Who Will Win the Lexington Stakes?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Six months after the series began, the 2022-23 Road to the Kentucky Derby wraps up with Saturday's running of the $400,000 Lexington S. (G3) at Keeneland.

The 1 1/16-mile contest awards Kentucky Derby (G1) qualification points on a 20-8-6-4-2 split to the top five finishers. That's not a lot of points, but it can be enough to shift the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and land a bubble horse safely in the Top 20.

That's the hope for #6 Disarm (7-2), who—to my surprise—is not the morning line favorite to win the Lexington. There are several viable win contenders in this competitive field, but if those 7-2 odds on Disarm hold up, I'll be keen to take advantage.

Disarm showed promise in two starts as a juvenile. The beautifully bred son of Gun Runner debuted in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Churchill Downs and rallied from off the pace to finish third behind Mo Strike, next-out winner of the Sanford (G3).

Then Disarm tackled a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Saratoga and rallied from midpack to trounce his rivals by 6 1/4 lengths. The field included future Holy Bull (G3) winner Rocket Can.

Disarm subsequently went to the sidelines and didn't run again until Feb. 19, when he overcame a slow start to finish second in a $100,000 allowance optional claimer racing one mile at Oaklawn. That effort was better than it appeared, for the closing fractions were strong and Disarm stayed on nicely against a gate-to-wire winner.

With this prep run under his belt, Disarm fired off a career-best performance in the Louisiana Derby (G2) last week. The early pace fractions were pedestrian (:24.71, :49.60, and 1:14.69), and the horses running 1-2-3 after the opening quarter-mile (Kingsbarns, Jace's Road, and Shopper's Revenge) stayed on to finish 1-3-4.

The pace picked up in the final half-mile, and the only horse to close ground against the victorious Kingsbarns was Disarm, who waited in traffic around the far turn before accelerating up the inside to finish second. He gained a length against Kingsbarns in the final furlong to finish 3 1/2 lengths behind while pulling 2 3/4 lengths clear of Jace's Road, so any way you slice it this was a big run from Disarm.

Running back three weeks later in the Lexington probably isn't the first choice for Disarm's connections, but I don't believe the quick turnaround will prove problematic. The Louisiana Derby wasn't a taxing race from a pace perspective, so Disarm is eligible to move forward in his third run of the season, especially if the early tempo is honest. I'm optimistic Disarm will deliver victory and qualify to the Kentucky Derby.

For second place, #5 First Mission (3-1) is the colt I want to back. The Brad Cox trainee ran gamely in his debut sprinting six furlongs at Fair Grounds, finishing second by less than one length against next-out allowance winner Bishops Bay. Then First Mission stretched out over 1 1/16 miles and dominated a Fair Grounds maiden special weight by 6 3/4 lengths.

First Mission is bred to run long and has some tactical speed, so he figures to sit a favorable trip and deliver a strong finish in the Lexington.

#8 Empirestrikesfast (4-1) is bound to be a popular choice after posting sharp Beyer and Brisnet speed figures in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park last month. The winner, Dreamlike, returned to finish third (beaten a head) in the Wood Memorial (G2) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, flattering Empirestrikesfast's performance. But the Wood Memorial wasn't the toughest race on paper, and Empirestrikesfast is facing a surprisingly deep Lexington field in his second career start. I wonder if this three-year-old gelding might be vulnerable at a relatively short price.

One longshot I'm intrigued to support for the minor awards is #9 Prairie Hawk (15-1). The son of Curlin ran well in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) last month, tracking the pace before fading in the final furlong to finish fourth. The winner (Tapit Trice) returned to win the Blue Grass (G1), while the fifth-place finisher (Lord Miles) came back to snag the Wood Memorial. Prairie Hawk is exiting a deep race and may outrun his odds under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Lexington?


Want to test your handicapping skills against fellow Unlocking Winners readers? Check out the Unlocking Winners contest page—there's a new challenge every week! (Please note: older contest entries can be found here.)


The Unlocking Winners Road to the Kentucky Derby Handicapping Challenge is back! Check out the special contest page to play along.

J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.

Recent Posts

More Blogs