in the field of eight, some 25 lengths behind the winner Daddy Nose Best. To make matters worse, Ender Knievel wound up finishing 12 1/2 lengths in front of Castaway despite the two of them cooking each other through rapid early fractions of 46 1/5 seconds and 1:10 4/5.
Prior to the Sunland Derby debacle, Castaway had won two consecutive races, including a division of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. However, the field he beat was questionable at best and the final time was a full second slower than Secret Circle ran in the other division.
Even if Castaway wins on Saturday, it is conceivable that he might not be entered in the Derby since the last thing Baffert needs is another speedball to run with Bodemeister. As for his chances in the Lexington, one has to wonder how fit he is after the lackluster performance, especially since he has not been working as briskly as he had back in February and March.
If Castaway is not the favorite at Keeneland, then look for the lightly raced Morgan's Guerrilla to take a lot of the action. The Michael Maker-trained colt finished a bang-up second to Done Talking in the Illinois Derby just one month after breaking his maiden over the inner track at Aqueduct.
As is the case with Castaway, Morgan's Guerrilla also could get into the Kentucky Derby with a victory in the Lexington. But even if he does finish first on Saturday, he will need at least two defections since Reveron, who is 21st on the list, will still be ahead of the son of Ghostzapper.
Morgan's Guerrilla should show more early speed than he did in the Illinois Derby, especially since he drew the rail as opposed to the 12-post he broke from two weeks ago. The slight turn-back in distance from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/16 also will help his cause, but one has to wonder if he is only in this race to secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Don't forget, he was ridden hard at Hawthorne and this will be his third race in seven weeks.
Speaking of lightly raced horses, Johannesbourbon comes into the Lexington off one career effort. But what a race it was. He defeated Potomac River by 9 3/4 lengths as the 2-1 second choice and that horse came back to win his next start at Keeneland, breaking his maiden on the turf. What Johannesbourbon has in his favor is a victory over Polytrack as that win came at Turfway Park. In addition, his Keeneland works, including a 58 2/5 five-furlong dash last Friday, have all been super, so he certainly is well equipped to handle this surface.
On the downside, Johannesbourbon will be stretching out from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles against multiple graded stakes-placed horses and his breeding is geared more toward sprinting than for races around two turns.
Trainer Todd Pletcher also will have a horse to be reckoned with as he brings in Holiday Promise, fresh off a second-place effort to Went the Day Well in the Spiral on March 24. The son of Harlan's Holiday has won only one race in his life and that came in a maiden special weight event last November. However, he looked like he would add the Spiral to his resume until Went the Day Well proved to be the better of the two colts through the stretch.
THREE OTHER POSSIBILITIES
Turf horses frequently run well in the Blue Grass Stakes and the same could be said for the Lexington, especially after Derby Kitten won last year's running at 9-1. This year's turf challenger is the undefeated Summer Front.
Trained by Christophe Clement, the bay colt is 3-for-3 lifetime, with a pair of stakes victories. On the negative side, Summer Front hasn't raced since December. Still, he is working bullets in the morning, and if he can duplicate his performance in the Dania Beach Stakes (outside of stumbling right after the break), the race should be his to lose.
News Pending is another colt that might be a force in the Lexington. He hasn't had a recorded workout since March 24, but trainer Dale Romans wouldn't send the Fountain of Youth runner-up (to Union Rags) into the Lexington if the horse wasn't fit.
In order for News Pending to hit the board, he must rebound off a dismal showing in the Florida Derby, a race he had little chance to win after breaking extremely slow from the gate. Speed held in that race, so if you like him, it's best to just toss the race out and hope he gets a better start this time around.
Golden Ticket is another horse in the field that has placed in a graded stakes race. His second to Prospective in the Tampa Bay Derby was a solid effort even though the trip was very clean. Unlike many others in the field, Golden Ticket has raced twice at Keeneland so he does have experience over the surface.
TWO LIVE LONG SHOTS
Skyring, for D. Wayne Lukas, will be one of the longest-priced horses in the race after coming in seventh in the Illinois Derby.
However, he finished only six lengths behind Morgan's Guerrilla despite stumbling at the break. The brutal trip continued when Skyring was sandwiched through the stretch by a tiring Frankie Is Rock and the late charging Saturday Launch.
It is interesting to see Lukas bring him back on only two weeks rest. Skyring has zero chance to make it into the Kentucky Derby, so Lukas must feel the race didn't take much out of the son of English Channel. In addition, the colt gets a positive jockey change from Ramon Vazquez to Jon Court.
Gold Megillah is another long shot to watch out for. In fact, he might have been my top choice off the snappy third-place finish to repeat winner Flashy Dresser in the Rushaway Stakes. Unfortunately, he got saddled with post position 11. Still, John Velazquez maintains the mount and the price should be right.
Predicted finish: 1) Summer Front; 2) Holiday Promise; 3) Gold Megillah; Long shot) Skyring
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