Five things to know for the Lexington

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

April 15th, 2017

The $200,000 Lexington (G3) at Keeneland has yielded last-minute Kentucky Derby (G1) candidates in the past, but Saturday’s renewal, with a mere 10 points to the winner, doesn’t figure to have much bearing on the leaderboard. Instead, the 1 1/16-mile contest will likely serve as a springboard to other upcoming stakes, chief among them the May 20 Preakness (G1).

Here are my five things to know about the Lexington:

1. No Dozing, a no-show in two tries at Tampa Bay Downs, returns to Keeneland in hopes of returning to form. In his only previous appearance at this track, the Lael Stables homebred was a meritorious fourth in last October’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1). The way he traveled through that race, and moved up smartly before tiring in his two-turn debut, stamped him as a youngster to follow.

Unfortunately, No Dozing has yet to make good on that impression, and there’s only so much he can keep hitting the “snooze” button. His second in the Remsen (G2) looked better at the time than with the benefit of hindsight, since the form has been shredded ever since. No Dozing let the form down badly himself when a non-threatening sixth behind McCraken in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and a fading fourth to Tapwrit in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

Trainer Arnaud Delacour’s working theory is that No Dozing simply didn’t act as well over the Tampa surface. The Lexington will help determine whether he’s the promising sort many (myself included) thought he was, or if his sights need to be lowered. The rider switch to Joel Rosario could be a galvanizing influence.

If the son of Union Rags does come to life, the Preakness could be on the agenda, just as it was for the same connections’ Divining Rod. Likewise trained by Delacour for the Jacksons’ Lael Stables, Divining Rod won the 2015 Lexington before finishing third to American Pharoah at Pimlico. No Dozing has 10 Derby points on his ledger, but he’s not currently under consideration for the Run for the Roses. Whatever points he earns Saturday appear to be of archival interest only.

2. West Coast, the 3-1 morning-line favorite, steps up off a maiden score for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. At one point in the mix for the Santa Anita Derby (G1), the twice-raced colt swerved it in favor of making his stakes debut in this spot.

By Flatter and out of 2000 champion juvenile filly Caressing, the $425,000 Keeneland September yearling didn’t get to the races until February. He improved from a closing second to stablemate Bronze Age (who was eased as the favorite in the Sunland Derby [G3]) to break his maiden handily, over this trip, at Santa Anita. West Coast wore blinkers in his first try, ditched them in his win, and dons them again here. Baffert has a 31 percent strike rate when putting the blinkers back on, according to the Brisnet stats.

West Coast’s early speed will help him secure decent position despite drawing post 10 – the same far outside draw that presented no problem for Baffert’s Collected in last year’s Lexington. Yet Collected was a lot more seasoned at that stage, as the winner of the Sham (G3) and Sunland Derby substitute race before arriving at Keeneland. His Lexington romp propelled him into the Preakness, where he retreated to 10th and headed to the sidelines. For West Coast to follow Collected on the Lexington honor roll, his talent has to overcome his inexperience.

3. Dominant Gulfstream maiden winner Time to Travel stretches out in his first stakes attempt. A full brother to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Hard Not to Like, he was fourth on debut to well-regarded Timeline, who came back to trounce an Aqueduct allowance. Time to Travel subsequently ran them ragged in an April 1 Gulfstream maiden, reeling off seven furlongs in 1:21.84. The Ontario-bred thereby burst onto the Queen’s Plate radar screen, and ranks as the co-second choice with No Dozing at 4-1 here.

As an inexperienced colt making his third career start, Time to Travel is similar to West Coast. But there are three key differences: Time to Travel has yet to try two turns, he’s wheeling back on two weeks’ rest, and he’s switched to a new barn. Owner/breeder Garland Williamson transferred him from Rachel Halden to Michael Matz after his maiden score, so the hot prospect is having to deal with a few things at once.

4. Convict Pike, 31st on the points list at the moment, is the only Lexington contender active on the Derby leaderboard. (No Dozing’s name, by contrast, is literally struck through on the points list as a horse not pursuing the Derby.)

The Rusty Arnold pupil earned his 10 Derby points by finishing third in the Spiral (G3) over Turfway’s Polytrack, and he’ll try to double his total to 20 with a win.

Although more is required of him here, Convict Pike may be capable. Jockey Angel Cruz, in response to a Twitter inquiry about the Spiral, commented: “I had plenty of horse, he's still figuring out how to win. Rusty will get him there.” Arnold, who wins at a 27 percent clip when going from all-weather to dirt, is making an equipment change to blinkers. 

Convict Pike also has an intriguing formline from two starts back. In the OBS Championship on the synthetic, he was best of the rest behind Master Plan, who was previously second to Tapwrit at Gulfstream and later a hard-charging third to Thunder Snow in the UAE Derby (G2). Piecing the various clues together, Convict Pike has upset potential at 8-1.

5. Louisiana Derby (G2) sixth Senior Investment, Resiliency, and Souper Tapit will try to advertise the depth of Fair Grounds’ three-year-olds.

Senior Investment is the only contender who’s crossed the wire first in three races, but just two of them count. The Ken McPeek trainee was disqualified from a Fair Grounds allowance score over stablemate It’s Your Nickel (who later romped in the Battaglia Memorial and flopped in the Blue Grass [G2]) and Lexington foe Resiliency. Since both of his official wins have come at or near this distance, the slight cutback from the Louisiana Derby’s 1 1/8 miles could help Senior Investment.

Resiliency, a sharp debut scorer at Churchill Downs for Steve Asmussen, regained the winning thread in an ensuing Fair Grounds allowance. By Malibu Moon, in the headlines of late as the sire of Kentucky Oaks (G1) threat Farrell and Santa Anita Derby (G1) hero Gormley, Resiliency is out of a half-sister to turf star Chief Bearhart.

Souper Tapit has fashionable bloodlines as a son of Tapit and Grade 1 vixen Zo Impressive. The Live Oak Plantation homebred roused hopes with a last-to-first maiden win at Fair Grounds, but couldn’t land a blow against older allowance rivals next time over the Gentilly oval. Souper Tapit is a feisty work in progress for Mark Casse, and we’ll know more about where he is on the learning curve Saturday.  Interestingly, Florent Geroux, regular rider for both Souper Tapit and Resiliency, is aboard the latter.

Good luck deciphering the Lexington!

No Dozing cropped from Remsen photo by NYRA/Coglianese Photography/Robert Mauhar