Big Chief Racing, Fizzy Racing and Billy Shelton’s Swipe, runner-up in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) here last fall, will open his 3-year-old campaign Saturday when he heads a field of 10 entered Wednesday for the 35th running of the $150,000 Lexington (G3).
The Lexington, run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, will go as the ninth race on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 4:59 p.m. post time.
The Lexington serves as the final Kentucky race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby offering 17 total points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the first- through fourth-place finishers.
The $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) is limited to the top 20 points earners entered. The current cut line is 32 points.
Trained by Keith Desormeaux, Swipe picked up 12 points toward the Derby with his Breeders’ Cup result and a second-place finish to Nyquist in the FrontRunner (G1). Flavien Prat has the mount Saturday and will break from post position four.
Other Lexington entrants with Derby points are Collected (11), Riker (10) and Synchrony (2).
Speedway Stable’s Collected, trained by Bob Baffert, won the Sham (G3) in January and in his most recent start won the Sunland Festival of Racing in front-running fashion.
Javier Castellano has the mount and will leave post 10.
Team Valor International, Gary Barber and Tucci Stables’ Riker won his first four starts on the all-weather surface at Woodbine and then finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after setting the pace. Riker, sixth in his 2016 debut in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), will break from post position eight and be ridden by Florent Geroux.
Pin Oak Stable’s Synchrony, who broke his maiden here last fall, enters the Lexington off a sixth-place finish in the Southwest (G3). Trained by Donnie Von Hemel, Synchrony will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan and break from post position five.
The field for the Lexington, with riders and weights from the rail out, is: One More Round (Jose Lezcano, 118 pounds), Direct Message (Luis Saez, 118), Lomcevak (Jesus Castanon, 118), Swipe (Prat, 118), Synchrony (Bridgmohan, 118), Big Squeeze (Chris Landeros, 118), Call the Colonel (Julien Leparoux, 118), Riker (Geroux, 118), Yo Carm (Robby Albarado, 118) and Collected (Castellano, 120).
NOBLE BIRD HEADLINES SATURDAY’S 86th BEN ALI
John Oxley’s Noble Bird, winner of last June’s Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs, heads a field of 10 older horses entered Wednesday for Saturday’s 86th running of the $200,000 Ben Ali (G3).
The Ben Ali, run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, will go as the seventh race on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 3:53 p.m. post time.
Trained by Mark Casse, Noble Bird was an allowance winner in his most recent Keeneland start last spring. Off a six-month layoff, Noble Bird was sixth going a mile at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 21 in his lone 2016 start.
Julien Leparoux, who won the 2013 Ben Ali on Successful Dan, has the mount on Noble Bird and will break from post position five.
Chief among Noble Bird’s rivals is W.S. Farish’s homebred Eagle.
Trained by Neil Howard, Eagle has won both of his starts at Keeneland and enters Saturday’s race off strong efforts in the New Orleans Handicap (G2), in which he was elevated to third, and a runner-up finish in the Mineshaft Handicap (G3).
Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount and will break from post position six.
The field for the Ben Ali, with riders and weights from the rail out, is: Breaking Lucky (Elvis Trujillo, 118 pounds), Are You Kidding Me (James Graham, 120), Ami’s Holiday(Robby Albarado, 118), Doyouknowsomething (Flavien Prat, 118), Noble Bird (Leparoux, 118), Eagle (Hernandez Jr., 118), Hawaakom (Shaun Bridgmohan, 118), Neck ‘n Neck(Chris Landeros, 118), General a Rod (Luis Saez, 118) and J S Bach (Javier Castellano, 118).
MISS ELLA GOES FOR SECOND KEENELAND STAKES VICTORY IN SATURDAY’S GIANT’S CAUSEWAY
Jack Swain III’s Miss Ella, winner of the Adena Springs Beaumont (G2) here last spring, tops an overflow field of fillies and mares entered Wednesday for Saturday’s 20th running of the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway.
The Giant’s Causeway, run at 5½ furlongs on the turf, drew a field of 12 plus two also-eligibles. The race will go as the eighth on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 4:26 p.m. post time.
Trained by Graham Motion, Miss Ella will make her first start since last October’s Lexus Raven Run (G2). In her lone start on grass, Miss Ella finished second to Lady Shipman in the Coronation Cup at Saratoga last August.
Drayden Van Dyke will ride Miss Ella and break from post position seven.
