In 1999, Charismatic upset the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Three years later, War Emblem posted a front-running score in the Illinois Derby at Sportsman's Park. Both colts went on to capture the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, earning divisional titles -- and in Charismatic's case, Horse of the Year honors.
However, those two colts were the last winners of those respective races to capture a Triple Crown event, and both stakes have been all but eliminated as meaningful Kentucky Derby preps. The Illinois Derby, now run at Hawthorne with Sportsman's Park having been torn down, carries no qualifying points under the system enacted by Churchill Downs for the Derby in 2013; the Lexington, three weeks prior to the Derby, awards 10 points to the winner, making it a final chance for horses on the bubble.
Both races have thus attempted to reposition themselves as preps for the final two legs of the Triple Crown, with Lexington winner Senior Investment and Illinois Derby winner Multiplier among the new challengers for Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming in Saturday's Preakness Stakes. Multiplier will be the third Illinois Derby winner to contest the Preakness in its four runnings since the points system was launched and will look to improve on Departing's sixth in 2013 and Dynamic Impact's seventh in 2014. The Illinois Derby was not held in 2016.
Lexington winner Divining Rod finished third to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness, while Collected was 10th last year. None of the aforementioned colts who emerged from the Lexington or Illinois Derby ran in the Kentucky Derby.
"I think Churchill ought to add more points to [the Lexington] immediately, but that's the way the ball bounced," said Ken McPeek, the trainer of Senior Investment.
Senior Investment had no Derby qualifying points other than the 10 from the Lexington, placing him outside even also-eligible range on the points list.
In the last two decades, other Lexington winners to make an impact on the classics include Belmont winner Touch Gold (1997) and Proud Citizen (2002), second in the Derby and third in the Preakness. Illinois Derby winners Vision and Verse (1999) and Sweetnorthernsaint (2006) were second in the Belmont and Preakness, respectively; Musket Man (2009) was third in both the Derby and Preakness.
Senior Investment and Multiplier, both of whom shipped from Keeneland on Tuesday, had an easy Wednesday morning at Pimlico. Senior Investment galloped about 1 1/2 miles. Multiplier, who arrived later the prior evening after a van ride, walked the shed row. Trainer Brendan Walsh said the colt handled the trip well.
"I've never seen a horse as laid-back as him," Walsh said.