With just two weeks remaining until the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), there is still some graded earnings jostling left for the final spots remaining in what promises to be a full field of 20. The $200,000 Coolmore Lexington (gr. III) at Keeneland could provide one horse with enough earnings to punch a ticket to the Big Dance.
Bob Baffert trainee Castaway is the most likely of the 11 horses entered in the April 21 Lexington that, should he win, could find himself in the starting gate on May 5 at Churchill Downs. The son of Street Sense enters the 1 1/16-mile Lexington with $162,000 of graded earnings. Another $120,000 from the winner’s share of this race would almost certainly give him enough earnings to make Derby, if that’s what the connections choose.
Castway, owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, enters off a disappointing seventh-place finish in the March 25 Sunland Derby (gr. III) as the favorite. The bay colt ran out of gas early just one start after winning the one-mile Southwest (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park in February.
He’s worked three times for Baffert at Santa Anita since the Sunland Derby, and is likely to go off as the favorite once again in the Lexington, which would be his first start on Polytrack since last September at Del Mar. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Castaway for the first time.
Even with a win in the Lexington, the other main contenders would still likely be on the outside looking in for the Derby. Morgan's Guerrilla has $100,000 of graded earnings just two weeks removed from running second in the Illinois Derby (gr. II) at Hawthorne Race Course in his stakes debut. The son of Ghostzapper is trained by Mike Maker, who won this event a year ago with Derby Kitten. Julien Leparoux has the mount.
News Pending, trained by Dale Romans, has a win in eight starts in his career, but his second-place effort in the Feb. 26 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (gr. II) was good for $80,000 in graded earnings. Last out, the son of Harlan's Holiday was seventh in the Florida Derby (gr. I).
News Pending, to be ridden by Kent Desormeaux, will make his first start on a synthetic surface. Romans and Desormeaux conquered the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) last weekend at Keeneland with Dullahan.
Golden Ticket, even with the $70,000 he earned from his runner-up finish in the March 10 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II), is not Derby-bound, but he should be a major contender in this race. On the board in all three races this year, the Speightstown colt also has two races over the Keeneland main track as a juvenile, including a third-place finish in a maiden contest. Manny Cruz will ride for Kenny McPeek.
Other key contenders are Summer Front and Holiday Promise. Summer Front will make his season debut, but was undefeated as a juvenile for trainer Christophe Clement, including a victory in the Dania Beach Stakes on the Gulfstream Park turf. All three of his starts have come on turf. Ramon Dominguez will keep the mount on the son of War Front .
Holiday Promise, from the barn of Todd Pletcher, earned $94,000 for his runner-up finish in the March 24 Vinery Racing Spiral (gr. III) at Turfway Park. Sent off at 25-1, he lost to the Derby-bound Went the Day Well by 3 1/2 lengths in his stakes debut. Junior Alvarado will be in the irons once again.