Derby "hardly an option" for Belgravia.

Derby "hardly an option" for Belgravia.


Haskin's Lexington Preview: And Then There Was One

There is still a small crack in the door to get into the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Whether anyone in Saturday’s Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) can squeeze in at the last minute is another matter.

With last year’s Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) winner Belgravia making his first start of the year, the Derby is hardly an option. Although, with all the new ground being paved this year, you never know what trainers and owners are going to do. But the thought of running a horse in the Derby off one start this year seems a bit far-fetched, even in such a bizarre year.

George Bolton, co-owner of Forty Grams, third in the Southwest Stakes and WinStar Derby, said the Kentucky Derby is not in the plans for the son of Distorted Humor . So, we can only assume that he is not Derby-bound, regardless of whether he wins or not. The key word is assume. Besides, Bolton and trainer Steve Asmussen already have a pretty fair horse in Derby named Curlin.

Joe Got Even has never been out of the money in six starts on Polytrack, but has been badly beaten in his two “dirt” races, both at Churchill Downs. So, one would think it folly to run back in the Derby, even if he wins the Lexington impressively.

Trust Your Luck is coming off a solid second to Dominican in the Rushaway Stakes, but here we go again. The son of Mr. Greeley has a first, a second, and a third in his three Polytrack races at Turfway Park, but was beaten 20 lengths in his only “dirt” race, again at Churchill Downs.

So, is there any horse in the Lexington who could win and actually come back in two weeks for the Run For the Roses without having the specter of Polytrack or lack of seasoning hanging over his head?

Of course there is. And he’s trained by Todd Pletcher no less. D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito share the record of saddling a Fab Five in a single Derby. The addition of Soaring By to the Derby could give Pletcher an unprecedented Super Six.

That is not to say the Derby is in the plans of Soaring By. The colt’s owner, Dogwood Stable, has left its mark on the Derby, finishing second, third, and fourth, and would love nothing more than to join the Pletcher party. But whether it is realistic, we’ll know after the race.

Soaring By needs a class check, having won only on a maiden and allowance race in four career starts, and the Lexington would provide a minor one at best. It is unfortunate that the son of Deputy Minister reared in the starting gate before the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), busting through the doors, and basically knocking himself out of the race in more ways than one.

He did come back from that ordeal to win a nine-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream by 3 1/4 lengths at 4-5, but really didn’t beat much. At this point, it looks as if Soaring By, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado, has a bright future in stakes company. Whether that future starts with a giant leap into the Kentucky Derby remains to be seen.

OK, enough of the Kentucky Derby. The Lexington on its own is a major boost to any horse’s resume, and this should be a competitive affair. Of course, you never know how big a part Polytrack will have in the outcome, and Soaring By and Forty Grams are going to have to knock off some tough Polytrack lovers. Even the lightly raced Canadian invader Boogiemanball is two-for-two over Woodbine’s synthetic surface.

One intriguing horse is the Anthony Reinstedler-trained Moyer’s Pond, who will be making his Polytrack debut following two wins and a second at Oaklawn Park, including a nice stretch-out score in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race.

And one cannot forget about Mr. Lukas, who has had great success in the Lexington, using the race as a prep for Derby winner Charismatic, Derby runner-up Proud Citizen, and Derby third-place finisher Prince of Thieves. This year, he has all but run out of bullets, but will see what he can salvage from Starbase, who is coming off poor efforts in the Southwest and Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) after winning an Oaklawn allowance race back in January.

Sacrifice Bunt has won only one of six starts, but ran a decent fourth in the Illinois Derby (gr. II). The connections of Slew’s Tizzy are hoping a return to Polytrack will help following a terrible race in the Louisiana Derby.

But when you get right down to it, the race should come down to Soaring By, Forty Grams, Belgravia, and Joe Got Even. Expect a much improved effort from Forty Grams, who was awesome winning an allowance race by 13 lengths at Fair Grounds. His last two didn’t work out the way his connections had hoped, but if he can make the adjustment to Polytrack, he could bounce back with a big race in here. If speed is holding up, Soaring By will be the horse to beat. If speed is not holding up, then Belgravia could come flying late and nail everyone. Joe Got Even should run his race regardless of how the track is playing.