How to bet the 2018 Lexington Stakes
Hoping to find the path of least resistance to make one final push to the Kentucky Derby (G1), connections of My Boy Jack chose to roll the dice in Saturday's Lexington (G3) at Keeneland rather than in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park.
While a third-place finish or better in Arkansas would give him the necessary points, there is a lot less margin for error in the Lexington. A victory would give him 20 points and a ticket to Churchill Downs, while a second-place finish would keep him on the bubble.
The good news for his camp is that he indeed looks like the best horse on paper. Not that there aren't potential issues. The Keith Desormeaux trainee has developed a habit of taking back off the pace, displaying a brilliant turn of foot on the turn and running down most if not all his rivals. That worked well in a ground-saving run in the Southwest (G3), less so in the Louisiana Derby (G2) where he had to make up so much ground and ultimately couldn't sustain his momentum in the final furlong while very wide.
On Saturday, he travels a sixteenth of a mile shorter in the Lexington with a short stretch run, plus he's drawn a wide post (likely post 11 as Magicalmeister is a probable scratch after running Thursday). Post in general shouldn't hurt a horse with his running style, but he could still lose crucial ground into the first turn while hoping to avoid a wide journey.
Overall, he remains the horse to beat and is the most likely winner. We'll use him in our backup exotic plans as the top horse, but the race could still be ripe for an upset.
PONY UP also likes to rally from behind and has recently identified more as a turf/synthetic type. His poor showing in the Holy Bull (G2) two back is sure to dissuade some bettors, but that performance increasingly looks like an anomaly based on his overall record. He fared well enough in his debut on dirt last summer, and he almost got to a quality colt in Flameaway in a grass stakes three back. That one was a strong second in the Blue Grass (G2) last week. Perhaps Pony Up's biggest asset is that he hails from the Todd Pletcher barn, which has been tremendously throughout the classic prep season with a variety of horses.
We'll investment a little bit in the Win pool on Pony Up and key him and My Boy Jack on top in Exactas and Trifectas.
Among the others we'll use Telekineses, who has displayed good speed in his two starts but lacks relative seasoning; Seven Trumpets, who is capable of more than what he showed in the Southwest and Sunland Derby (G3); Honor Up, ambitiously-placed by the typically conservative Bill Mott, perhaps on the basis of a good show against Audible in maiden company last November; Greyvitos, who might be in need of a race coming off an injury; and longshot Zanesville, a son of Tiznow who's improved considerably around two turns since December.
$10 Win ($10)
Pony Up (7)
$6 Exacta wheel ($36)
Pony Up (7) and My Boy Jack (12) with Pony Up (7), My Boy Jack (12), Telekineses (2), and Honor Up (4).
$.50 Trifecta wheel ($15)
Pony Up and My Boy Jack with Pony Up, My Boy Jack, Telekineses, Honor Up with Pony Up, My Boy Jack, Telekineses, Seven Trumpets, Honor Up, Greyvitos, Zanesville