Keeneland will play host to the final race in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series when 11 sophomores line up in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington.
The 1 1/16-mile Polytrack contest will award points on a 10-4-2-1 basis, in line with the prep season races instead of the more lucrative championship series events that were worth 100-40-20-10. Nonetheless, the winner's share of 10 points could make the difference between obtaining a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby and being left in the barn.
Actually the only one in the field with even a shot at the Derby gate on the first Saturday in May is Ami's Holiday, who earned 10 points for capturing the Grey at Woodbine last October. The Josie Carroll-trained son of Harlan's Holiday has since finished fifth in the Coronation Futurity and third in the Display at the Canadian track. Those two races closed out Ami's Holiday juvenile season, and the bay colt will be making his three-year-old debut in the Lexington.
Robby Albarado has the call on Ami's Holiday, who will move up to 23rd on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with a win Saturday.
One of the main contenders in the Lexington is Solitary Ranger, who recorded back-to-back wins at Fair Grounds and Turfway Park, including a 4 ¾-length score in the John Battaglia Memorial, before fading to a subpar ninth in the Spiral last out in late March. Florent Geroux has been aboard Solitary Ranger ever since the U S Ranger colt took the Arlington-Washington Futurity last September 7 and retains the mount for trainer Wayne Catalano.
Mr Speaker is also in with a good chance following a half-length second in the grassy Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park last month. The bay son of Pulpit broke his maiden and captured the Dania Beach in his final two juvenile starts for trainer Shug McGaughey and keeps Jose Lezcano in the irons for this first foray over the synthetic Polytrack.
Poker Player will be getting the blinkers taken off for the Lexington following a dismal 10th-place effort in the Spiral. Prior to that, the Catalano charge was second in the John Battaglia and took the Bourbon over the track during Keeneland's fall meet. Hot-riding Stewart Elliott, who has been winning at a 24-percent clip at Keeneland, will be in the pilot's seat on the gray son of Harlan's Holiday.
Divine Oath is putting his unbeaten two-for-two mark on the line in his first all-weather try and at a distance of ground. Previously the Todd Pletcher trainee broke his maiden and took an optional claimer, both at 7 ½ furlongs on Gulfstream Park's turf. The Broken Vow colt will have regular jockey Javier Castellano holding the reins for the Lexington.
Dynamic Impact could make some noise in his return to Keeneland's Polytrack Saturday. Last October the Mark Casse runner just missed by a neck against fellow maiden rivals, and recently earned his first victory by that same margin on Oaklawn Park's dirt. The late-blooming son of Tiznow earned a field-best 96 BRIS Speed rating for that initial winning effort and will be guided by Alan Garcia.
Supermonic just tried Keeneland for the first time in an allowance going the Lexington's 8 ½-furlong distance and romped home a 7 ½-length front-running winner. The Pletcher-trained son of Latent Heat stamped himself as one to watch on Saturday as he faces stakes rivals for the first time with Joel Rosario taking the mount.
The rest of the Lexington field is stakes, and synthetic, debuter Z Lucky; optional claiming scorer Ride Away; and maiden winners Morning Calm and Global Strike.
While the Lexington is the feature on Saturday at Keeneland, it shares the program with one other graded contest and a stakes event.
The Grade 3, $150,000 Ben Ali is sandwiched in between the $100,000 Giant's Causeway, which begins the stakes action, and the Lexington. The nine-furlong, main-track contest drew 10 older horses, including Newsdad and Frac Daddy. The former just captured the Pan American at Gulfstream on March 24 and boasts a 2-0-0 mark from three tries at Keeneland, including last year's Fayette.
Frac Daddy scored an allowance win at Keeneland, just the second victory of his career, last October and is exiting a second in the Maxxam Gold Cup. The Scat Daddy gray has yet to actually earn a stakes win but will be saddled by trainer Kenny McPeek, who has been winning at a 23-percent clip at the current meet.
Eleven distaffers have been entered for the grassy, 5 ½-furlong Giant's Causeway.