By Gene Kershner
The more than likely last stop on the Kentucky Derby prep trail ends on Saturday in the Grade
2 $200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland Race Course. Silver Medallion is the only
colt that can benefit from the first place earnings of $120,000 to jump into the starting gate
in the first Saturday in May. With the defection earlier this week of the Bob Baffert-trained
Jaycito, the field has been reduced to six.
Silver Medallion sitting on the outside looking in with $184,334 of graded earnings, cannot
afford to lose if he wants to make his next start on the first Saturday in May. The current
cut-off amount to garner one of the coveted starting gates is $242,397, currently held by
Santiva. A second placing would secure earnings of $40,000, but will fall just short of the
mark and would require two defections to get in.
Let's take a look at the contenders running one and 1/16 miles on the polytrack at beautiful
Keeneland Race Course (trainer, jockey, morning line odds in parenthesis):
1 - Derby Kitten (Maker, Leparoux, 4-1) Last weekend's Blue Grass top seven finishers came
out of Gulfstream Park turf races. Derby Kitten finished ahead of the Blue Grass winner last
October at Belmont and was a strong second to the Blue Grass show horse who broke his maiden
at Aqueduct. Mike Maker wins 29 percent of the time with the turf to synthetic angle and
Julien Leparoux is having a solid meeting. While this Kitten won't exactly be heading to the
Derby, he could factor in on who does.
2 - Silver Medallion (Asmussen, Castellano, 8-5) The morning line favorite will be bet hard at
the windows and will most likely be even money by post time. His only synthetic win was
beating Comma to the Top in the Grade 3 El Camino Real, but that was on Golden Gate's Tapeta
surface, a much different one than the poly at Keeneland. His lone Keeneland start last fall
turned into a rough trip after being bumped at the start and finished a distant seventh. There
is a lot of pressure on him to win in here and with little betting value and a short field,
we'll try and beat him.
3 - Prime Cut (Howard, Prado, 7-2) Fair Grounds shipper comes in off an impressive victory
over the highly regarded Bind. He tries the polytrack for the first time and it's difficult
what to make of his only breeze over the surface on April 12. We don't like playing first time
poly in a graded stakes race so we'll look elsewhere.
4 - Hurricane Lake (Bonde, Borel, 6-1) Ships in for trainer Jeff Bonde from Golden Gate where
he's won two of four races in 2011. Calvin Borel has his first mount of the meet for a trainer
whose winning graded stakes at a 29 percent clip this year. I'm not sure he's ready for this
jump in class, but it's only a six horse field, and we've seen crazier winners on the Derby
5 - Taptowne (Mogge, Lanerie, 15-1) The field's long shot was beaten badly last out in the
Grade 3 Vinery Spiral Stakes. Shippers from Turfway fare well at Keeneland, but this one seems
overmatched. 6 - Casper's Touch (McPeek, Garcia, 3-1) Kenny McPeek has been killing it at
Keeneland winning 10 of his 18 starts at a remarkable 56 percent. When paired with jockey Alan
Garcia, this tandem wins at 42 percent and is in the money 62 percent of the time. He comes
off a strong performance at seven panels on the Keeneland polytrack after being rank and
having a rough trip in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. The pick.
Post Time Selections:
1 - Casper's Touch 2 - Silver Medallion 3 - Derby Kitten 4 - Prime Cut
Good luck and let's go cash some tickets!
Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer, handicapper and member of the Thoroughbred
Bloggers Alliance who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.