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Lexington Stakes 2024 | Keeneland Replay [Kentucky Derby]
Encino (Casey Laughter)

Lexington Stakes 2024 | Keeneland Replay [Kentucky Derby]

The Brad Cox-trained Encino won the 2024 Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland Race Course, the final prep race for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

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Watch the race replay here:

The press release:

Godolphin’s homebred Encino took the lead out of the gate, repulsed a stretch bid from The Wine Steward and went on to post a three-quarters of a length victory in the 42nd running of the $365,500 Stonestreet Lexington (G3) for 3-year-olds at Keeneland.

The victory marked Godolphin’s 16th graded stakes win at Keeneland and earned for them the Keeneland Pitcher as part of the track’s signature Milestone Trophy Program.

Encino, trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux, completed the mile and a sixteenth on a fast main track in 1:43.93. It is the third consecutive victory in the race for Cox and fourth overall. It is third win for Geroux, all coming with Cox.

Cox won last year with First Mission and in 2022 and 2019 won with Tawny Port and Owendale, respectively, with Geroux aboard.

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The victory was worth 20 points toward a possible spot in the starting gate for the 150th running of the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4 at Churchill Downs.

The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners and invitees. With the victory, Encino boosted his total to 40 points, good for 21st place on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in the series that began last September.

Encino led the field of nine through fractions of :23.55, :47.28 and 1:11.94 with The Wine Steward tracking in second. The top two began to pull away from the field on the turn with The Wine Steward nearly drawing on even terms in the lane before Encino spurted away.

A Kentucky-bred son of Nyquist out of the Bernardini mare Glittering Jewel, Encino improved his record to 4-3-1-0 with his third consecutive victory, The Stonestreet Lexington marked his first race on dirt following three outings on the all-weather surface at Turfway Park. The victory was worth $235,600, and Saturday’s check increased his earnings to $378,315.

Encino returned $8.62, $3.94 and $3.42. The Wine Steward, ridden by Luis Saez, paid $3.32 and $2.88 and finished 8¼ lengths in front of Dilger (IRE), who returned $9.42 to show under Tyler Gaffalione.

It was another half-length back to Secret Chat, who was followed in order by Footprint, Liberal Arts, Hades, Lucky Jeremy and How’s Ur Attitude.

Lexington quotes:

Brad Cox (winning trainer of Encino)

“I want to start by thanking Sheikh Mohammed (Al Maktoum of owner Godolphin) for the opportunity with the horse and congratulate him. Ultimately (whether he starts in the Kentucky Derby-G1) will be up to the Godolphin team – Dan Pride, Michael Banahan, Sheikh Mohammed – and if it’s something they want to do, we’ll prepare him. We’ll ship him over to Churchill in a few days regardless. I’ll tell you it will either be the Derby or the Preakness (G1). He’s sitting at 21st on the list right now and some things would have to happen (to make the Kentucky Derby field). But we’ll watch him. Hopefully, he comes out of (the Stonestreet Lexington) in good shape and we’ll march forward.”

“(Assistant trainer) Tessa Bisha (Walden) had him up at Turfway (Park) all winter, and as the winter went on she kept raving about how well he was doing. She loved him (winning) the (John) Battaglia (Memorial Stakes-L March 2). There was a little bit of a question mark about whether he would like the dirt, but he handled it today. He had a few works at Keeneland leading up to this race and showed his hand. He seemed like he liked the surface, and he put it all together today.”

Florent Geroux (winning rider)

“He broke like a shot. I was expecting more speed. His biggest issue was how he would do having the blinkers (wearing them in a race for the first time). With Hades having blinkers on and Lucky Jeremy to the outside, he outbroke them. It was pretty much all him to the first turn; he pretty much controlled the race from there. He was cruising around there, and when he felt The Wine Steward outside of him, it gave him a little extra push. I think that’s what he needed because he was getting a little lost out there on his own. But he had plenty left in the tank, the dirt felt great, and it looks like added distance shouldn’t be a problem for him.”

Luis Saez (rider of runner-up The Wine Steward)

“It was pretty good. We followed the winner (Encino). I thought we were going to beat him.”

Tyler Gaffalione (rider of third-place finisher Dilger [IRE])

“My horse ran a very incredible race. Had a nice trip, got to save some ground. Coming into the stretch, he gave me a nice little run, but the top two finishers got away.”

Joe Orseno (trainer of seventh-place finisher Hades)

“We had to take a shot (to make the Kentucky Derby field), and we did. It might have been too much to ask him to (race again) in two weeks. We are going to regroup. Jose (Ortiz) said he felt great. All we can do is get him ready for another race, another day. (Probably ship back to Gulfstream either Monday or Tuesday).”

Jose Ortiz (rider of Hades)

“I wanted to break a little more alert, but I didn’t. My plan was to be one or two, but it didn’t happen.”