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Square Eddie heads 11 in Lexington

Grade 1 winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up SQUARE EDDIE (Smart Strike) entered 2009 as one of the top contenders for the Kentucky Derby (G1), but the Doug O'Neill trainee made only one appearance this season, a second in the January 17 San Rafael S. (G3), before heading to the sidelines with a shin injury. The Canadian-bred colt will attempt to revive his Derby hopes when he returns to the races against 11 rivals in Saturday's $300,000 Lexington S. (G2) at Keeneland.

Winner of the Breeders' Futurity (G1) over Keeneland's Polytrack last October, Square Eddie will break from post 8 with new rider Edgar Prado in the 28th running of the 1 1/16-mile Lexington. He has recorded four works since returning from his injury, most recently breezing six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 at Hollywood Park on Saturday.

"Three months ago, I would not have been surprised to be here; two months ago, yes," O'Neill said of the injury to Square Eddie's left front shin that was discovered on February 2. "His past two works have been exceptional, signaling to us that he is ready to get back at it."

Square Eddie is guaranteed a starting spot in the Kentucky Derby field with $774,981 in graded stakes earnings.

"I would want to see a really good effort and have him come out of it in good shape," O’Neill commented. "Then we would huddle with Team Reddam (about going on to the Derby)."

San Felipe S. (G2) third-placer JERANIMO (Congaree) and Illinois Derby (G2) third-placer HIS GREATNESS (Honour and Glory) will each bring solid credentials into the race, and EL CRESPO (A.P. Indy) will attempt to transfer his form to Polytrack following a victory in the grassy Palm Beach S. (G3) at Gulfstream Park. The Lexington will mark the stakes debut for CONSERVATIVE (Unbridled's Song), who exits maiden special weight and allowance victories at Gulfstream for Shug McGaughey.

OMNISCIENT (Pulpit) will also test stakes waters with a two-race win streak in tow, defeating allowance rivals at Fair Grounds most recently for Steve Asmussen. MASALA (Lion Heart) figures to show speed while being equipped with blinkers for the first time by Todd Pletcher. The maiden winner exits a fourth to I Want Revenge (Stephen Got Even) in the Gotham S. (G3) at Aqueduct.

Others of note in the Lexington are the stakes-winning PARADE CLOWN (Distorted Humor), who was fourth in the Lane's End S. (G2) last out, and ADVICE (Chapel Royal), who narrowly missed in the Arlington-Washington Futurity over Polytrack last season and was a neck behind Jeranimo in an allowance at Santa Anita earlier this year.

One horse entered in the Lexington who will not be running is HULL (Holy Bull). Dissatisfied with drawing post position 12, owner Barry Irwin released a statement after entries were taken saying Hull would be scratched from the Lexington in favor of the April 25 Derby Trial S. (G3) at Churchill Downs.


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