Six weeks ago WinStar Farm looked as though it would be without a starter in the upcoming Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Now, the powerful outfit could have three, the final potential starter coming thanks to a eye-catching, last-to-first victory by Advice in the $300,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) April 18 on the Keeneland Polytrack.
WinStar, which has had two Derby starters in each of the past three years, also owns Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) winner Hold Me Back and California-based Mr. Hot Stuff. Both colts appear headed to Louisville.
Advice, who had only a maiden win to show from five lifetime starts, broke from post 11 in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington, the final major Derby prep. He was immediately steered toward the fence by Garrett Gomez, and the son of Chapel Royal was content to save ground at the back of the field until the late stages of the final turn.
Still behind a wall of horses entering the lane, Advice was swung wide by Gomez for his winning move. Now in striking position at the top of the lane, the dark bay or brown colt set his sights on Square Eddie , who had made his own powerful move around the far turn to take a comfortable lead in upper stretch. Advice stormed to the front inside the sixteenth-pole and powered home for a one length score.
"I actually had a good trip from the 11-hole," said Gomez. "(Square Eddie) kind of got left (at the starting gate), it looked like. I just kind of clocked him the whole way and followed him from there. I just took my time with this horse, and he gave me real confidence".
Phipps Stable’s Conservative also made a huge run from the middle of the racetrack to get up for second under Kent Desormeaux, a length better than 7-5 favorite Square Eddie, who was making his first start since January with Edgar Prado aboard. Masala was fourth in a field of 11 3-year-olds.
Pitched Perfectly, ridden by Alan Garcia, set the pace in the Lexington, posting fractions of :23.80, :47.90, and 1:12.56 before tiring. Masala, Parade Clown, and Omniscient were also close up in the early going.
Advice, who earned $186,000 for the win, entered the Lexington off a fifth-place finish in the March 29 Sunland Derby while being ridden by John Velazquez. He was third in an allowance test in February at Santa Anita, his only other start this season. Advice was ninth to Square Eddie in last year’s Lane's End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland.
“He’s a horse that is still putting it all together, but has a lot of talent,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who watched the race from Florida. “He’s still a touch green, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best from him.
“I think the smart thing to do is to see how he comes out of it and keep our options open. But he never gets tired. He has a lot of stamina. Two weeks (rest) is okay for him. We won’t rule out (the Derby) but won’t commit right now either.”
Bred in Florida by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Rogers Jr., Advice is out of the Hennessy mare Word o’ Wisdom. A $170,000 2-year-old purchase, he is now 2-0-2 from six starts with earnings of $261,885.
Advice paid $33.60, $15 and $7.80. The exacta (11-7) returned $441.20 and the trifecta (11-7-8) was worth $1,901.
Pitched Perfectly finished fifth, followed by Jeranimo, Brave Victory, Parade Clown, Omniscient, El Crespo, and His Greatness. Hull was scratched.
Square Eddie, who has plenty of earnings to get into the Derby, seems likley to go on to Louisville after a solid effort off his three-month layoff.
"I'm extremely proud of his effort," said trainer Doug O'Neill. "He ran a dynamite race. With a clean break, I think he would have been right there. I would think we would go (to the Derby)."
A crowd of 33,680 was announced, the second largest in Keeneland history.