Five things to know for the 2018 Lexington Stakes
Although Saturday’s $200,000 Lexington S. (G3) at Keeneland is worth only 20 Kentucky Derby (G1) points to the winner, that could be the make-or-break amount for My Boy Jack to secure a spot in the Run for the Roses.
Hence he’s the obvious lead in my five things to know:
1. My Boy Jack wouldn’t be here if he’d found an extra half-length in the Louisiana Derby (G2). As the Keith Desormeaux trainee uncorked a gigantic move on the far turn at Fair Grounds, and straightened for home with all the momentum, he looked on his way to a 100-point coup. But the wide trip, and lengthy stretch, combined to sap him late, and My Boy Jack flattened just enough to let Noble Indy fight back on the rail and Lone Sailor edge him for second. The 20 points for third gave My Boy Jack a total of 32, his previous points coming via a daylight score in the Southwest (G3) and a third to McKinzie in the Sham (G3).
Going into Saturday’s final two scoring races, the Lexington and the Arkansas Derby (G1), My Boy Jack sits precariously in 21st on the leaderboard (with the 20th spot occupied by European Road winner Gronkowski). Three of the principals at Oaklawn – Magnum Moon, Solomini, and Quip – are already ahead of him in the standings, and a logical result there would help My Boy Jack’s cause. But Combatant (see below), among others, can leapfrog him.
My Boy Jack can help himself by winning the Lexington, and the forecast may be smiling upon him. The storm system that’s hitting Oaklawn Friday evening, but expected to move out for an improved Arkansas Derby Day, will be rolling through the Bluegrass on Saturday. Will it arrive soon enough, and hard enough, for the track to be as muddy as his Southwest romp? Of course, he’s effective on a fast surface too, as we saw at Fair Grounds, and post 12 shouldn’t be a hindrance for a horse with his one-run style. But the closer will have to kick into gear early again to get up in Keeneland’s short stretch for a 1 1/16-mile race. A second-place effort, worth 8 points, would bring him up to 40 – possibly sufficient, but a win would give him more cushion. And from a larger viewpoint of Derby competitiveness, Desormeaux believes that My Boy Jack has to win to belong at Churchill Downs, as his pointed comments to the Blood-Horse reveal.
2. Greyvitos launches his long-awaited comeback from knee surgery. Easy to root for as a survivor of the Lilac Fire that devastated his San Luis Rey training base, the Adam Kitchingman trainee has had his form flattered since he was sidelined by injury. The well-bred son of Malibu Moon and multiple Grade 3 vixen Snow Top Mountain broke his maiden at odds of 19-1 in the Bob Hope (G3), and came right back to overcome post 12 in the Springboard Mile at Remington. The Springboard Mile runner-up, Combatant, has emerged as a consistent factor throughout Oaklawn’s points races, a profile he’ll try to raise in the Arkansas Derby.
Greyvitos’ 10 Derby points from Remington give connections hope that he still has a chance of making it to Churchill Downs with a strong effort off the bench on Saturday. A win would bump him up to 30 points, but unless things fall his way over the next three weeks, he may well end up on the outside looking in. At any rate, Greyvitos was a very likeable, progressive type before his setback, and regardless of whether he gets into the Derby, we should be hearing more from him as the season unfolds.
3. Telekinesis is a “superstar” according to trainer Mark Casse. A $470,000 Keeneland November weanling purchase by Stonestreet Stables, the Ghostzapper colt turned heads with a convincing debut victory sprinting at Fair Grounds. The Ontario-bred found himself named the winter book favorite for the Queen’s Plate, but obviously needed some more education. That’s the way to approach his allowance tilt in New Orleans on March 9. A superficial glance at a third-place finish in a five-horse field, as the 3-5 favorite, would give pause – except for the fact that he was tackling older horses while stretching out to 1 1/16 miles. Telekinesis should have learned from that experience, and now he picks up Javier Castellano for his first proper test of class versus his contemporaries.
4. Honor Up, second to Audible in a New York-bred maiden, makes his overdue stakes debut. That formline has taken on new proportions after Audible’s conquests of the Holy Bull (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Although Audible has clearly improved since their November meeting, Honor Up also moved forward when trouncing state-breds when last seen in a December 9 maiden. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott reportedly planned to run in the Jerome, a Derby points race, rather than the Damon Runyon for New York-breds. Unfortunately, Honor Up ended up missing that engagement and resumes in this spot, which also marks his two-turn debut and his first try against open company. The full brother to Maxxam Gold Cup hero (and last year’s Spiral [G3] runner-up) Blueridge Traveler should enjoy the distance if he’s good enough.
5. Several others can test the relative merits of their stakes form. Jerome runner-up Seven Trumpets hasn’t backed that up when fading in the Southwest and settling for fourth in the Sunland Derby (G3). Although Pony Up was a near-miss second in Turfway’s Jeff Ruby Steaks (sic), the synthetic/turf performer needs to show more on dirt than his remote fifth in the Holy Bull. Jeff Ruby fourth Zanesville is worth a longshot look, for the Tom Amoss pupil is by Tiznow and out of an Unbridled’s Song half to Stardom Bound. Mike Maker’s Crescent City Derby winner Battle at Sea and third-placer Gracida (who adds blinkers for Doug O’Neill) have more to prove, as do last-out maiden winner Navy Armed Guard (a remote fifth in the Sam F. Davis [G3]) and Arched Feather, up the track in both the Smarty Jones and John Battaglia. Magicalmeister, the 39-1 Battaglia upsetter, was only 10th in the Jeff Ruby and a long-way fifth to Exclamation Point in Thursday’s 6TH race.
My Boy Jack photo courtesy of Coady Photography