Photo: Michael Wright
Behindatthebar comes from off the pace to take the Coolmore Lexington.
Two weeks ago, Todd Pletcher was sitting on the outside of the Derby picture looking in. Still, when the dust cleared from the final weekends of prep racing at Keeneland Race Course, the venerable trainer could count not one, but three potential contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Padua Stables and partners’ Behindatthebar followed the hard-knocking efforts of Monba and Cowboy Cal in the April 12 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) with an impressive performance of his own in the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II)(VIDEO
) at the Lexington oval April 19. The son of Forest Wildcat
rolled back into competition in the 1 1/8-mile event just 16 days after winning a 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita allowance event by a handy four lengths April 3. And although Pletcher called a start in the Derby “unlikely” for the colt, the $201,500 share of the purse boosted Behindatthebar to 18th
on the graded earnings list for horses looking to enter the May 3 event.
The Lexington brought to mind a similar prep race at Keeneland - the 2006 running of the Blue Grass Stakes, when the Bob Baffert-trained Sinister Minister smoked the field. In this race Baffert saddled the Songandaprayer
colt Samba Rooster, who went jetting to the front to open a four length lead under Garrett Gomez through a quarter in :22.78. The sizzling fractions continued as St. Joe tracked along in second and Riley Tucker was third going the half in :45.21.
In an uncharacteristic sight up the backside before a Saturday crowd of 26,072, the field spread out almost single file with a dynamic more suited to a race over dirt race than one on Keeneland’s Polytrack. Behindatthebar was well back in ninth, but the Pletcher trainee began to pick up horses as they went three-quarters in 1:09.48.
“I love it when I see those quick, quick fractions on the lead,” said jockey David Flores. “I was just on cruise control on this horse. He started picking up horses at the five-eighths (pole) and I just tried to relax. On the turn he went to a different stride.”
Samba Rooster was still the one to catch when the field turned for home through a mile in 1:35.47, while Behindatthebar was fourth. Holding onto his lead into deep stretch, the Baffert trainee conceded in the final strides.
“I was trying to help him along,” Gomez said of Samba Rooster, whom he rode without a whip due to the colt’s aversion to being struck. “Sometimes on Polytrack that is speed favoring, a horse likes to try to run off – and he ran off with me for about a half mile. He finally came off the bit and turning for home he kept staying on and staying on. He kept fighting until the last jump.”
Gomez wasn’t the only jockey who had his hands full in the Lexington. Behindatthebar was keeping Flores busy as well as he drifted in with a furlong to go. After the jockey angled the colt back out, however, he finished up well to win by half a length. The final time was 1:42.14.
“We were impressed by this horse, not only today but by the way he ran in California,” said Pletcher. “Of course, we were concerned about coming back in 16 days but we knew he liked the synthetic surface so we figured we’d give it a shot.”
Behindatthebar returned $13.60, $7.60, and $5.20, while Samba Rooster paid $17 and $9.20 and Riley Tucker brought $6.80. Racecar Rhapsody, Big Glen, Tomcito, Salute the Sarge, Atoned, St. Joe, Red Sandy, and Felon completed the order of finish.
Bred in Kentucky by Dr. Frank Justice and Meadow Oaks Farm out of the Runaway Groom mare Rhiana, Behindatthebar now holds a career record of 3-1 from five starts. His only off the board finish was a fifth-place effort in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III), his single start over dirt.
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