The Brock Talk

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Look For Lexington Winner Later

While Keeneland’s Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. 2) has not produced the number of Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1) winners as its fellow grade 1 stakes leading up to the Run for the Roses, its graduates have been heard from later in the Triple Crown.

In the previous 40 runnings of the Lexington, only 1999 winner Charismatic has gone on to adorn the blanket of roses at Churchill Downs. This year, only Silver Medallion, with his $184,334 in graded earnings, is the only probable Lexington starter with a chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby - and he probably needs the winner’s share of the $200,000 purse to do so.

Much of this, it can be assumed, is due to the fact that the Lexington is usually run just two weeks before the Kentucky Derby. Not including the grade 3 Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial Stakes (gr. 3) run at Churchill, the Lexington Stakes is sometimes thought of as that last chance to get the big dance. The Derby Trial is just seven days before the Kentucky Derby and is run at one mile - not the best conditions under which to prepare for the 1-1/4 mile Derby a week later.

The first and second Lexington Stakes were in 1936 and 1937 before being run as an overnight stake from 1938 to 1941 The Lexington was discontinued for the next 24 years but was run as the overnight Calumet Purse from 1973 to 1983 when the race was reinstalled into the Keeneland stakes schedule.

Our Native won the renewed 1-1/16 mile Lexington in 1973 but as one might suspect, 1973 was not a good year to attempt much in any of the Triple Crown races other than chase home Secretariat. And that is what Our Native did, finishing third behind second-place Sham in both the Derby and Preakness. However, the son of Exclusive Native would go on to win the Monmouth Invitational Handicap (gr. 1) and Ohio Derby (gr. 2) later that year.

Two years later, trainer Smiley Adams brought Master Derby to Keeneland from Fair Grounds where he won both the Louisiana Derby trial and Louisiana Derby. Pointed for the Kentucky Derby, Master Derby won both the Lexington Stakes and Blue Grass at Keeneland but could only muster a fourth behind Foolish Pleasure in the Kentucky Derby. Master Derby avenged that loss two weeks later by taking the Preakness Stakes and becoming the first in a long line of Lexington winners to do so.

Seven years after Our Native won his Lexington, his son Rockhill Native took the 1980 Lexington and Blue Grass but could only manage a fifth in the Derby behind winner Genuine Risk and a third in the Belmont Stakes behind Temperence Hill.

The 1988 Lexington Stakes was perhaps one of the more exciting in the race’s sporadic history with plenty of Triple Crown influence to come later.

Hall of Fame trainer Woody Stephens came to Lexington with Forty Niner, the Claiborne farm home-bred son of Mr. Prospector and champion 2-year-old colt the year before. After winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in his 3-year-old debut, Forty Niner was upset by 32-1 long shot Brian’s Time in the Florida Derby. Wanting another race before the Kentucky Derby, Stephens opted for the Lexington.

Meanwhile New Orleans trainer Louie Roussel had been winning the Louisiana Derby Trial and Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds with his giant young son of Secretariat, Risen Star.

Around the far turn in the 1989 Lexington Stakes, Forty Niner looked as if he was comfortable on the lead and on his way to victory. But Risen Star had other intentions. Loping along comfortably in third leaving the half-mile marker, Risen Star accelerated so suddenly that new rider Jacinto Vasquez was concerned more with keeping Risen Star from running over Forty Niner than passing him as he stood in the saddle and steered with both hands. Forty Niner and jockey Pat Day came out of the turn in front, but by now Risen Star had carried Vasquez to the outside and within a few strides was even with Forty Niner. The two bobbed heads down the entire stretch with Risen Star getting to the finish first, but only by a head.

When the two got to the Kentucky Derby, they found themselves chasing the brilliantly fast filly Winning Colors and her jockey Gary Stevens. Both Forty Niner and Risen Star rallied to catch the fast filly but Forty Niner fell a head short in second. After the Vasquez ride in the Lexington, Roussel gave the Derby mount to Eddie Delahoussaye. Delahoussaye kept Risen Star clear in the Derby, but was forced to circle the entire field on the far turn before managing an unmenacing third.

That’s when the fun began.

Following the Derby, Pat Day vowed to not let Gary Stevens put his filly alone on the lead in the Preakness. Stevens took offense to the comments and the two future Hall of Fame riders went into the Preakness with plenty of bad blood between them.

Just as he promised before the Preakness, Day immediately put Forty Niner to the inside of Winning Colors and the two jockeys and horses bumped and fought each other the entire race. Day took Stevens and Winning Colors wide in the first turn and the two leaders found themselves running far from the rail and away from what was believed to be a slow inside part of the track that day at Pimlico. This time, Delahoussaye kept Risen Star closer in third when he again found his stride around the far turn. Delahoussaye took advantage of the large hole left on the rail and within moments had moved to the inside of the two leaders and passed them with ease. Risen Star pulled away at the top and easily won the Preakness by just less than two lengths over a charging Brian's Time in second.

The speed dual took its toll on both frontrunners as Winning Colors finished third while Forty Nine faded to seventh.

The 1-1/2 mile Belmont Stakes was no contest as the tall and long-striding Risen Star won the third leg of the Triple Crown by 14-1/2 lengths.

In 1991, Hansel would give jockey Jerry Bailey his third of a six Lexington Stakes, a record that stands today. Hansel would be a disappointing tenth in the Derby but would then come back to become the third Lexington winner to take the Preakness.

The winner of the 1997 Lexington, Touch Gold, would not run in either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, both races won by Silver Charm and trainer Bob Baffert. But the Belmont would be where Touch Gold made his mark, upsetting Silver Charm and the hopes many fans had for the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed 19 years earlier.

So when watching the Coolmore Lexington Stakes this weekend, one might want to take a few notes. They may not be much help in picking the winner of the Kentucky Derby, but the could be very useful in the weeks to follow.

1 comment:


Hi There,

First of all, good luck with your betting quest, I am a big fan of certain betting strategies and will follow your progress with interest.

I was wondering if you would be interested in a link exchange with my blog?
If its not something you are interested in, no worries.


All the best!