The field for the Giant’s Causeway, with riders and weights from the rail out, is: Eden Prairie (Brian Hernandez Jr., 118), Miss Double d’Oro (Jose Lezcano, 118), Maggiesfreuddnslip (Janelle Campbell, 118), Sweet Nkosi (Mitchell Murrill, 118), Miss Matzoball (Javier Castellano, 118), Jewel of a Cat (Paco Lopez, 118), Miss Ella (Van Dyke, 118), Tesalina (CHI) (Kent Desormeaux, 118), Exaggerated (Julien Leparoux, 118), Rapid Rhythm (Florent Geroux, 118), Cactus Kris (Mathieu Adam, 118) and Lindisfarne(Flavien Prat, 118). Also-eligible: Heart’s Song (James Graham, 118) and Sweet Success (Graham 118).
ROUTINE MORNING FOR KENTUCKY DERBY FAVORITE NYQUIST
With exercise rider Jonny Garcia aboard, Reddam Racing’s undefeated Nyquist jogged nearly a mile and then galloped a mile before the Wednesday morning renovation break.
“Jonny said he felt better here than he does back home,” said Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. “He will jog in the morning and work an easy half-mile Friday.”
Among the other horses in the O’Neill string here are two fillies owned by Reddam: Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) winner Land Over Sea and Darley Alcibiades (G1) winner Gomo.
Land Over Sea is scheduled to work Friday as her preparations continue toward the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 6.
Gomo could wind up in the same race.
“She is doing fine and we are moving forward with her,” Sisterson said of Gomo, who finished fourth in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) on April 2 in her 2016 debut.
Gomo has picked up 20 points toward the Kentucky Oaks, a field that is limited to 14 starters. Gomo ranks 15th on the Oaks points list.
JOCKEY FLAVIEN PRAT MAKES BELATED KEENELAND DEBUT
A little more than five months after it was supposed to happen, jockey Flavien Prat is getting to ride at Keeneland for the first time.
Fresh off a banner Santa Anita winter meeting in which he was the second-leading rider in wins and earnings, the 23-year-old Frenchman has made his way to Kentucky.
“There is no turf racing now in California,” said Prat, who set foot in Kentucky for the first time Tuesday. “There is good racing (at Keeneland), so why not?”
Prat suffered a punctured lung and fractured his back in a spill at Los Alamitos in September. The injury caused him to miss participating in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships here in October. He was riding again when Santa Anita opened Dec. 26.
“That was my first major injury, but I knew I could come back from it,” Prat said. “The doctors said I would be out for four months, but I was back riding in three.”
Prat’s Keeneland debut comes in this afternoon’s fifth race aboard Lael Stables’ Pramedya for trainer Arnaud Delacour. He has two mounts Thursday, two Friday and Saturday will ride Swipe in the Lexington (G3) and Illuminant in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1).
Prat plans to ride in Kentucky through the Kentucky Derby (G1) with an occasional trip back to California for prior commitments.
“He is slated to ride Mokat for Richard Baltas in the (Grade 1 Kentucky) Oaks,” Prat’s agent, Derek Lawson, said. “And if it goes well with Swipe in the Lexington, (trainer) Keith (Desormeaux) said he could ride him in the Preakness (G1).”
OUTSIDER ART RETURNS TO RACES IN THURSDAY’S APPALACHIAN
The Pettigrews, Martha and Del, made the drive from Kearney, Neb., to Keeneland for one particular reason, or, to be specific, one filly.
The couple bred and owns Outsider Art, who will make her 3-year-old debut in Thursday’s $125,000 Appalachian (G3) Presented by Japan Racing Association.
“She’s 20-1 on the line, but she’s no 20-1,” Del Pettigrew said.
Trained by Jonathan Sheppard, Outsider Art won her first two starts last year before running third in the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3) at Keeneland in October.
“She was not Breeders’ Cup-nominated last year, but she is now,” Pettigrew said. “The plan was always to start here with the goal being the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. She has been training well and has been in training since Jan. 1 at Jonathan’s farm in Pennsylvania.”
Drayden Van Dyke, who rode Outsider Art in her past two races, has the mount Thursday on the daughter of Five Star Day.
“She is nominated to the Edgewood (G3 on May 6 at Churchill Downs),” Pettigrew said. “We got our first horse in 1979, and she is the best one we’ve had.”
PROBABLE ENTRANTS FOR UPCOMING STAKES
$150,000 ADENA SPRINGS BEAUMONT (G3) (entries taken Thursday; race Sunday) – Cosmic Girl, Kinsley Kisses, Lightstream, Nickname, Northwest Tale, R Girls a Charmer.
$100,000 HILLIARD LYONS DOUBLEDOGDARE (G3) (entries taken Tuesday; race Friday, April 22) – Ahh Chocolate, Angela Renee, I’m a Chatterbox, La Madrina, White Clover.
$250,000 DIXIANA ELKHORN (G2) (entries taken Wednesday, April 20; race Saturday, April 23) – A Red Tie Day, Idolo Porteno (ARG), Kaigun, Twilight Eclipse, Up With the Birds.