It looks like trainer D. Wayne Lukas will be bringing another surprise package to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) after his lightly regarded colt Scrimshaw and jockey Edgar Prado scored a three-length victory in Saturday's $363,675 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) for 3-year-olds at Keeneland.
Lukas indicated afterward that he would like to send the Robert and Beverly Lewis-owned son of Gulch to the Derby on May 3 at Churchill Downs depending on the owners' wishes. Scrimshaw's victory marked the third time in five years that a Lukas-trained horse has won the Lexington. His Charismatic went on to win the Run for the Roses in 1999 and Proud Citizen posted a second-place finish last year.
"I think Edgar rode him well," said Lukas. "He had to sit and wait and he showed great patience throughout the race.
"I have to talk to Bob and Beverly Lewis. I'm so happy for them. I thought this was a very tough race. This race sets up well for us."
Purchased by the Lewis' for $550,000 at Keeneland's 2002 April Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale, Scrimshaw won his only two starts at age 2 before finishing third in the Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II) and fourth in the Hutcheson Stakes at 3.
Scrimshaw hadn't raced since undergoing minor throat surgery following the Hutcheson (gr. II) at Gulfstream on Feb. 15. He was making just his fifth start while registering his first stakes victory with an eventful trip.
"I have never thought you had to look good in February," Lukas said. "This race fits our program. I knew I was behind the eight ball with this horse. But he has a lot of talent. I always thought he was our best horse. But we now have to put it all together in a couple of weeks."
The winning time for the 1 1/16-mile Lexington was 1:45 2/5.
Breaking from the one hole in the field of seven, he bobbled at the start and veered outward. Prado checked him lightly while entering the first turn behind the pacesetting Trust N Luck when bumped by Ministers Wild Cat. After that, he was able to rate along the rail as several vied behind Trust N Luck, who posted fractions of :23, :47 and 1:11 3/5 while maintaining at least a length advantage until entering the stretch.
Patiently saving ground to that point, Scrimshaw swung three wide and took control while approaching the final furlong and continued home powerfully under strong urging from Prado.
"Everything worked out beautifully," said Prado, who won Keeneland's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) a week ago with Peace Rules. "It was a little crowded in the first turn but I was patient and just waited.
"Things kind of split open at the quarter pole and I got through. He was looking around at the end so I just tried to keep his mind on his business."
Eye of the Tiger, a Northern California invader with Robby Albarado aboard, made a four-wide move in the stretch after taking back due to a bumping incident and closed well to edge the Bob Baffert-trained Domestic Dispute and jockey Jerry Bailey for second by a neck. Trust N Luck was another neck back in fourth.
"It took me a while to find a comfortable place to run, but when I finally did my horse ran well," said Albarado. "Take nothing away from the winner however, that was an impressive performance."
"It was a good effort," said Bailey. "Bob (Baffert) told me that he (Domestic Dispute) needs to be outside, but you can't give up that much ground on this track."
Ministers Wild Cat, the 2-1 favorite, bumped repeatedly early and was steadied into the first turn, tiring late after pressing the pace to finish fifth.
The victory, Scrimshaw's third, was worth $225,479, pushing his career total to $308,879. Stan and Ingrid Stefanski bred Scrimshaw in Kentucky.
Sent off as the 6-1 fourth choice, Scrimshaw paid $14.60, $6.20 and $3.40. Eye of the Tiger returned $8.80 and $5. Domestic Dispute showed for $3.40. The $2 exacta was worth $87.40.