In recent years, with the move away from the graded stakes earnings qualification system, the Lexington Stakes has not had a major impact on the Kentucky Derby. However, it could play a role this year as one contender looks to solidify his spot in the starting for the Run for the Roses with a solid performance in this race.
My Boy Jack (#12) enters this race with 32 qualifying points, and likely needs to finish first or second in order to accrue enough points to guarantee a start in three weeks. The TimeformUS Pace Projector indicates that he’s likely to receive a favorable pace setup in this race as a few key speeds to his inside are likely to set a fast early pace. Battle At Sea (#1) is certain to be sent to the front from his rail post position, and he should be accompanied by the runner breaking just to his outside as the stalking line up in behind them. My Boy Jack is undoubtedly the best closer in the field, as is indicated by his towering 117 Late Pace Rating.
Let’s go through the entire field:
#1, BATTLE AT SEA (8-1): This speedy son of Into Mischief gets a class test as he ventures outside of Louisiana-bred company for the first time since his career debut. His win in the Crescent City Derby was visually impressive, as he strung out the field while setting a fast pace (indicated by red color-coding in TimeformUS PPs) before holding sway in the lane. Mike Maker signals what the tactics will be here by bringing in aggressive rider Kendrick Carmouche to pilot him. I don’t think this horse is talented enough to lead them all the way, but he is certain to have a say in the outcome regardless of his finishing position.
#2, TELEKINESIS (4-1): This horse clearly has talent. He earned a massive 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure in his debut going six furlongs at the Fair Grounds, and followed that up with a strong performance against older horses on Mar. 9. It’s not easy for three-year-olds to face seasoned older runners at this time of year, but he acquitted himself nicely. He’s now stepping up into stakes company and will be facing a much larger field than he’s ever encountered. His biggest obstacle may be the trip. He could be in for a taxing effort if he tries to chase Battle at Sea early, but rating behind horses could also be perilous for such an inexperienced colt. I’m using out of respect for his talent, but I want others on top.
#3, SEVEN TRUMPETS (8-1): I’m just not convinced that this colt really wants to go two turns. He was allowed to set a slow pace when finishing second in the Jerome earlier this year, but has not been able to duplicate that effort since. I’m throwing him out.
#4, HONOR UP (12-1): Despite the fact he’s only faced New York-breds thus far in his short career, this colt is worth some consideration here. He really improved ever since stretching out in distance this past winter. That Nov. 15 runner-up finish behind top Kentucky Derby prospect Audible was a legitimately good effort, as he stuck with that rival late and drew well clear of the rest. He broke his maiden next time out as easily as you imagine over a wet track, and has been on the shelf since then. A layoff at this time of year was probably not in the plans after he broke his maiden, but the fact that Bill Mott is bringing him back in such an ambitious spot has to be considered a positive. Furthermore, I like that he handled wet going last time since there’s likely to be some moisture in the dirt track at Keeneland on Saturday. It’s good to see Jose Ortiz take the mount, and I think this long shot could make some noise here.
#5, MAGICALMEISTER (20-1): He was overmatched in the Jeff Ruby Steaks on Polytrack, and his dirt form is dubious. He’s a pace factor at best.
#6, GREYVITOS (6-1): His connections have also expressed some interest in proceeding on to the Kentucky Derby if he is able to pull out a win here. He may not have enough points to do, but he’s nevertheless a candidate for the win in this race given a top effort. Greyvitos got very good for a little over a month last winter, as he pulled off impressive victories in the Bob Hope and Springboard Mile. Those efforts were subsequently flattered by the three-year-old exploits of Mourinho and Combatant. Greyvitos has already proven that he’s capable of running fast enough to win this race, as the speed figures he earned for that stakes victories put him in the same league as My Boy Jack. However, it just feels like they’re rushing him back to reach an unattainable target. Trainer Adam Kitchingman only gets a 53 Trainer Rating with runners coming off layoffs of this type. Furthermore, this colt is another pace presence in a field that features other speed.
#7, PONY UP (6-1): He closed steadily in the Jeff Ruby Steaks, but his best efforts have come on turf and synthetic surfaces. Todd Pletcher is giving him one more chance on the main track to see if he handles it, but it’s hard to envision him matching the late run of My Boy Jack assuming both get decent trips. His morning line price of 6-1 seems like a massive underlay.
#8, GRACIDA (12-1): He couldn’t chase down Battle At Sea in the stretch last time, and I don’t see any reason why he’d be a candidate to turn the tables here.
#9, NAVY ARMED GUARD (20-1): He finally broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs last time after a slew of attempts at short prices. He has run some decent speed figures at times, but this seems like an unreasonably ambitious spot.
#10, ZANESVILLE (20-1): He didn’t run that much worse than Pony Up in the Jeff Ruby Steaks after a very wide trip. If you’re strictly comparing this runner to the Todd Pletcher trainee, does it really make sense that he should be a much higher price? After all, Zanesville actually is a better dirt horse and you could make the argument that he’s improving. I don’t think he’s a likely winner of this race by any stretch, but you could find worse longshots to throw into the exotics. I’ll use him underneath in trifectas.
#11, ARCHED FEATHER (20-1): His prior stakes efforts were not pretty. He’s another outsider.
#12, MY BOY JACK (5-2): He’s clearly the horse to beat here, but he does have some adversity to overcome. It’s never easy to break from the outside post position in a 12-horse field, but it’s especially difficult going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland. They don’t break that far from the clubhouse turn and they end the race at the first finish line. Therefore, a large portion of this race will be run around the turns. Kent Desormeaux will probably do exactly what he did last time in the Louisiana Derby, where he guided My Boy Jack to last pace far behind the rest and made one late run in attempt to pass them all. However, he will have to commence that rally earlier than he did at the Fair Grounds, where the long stretch gave him plenty of time to catch up to the leaders. I had been a little skeptical of My Boy Jack following his bias-aided win in the Southwest, but he confirmed his improvement last time despite hanging badly at the end of that race. I think he’s the most likely winner here, but he’s unlikely to offer much value.
I respect My Boy Jack (#12), but I don’t want to bet him as the favorite. I’m instead taking a shot with the improving Honor Up (#4), who should go off at a decent price. This is a big step up in class, but I like the uncharacteristically confident handling by his connections.
Exacta Key Box: 4 with 2,6,12
Trifecta: 4,12 with 4,12 with 1,2,6,7,10
Trifecta: 4,12 with 2,6,10 with 4,12