Thursday, April 18, 2013
Updated: April 19, 3:34 PM ET
Hot List: Lexington Stakes
This weekend's race: Saturday, April 20, 2013
The Lexington, Keeneland
The Lexington may be considered a prep for the Kentucky Derby, but the key to getting to Louisville along this path involves an artificial means. Contested on Keeneland's synthetic Polytrack surface, the Lexington offers a complex test of speed, stamina and the ability to handle an all-weather track that's a far different beast from the standard dirt oval. Of the 11 starters in the Lexington, only one has raced at Keeneland and that seems like the best place to start with a selection. (1) WINNING CAUSE has run twice at Keeneland and owns two wins at 7 furlongs. He stretches out here but the late kick he displayed two weeks ago and his breeding indicates he should handle the assignment. (6) SUNBEAM ran into a traffic jam in the Louisiana Derby and with a clean trip should be a major factor here -- if he handles Polytrack. (2) PICK OF THE LITTER turned in a huge effort in a maiden win and then flopped in the Florida Derby. He faces an easier assignment here and his breeding as a son of Kitten's Joy says he should be fine on a synthetic surface. Horses that can handle turf often run equally well on Polytrack so (9) WINGS OF FORTUNE deserves a close look off a promising effort in a Fair Grounds grass race.
Last weekend's races
Blue Grass Stakes
When he forged to the front at the sixteenth pole, B List choice Palace Malice seemed well on his way to victory in the Blue Grass and acclaim as a key contender for the Kentucky Derby. But a lot changed in that final half-furlong. Palace Malice's strides shortened up enough so that he was collared in the final strides by Java's War, who had rallied from last in the field of 14. Both horses, as well as third-place finisher Charming Kitten, are bound for Churchill Downs, but without much support from this corner. First off the final time of 1:50.27 was unimpressive. Beyond that, while Java's War displayed a nice closing kick, unless they switch riders to Calvin Borel it seems unlikely that he'll successfully weave his way through traffic in a 20-horse-field. Charming Kitten, meanwhile, has to prove he can run on something other than grass or synthetics to be taken seriously on the first Saturday in May. Palace Malice probably has the best chance of improving since he didn't seem to like Polytrack and should be more formidable on dirt. Still, we can't picture him in a spot above the bottom of the superfecta at 10 furlongs. Beyond them, the only horse in the field who earned a spot on the Hot List was a bit of surprise. Dynamic Sky was 15-1 while being loaded in the starting gate but went off at 9-1. He didn't fire, finishing 9th, nearly 10 lengths behind Java's War. Yet someone clearly liked something about him. So based on meeting the Hot List criteria of at least a four-point drop we'll place him on the D List and hope he finds weaker company more to his liking next time.
Overanalyze jumped back into the Kentucky Derby picture, rallying from seventh to take the Arkansas Derby, yet it wasn't enough to place him among the leading Triple Crown contenders. The final time of 1:51.94 was mediocre and a poor start at two at Churchill Downs is enough to convince us to look elsewhere for a Derby winner. Frac Daddy was squeezed a bit late in the stretch and ran on to get second in a good effort, but good is well below par when the next target is a Triple Crown race. The key horse to watch next time is probably the pacesetting Falling Sky, provided it's at a mile or less.
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Hot List Key
A List: A preferred horse to watch
B List: Secondary horse to watch
*C List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 1st through 3rd
*D List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 4th or worse
* - 4 or more betting notches if 11-1 or more.
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