Prep season is over for the leading contenders in this year's Kentucky Derby, but two "wild card" races remain to offer longshots a chance at making the field.
The $200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland is one of those events, worth 20 points and a potential place in the Derby starting gate. Still, when 11 contenders line up April 20 in what has traditionally been a last-ditch effort to make the Derby field, plans for two do not involve the first Saturday in May.
Trainer Ken McPeek, who last weekend sent out Java's War to win the Toyota Blue Grass and Frac Daddy as the Arkansas Derby runner up, will send the filly Pure Fun to the Lexington in search of points, but not for the Derby. Instead, Magdalena Racing's 3-year-old daughter of Pure Prize hopes to make the field for the Kentucky Oaks.
LEXINGTON STAKES DRAW
Derby points earned by a filly in open company are transferrable to the Oaks, so the 20 points on the line for the winner of the Lexington would put Pure Fun into the 14-horse field for the filly Classic. After a third-place finish in the March 23 Fathead Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park, she has 20 points toward the Oaks -- which currently has a 34-point cutoff. Rosie Napravnik rides from the outside post.
Twenty points is the "bubble" to make the 20-horse Derby field. Blue Grass third-place finisher Charming Kitten and Code West, sixth in the Louisiana Derby, both have 20 points and come in on the list at 20 and 21.
Team Valor International's Cerro will also use the Lexington to target a race other than the Derby -- according to Team Valor president and CEO Barry Irwin, the Mr. Greeley colt who is co-owned by Olympic swimming superstar Michael Phelps will hope to springboard success in this start to a berth in the May 18 Preakness Stakes. Cerro last ran sixth in the Feb. 23 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II); he will be piloted by Keeneland's leading rider Joel Rosario from the eight hole under a 118-pound impost.
Of the remaining nine starters in the field for the Coolmore Lexington, four others exit traditional Derby preps.
Brittlyn Stable's homebred Sunbean won three in a row, including the Feb. 23 Gentilly Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots before finishing eighth with a bad trip in the Louisiana Derby for trainer Al Stall Jr. The Brahms colt has been transferred to trainer Mike Maker since then and was supplemented to the Lexington; he carries top weight of 120 pounds and will be ridden by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens from post 6.
Carolyn Vogel's Pick of the Litter broke his maiden by 7 1/2 lengths going 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park Feb. 27, but was sixth in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby for trainer Dale Romans. Jesus Castanon gets the mount from the 2 hole on the son of Kitten's Joy .
Hip Four Sixtynine finished 11th of 14 in the Louisiana Derby. The Southern Image colt was ambitiously placed in that event after breaking his maiden going six furlongs on the seventh try for trainer Bobby Barnett.
WinStar Farm's General Election was 10th in the March 23 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes after winning the John Battaglia Memorial, the traditional Spiral prep, for trainer Kellyn Gorder.
Allowance victors Winning Cause, Examen, River Rocks, Where's Dominic, and Wings of Fortune complete the field.
The final "Wild Card" qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby field is the April 27 Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs, also worth 20 points.