It’s the last chance saloon for horses that are trying to make the body of the field for the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby in three short weeks. In 1999, Charismatic showed the value this race could have when D. Wayne Lukas entered Charismatic after a 4th place finish in the Santa Anita Derby two weeks prior. He ran a monster race here and parlayed that effort to wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, before his ill-fated stretch run when finishing third in the Belmont. Two years before that, Touch Gold won this race, but opted to wait to run in the Preakness. He stumbled badly that day, but recovered well to finish 4th. He would go on to topple Silver Charm in the Belmont, when coming over the top to win in the stretch, denying that one the Triple Crown.
Since then, some nice horses have won this race, but the winners have not really been a factor in the Triple Crown races. This year, there are 11 runners entered, with some hoping to get enough points to try to defeat some of the big names that are locked in already, and possibly change that trend.
Keeneland Saturday 4/16/2022, Race 9: The Grade 3 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes
34 Total Derby points (20/8/4/2)
1 – Midnight Chrome (20-1 ML): Four of his six career starts have come on the grass. He was a distant third in the Remsen last fall, finishing behind the eventual Wood Memorial winner, Mo Donegal, and the eventual Blue Grass winner, Zandon. He makes his second start of the year and he may wind up as the pacesetter from his rail draw. Maybe he’d be worth considering if that track is playing like a conveyor belt for the earlier races on the card. However, if the track is playing fairly, I won’t be using him.
2 – In Due Time (3-1 ML): He may be thought of as the bad boy on the Triple Crown trail after his aggressive rally may have caused a spill in the Fountain of Youth last time out. Kelly Breen opted to skip the bigger prep races last weekend in favor of this race, which may prove to be a smart move. However, this is not a walkover by any means. He looked very good, powerfully clearing the N1X condition two starts ago when going the one turn mile at Gulfstream. He proved his effort that day was not a fluke with his strong run in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. He looked to be absolutely loaded but was in behind horses and needed a way out, Paco Lopez pushed his way through, but he clipped heels with High Oak, causing that one to fall. Once he was clear, Simplification had the jump and reported home as the winner. He was clearly second best that day though. I don’t think this field is as deep as that one and I expect that Paco can use his inside position to ensure a better spot in the early stages here. He’s a definite contender.
3- We All See It (15-1 ML): He had a breakthrough victory when clearing the N1X condition last month at the Fair Grounds, nailing Strong Quality on the wire. With the exception of his race at Oaklawn where he ran into Zozos, he has progressed nicely over the winter and into the spring. Luis Saez gets the call for Eddie Kenneally, who has brought some live runners to this meet thus far. At 15-1 or better, I’d be willing to take a shot with him on some deeper tickets.
4 – Ethereal Road (10-1 ML): He ran last week in the Blue Grass and was 7th, fading in the final furlong. I would have preferred to see him cut back to a one turn mile in a race like the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard, but it seems that his connections are hell bent in getting him to qualify for the Derby. While I think he has a lot of potential, he hasn’t figured it all out yet. My guess is that running back a week later isn’t going to be the answer.
5 – Howling Time (15-1 ML): He’s making his second start of the year after a very dull effort in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. He may have been mildly affected by the spill, causing him to finish further behind than he might have, but he was retreating at the time of the incident and was never going to be a factor that day. I thought his win in the Street Sense was strong back in October, and his 5th place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club looked better as the Derby preps rolled on. Perhaps he can improve, but I had hoped to see more from him last time out.
6 – Skate to Heaven (30-1 ML): He paired his first two Beyers of the year before breaking out last time when nailing a Brad Cox horse on the wire in a maiden special weight race at Oaklawn. While the speed figure came back strong, This is a big step up in class while facing winners for the first time. David Cohen is missing an afternoon at Oaklawn to be here, but I think others are more logical.
7 – Major General (4-1 ML): He’s another horse that showed a lot of promise at two, but was absolutely dreadful in his three year old debut. He didn’t run a step in the Tampa Bay Derby last month, finishing last of 10 after a stumbling start. Perhaps the bad break did him in, however, the early season two year old form in general from last year simply hasn’t held up this season. 4-1 is way too low for me. I could think about him at closer to 8-1, but I’m not sure that will happen with a Pletcher horse in a race like this. I’ll likely be trying to beat him.
8 – Strava (20-1 ML): Of the longshots in this race, he’s one that is more interesting to me. He’s making his third start of the year and his second at two turns. He faced next out Arkansas Derby winner, Cyberknife, in an allowance race at the Fair Grounds last out. He paired his Beyers in his first two starts, and could be sitting on bigger effort in his third race of the season. At long odds, he’s worth a look, especially when getting the services of Tyler Gaffalione, who rides this course as well as anyone.
9 – Tawny Port (5-2 ML): The morning line favorite in this race has enough points to make it into the Derby via his second place finish in the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway on synthetic. His lone dirt start was a decent 5th place in the Risen Star, which has proven to be an elite Derby prep race to this point. That being said, wheeling back in two weeks when he is assured a spot in the Derby seems like an odd decision in this era of racing. He’s a saver in my eyes in the multi-race exotics, but at short odds, I don’t see the value in playing him.
10 – Dash Attack (10-1 ML): He looked like he had the potential to make some noise on the Derby trail when he won the Smarty Jones in a smart looking victory in the slop on New Years Day. When the waters got deeper though in the Southwest and the Rebel, he was not up for the challenge. The track should be dry, which might not be ideal for him. I prefer others as I think McPeek might need to hit the reset button with him.
11 – Call Me Midnight (6-1 ML): He was the upset winner of the Lecomte back in January, and then his connections took a calculated risk by sitting out the Risen Star in favor of the Louisiana Derby. While that strategy seemed like a good idea when the Risen Star came up much deeper than the Louisiana Derby, he showed he was no longer on the same level as Epicenter, when that was able to easily turn the tables on him. He still ran a credible race, and I think cutting back in distance, when looking at his pedigree, is the right move. I think he’s trending in the right direction, and I think at 6-1, he makes a lot of sense in this race, assuming he’s able to avoid dropping too far back in the early stages of this one.
The verdict: 11-2-8
I thought this was a tricky race to handicap, so it’s a race that I’d definitely want some coverage in. It’ll come down to value for me, and on the morning line, I like 6-1 on Call Me Midnight. I think he’s coming out of better races than many of the others here. While he had a great set up in Louisiana when winning the Lecomte, he still was the only horse to beat Epicenter this year, which I do feel means something. I like the cutback in distance for him, despite maybe not getting the pace setup here.
In Due Time is the second choice, and one that I could play more prominently if his odds go over the 3-1 morning line. He has been visually awesome in his last two starts, and I think he might sit a better trip today. Strava is one that could be coming into the race sitting on a bigger effort. He got tired late when losing to Cyberknife in allowance company at the Fair Grounds in his first two turn attempt. He’s paired his first two Beyer speed figures of the year, so a big jump up here isn’t out of the question.
Each week, we’ll have an update on horses and races from the previous week that may produce starters for the 148th Kentucky Derby on May 7th, 2022. Current futures odds from Circa or Caesars-William Hill will be provided as they are available. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.