Well, here we are, just over two weeks away from Derby 135. On paper, it is shaping up to be one of the most wide-open Derbys is recent memory. In fact, there have been seven horses that have won multiple prep races at a mile or over this season, and five of them will go on to Louisville.
This weekend, we have the last major Derby prep with the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. And while in recent years this race has not produced any major Derby contenders, it is still the final chance for horses to earn enough graded earnings to get into the dance. In essence, it's a "Win and You're In" race.
A quick reminder to join me right here for another live blog chat on Saturday, April 18 at noon EDT. We'll go over the Lexington in-depth and talk about all the major players in the Derby. Joining me for a second time will be Double Deuce from The WinnersForum.com. Deuce will give out free plays from several racetracks around the country.
Now, let's take a look at the Lexington:
On Paper, Square Eddie has a huge class edge over his 11 contenders. He is the only grade I winner and one of only two graded stakes winners in the field. He has the added bonus of having his graded stakes victory here at Keeneland, which of course came in the Breeders' Futurity last fall. He then ran a solid second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.
Of course, the big question mark with Square Eddie is how he will perform off a three-month layoff. He has the shin injury which caused him to miss more than a month of training. By all accounts, he is fit as can be, but we won't know if he is his former self until the race. In my opinion, just on class alone, he has to be included in all exotics. He'll likely be 2-1 or lower by post time, so we have to find some horses to hook him up with. I found three or four.
The first colt I'll take a look at is Jeranimo, who draws the inside post. This California shipper has hit the board in all four starts this season, and it is his last race that got my attention. Jeranimo ran third and was beaten only 2 1/4 lengths by Pioneerof the Nile in the San Felipe on March 14 at Santa Anita. It seems that every horse that has been competitive against Pioneerof the Nile this season has come east to run well in preps. Jeranimo has had all four of his starts over synthetics and his last two have been at the Lexington distance of 1 1/16 miles.
The second horse I'll look at is Omniscient, a well-bred son of Pulpit. Unraced as a juvenile, he has won two of his three starts this season, both at Fair Grounds. He earned solid speed figures in both. He has had three works at Keeneland, including a bullet move on April 7. It looks as though he has enough speed to be forwardly placed. And of course, having Steve Asmussen as his trainer doesn't hurt. Asmussen, the leading trainer in the country, doesn't have a Derby horse this year. Maybe this is the one.
I may also throw in Hull, who was a runaway winner in both of his starts. His last was a 6 1/2-furlong allowance sprint on the Turfway Polytrack when he won by eight lengths. This is his first time stretching out to two turns and he does break from post 12, but he has enough speed to get into striking position. Miguel Mena is a very underrated rider at Keeneland and the owners, Heiligbrodt Racing, win an awful lot of races at this track.
El Crespo, the other graded stakes winner in the field, and Brave Victory, who has faced some tough customers in his career, are the other horses I will consider.
This race is a scramble, any way you look at it. It always is. After Square Eddie, there is no real standout and in my opinion, no real Derby contenders. There are unlimited way to play it, but I will likely box four of five of the above horses in an exacta. The ones I choose will depend on the prices.
For now, I'll say a box with Square Eddie, Jeranimo and Omniscient for sure. I will decide between Hull, El Crespo and Brave Victory after seeing them in the paddock on Saturday.
Good luck to everyone. Who do you like?