This week we head to Keeneland in the bluegrass state for a last gasp derby point race. The G3 Lexington Stakes will offer a $200,000 purse as well as 20-8-4-2 derby points for the top four finishers, respectively. With the 100-40-20-10 Arkansas Derby running the same day, this group has a few derby bubble horses just trying to find an easier spot to get a handful more of those coveted points. The race will be run at a distance of 1-1/16 miles around 2 turns on the dirt.
The Keeneland dirt course has been less than accommodating to any horse not near the lead. In Keeneland’s first week of racing, not a single winner came from farther back than 5th at the first call. So I will be looking for tactical speed and almost ignoring any deep closer types.
The field of 10 will be headlined by El Camino Real champion and Sunland Derby runner-up, Anothertwistafate. This colt is currently on the outside looking in with only 30 derby points and in 24th place so he will need at least a 2nd place finish to break in to the top 20.
There should be more than a few hopefuls looking to be on or near the pace with Keeneland’s front end bias. While Anothertwista fate has been on the lead in nearly all of his races, his early speed figures might not be good enough this week. Wesley Ward’s sprinter, Hawaiian Noises, will be making his first attempt at over 6-1/2 furlongs and only his 2nd attempt on the dirt. His sprinter’s speed will get him on the engine where he should be joined by Knicks Go and Zenden.
Owendale, Sueno and Shang should be sitting right behind the speedballs. And barring a ridiculous speed duel, I don’t see Roiland or Harvey Wallbanger being able to overcome the bias.
With this setup, I see Zenden blasting off from post 9 to cross over and get the perfect trip behind the sprinters to his inside. Zenden used this tactic in the Tampa Bay Derby from post 11, but in that race jockey Sammy Camacho took it to the extreme, guiding Zenden all the way to the front in ridiculous fractions of 22.79 and 45.85. In that race, Zenden hung on gamely thru midstretch where he was passed by Tacitus, who went on to win the Wood Memorial, Win win win, who then finished 2nd in the Bluegrass, and Outshine. With a jockey switch to Tyler Gaffalione, I see a more sensible judge of pace where Zenden is able to get up past the sprinters at the wire.
While I will take Zenden for the win in the Lexington, 1-1/16 miles may be his upper limit as his parents were not distance specialists. Though his grand-sire is Giants Causeway, Zenden’s mom and dad had average winning distances of 6.3 and 6.4 furlongs, so anything further than the Lexington distance is a real stretch. Let’s just take Zenden for the win this week and hope for better than his 6-1 morning line.
BONUS PICK: Omaha Beach for the win in the Arkansas Derby