The $400,000 Lexington (G3) at Keeneland on Saturday is the last opportunity for hopeful three-year-olds to earn any Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying points. But in reality, only Disarm among the 11 colts and geldings in the field can use the 1 1/16-mile race as a stepping stone to the big one in three weeks.
In most years, Disarm’s 40 points, which he earned via a second-place finish in the March 25 Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds, would have been sufficient to make the Derby cut. However, due to various factors, Disarm is well on the outside looking in, needing more than a handful of defections between now and the May 1 entry day.
Finishing first or second in the Lexington, which awards points on a 20-8-6-4-2 scale, would put Disarm safely in the Derby starting gate, though a victory, preferably a convincing one, would go a much longer way toward making him a legitimate threat in the first classic.
Sidelined after a maiden win at Saratoga early last August, Disarm played a little catch-up over the winter. He’s run second in his two starts this term, most recently chasing lone speed Kingsbarns in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby.
Disarm dodged a potential bullet when the connections of Rebel (G2) winner Confidence Game decided to bypass the Lexington and train the colt up to the Derby. However, there are several promising sorts in the lineup, some of whom could be using the Lexington as a springboard toward a start in the Preakness (G1).
One is the Bob Baffert-trained Arabian Lion, who took it on the chin as a heavy favorite in his last visit to town for an allowance on Breeders’ Cup weekend. The son of Justify subsequently went unplaced at short odds in both the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and Robert B. Lewis (G3), but might have benefited from the recent time off.
Brad Cox has two stakes newcomers, First Mission and Demolition Duke, both of whom graduated in convincing fashion at Fair Grounds over the winter. Ironically, both are 1-for-2, having lost separate races to mutual rival Bishops Bay.
The Bill Mott-trained Empirestrikesfast posted a 23-1 upset in his debut at Gulfstream, but was flattered to an extant when runner-up Dreamlike finished a competitive third in the Wood Memorial (G2) last week.
Prairie Hawk enters with a profile similar to that of his stablemate Lord Miles, who pulled off a shocker in the Wood Memorial. Also a son of Curlin, Prairie Hawk was unplaced last out in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), another commonality he shares with his Derby-bound companion in the Saffie Joseph barn.
Denington had little chance to make up ground in a slow-paced Louisiana Derby, but is an interesting sort off his surprise allowance win down in New Orleans two back.