Head to Head: Handicapping the 2021 Lexington Stakes

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2021 Lexington Stakes
Photo: Hodges Photography

The $200,000 Lexington Stakes (G2) and the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) are the last chances to earn 2021 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.

While Concert Tour and Hozier scared off most of their Arkansas Derby competition, the Lexington Stakes attracted a field of 10 headed by graded stakes placed Proxy. The Michael Stidham trainee needs to win this and hope that Hozier, currently 24th on the leaderboard, throws a clunker at Oaklawn Park in order to make the Kentucky Derby field, if Stidham decides to send the colt out to run for the roses.

The Lexington is carded as race 9 at Keeneland on Saturday, with a post time of 5:30 EDT. Thunderstorms are expected.

Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast sort out the contenders from the pretenders.

Click here for Keeneland entries and results.

LAURIE

ASHLEY

1. NOBLE REFLECTION

Noble Reflection is just getting started. After a speed/fade result in his debut last August, the pretty gray colt was on the sidelines until recently. Noble Reflection was sharp out of the gate and did it all on his own under a hand ride. This is a logical step up. His half-sister Cash Out is a multiple graded-placed miler, and his dam is a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Clear Mandate, the dam of Strong Mandate and more. This is the family of Belmont Stakes hero Crème Fraiche. Oh, and did I mention Noble Reflection has an excellent mud pedigree?

 

Noble Reflection came back much improved after being sidelined. He stylishly broke his maiden in gate-to-wire fashion. The field was not much as only the runner-up has won since. Noble Reflection had an uncontested lead in that outing, but he cannot expect the same here.

2. SWIFTSURE

The son of Uncle Mo is undefeated in both starts as a sprinter and is ready for his two-turn debut. His allowance victory at Oaklawn was decisive. Three exiting that race won their next start. Trainer Steve Asmussen is hoping for another Lexington victory, but his last win was in 2004.

 

Not only is Swiftsure undefeated, he is untested. Both starts were won by at least three lengths. Along with Proxy, he owns the highest speed rating in the field and has the highest last race speed figure. My big concern is that this colt has not raced in about 2½ months nor attempted two turns.

3. BEZOS

Bezos has classic distance breeding, and he could be Baffert’s Belmont Stakes hope. Bezos’ final work was in company with older allowance winner Cezanne. Bezos looked comfortable until nearing the wire when Cezanne surged, and Bezos had to be encouraged to stay with him through the wire. He has done this in a few other works, so maybe it is just him. His half-sister Fortunate Girl is a multiple stakes-placed turf miler.  

 

Bezos, not to be confused with Louisiana Derby (G2) third-place finisher O Besos, was thumped by Santa Anita Derby (G1) third-place finisher Dream Shake in his debut. He took a mighty step forward to graduate in his second outing. He arguably did not face much as the rest of the field all had multiple previous losing starts. This is a logical spot to test deeper waters, but he is going to need to take another step forward to win this. Additionally, trainer Bob Baffert is bringing this one back off a two-week turnaround.

4. IT'S MY HOUSE

It’s My House has a win/lose cycle, and he just won his last race, the Turf Paradise Derby. The nine furlongs of the El Camino Real Derby was too far. His late-pace speed figures are underwhelming, and he will have to contend with other speed horses. The only plus is that he has one of the best mud pedigrees in the field.

Racing at Golden Gate and Turf Paradise is a far cry from the big leagues. Despite this being a Grade 3 race, it is still a huge class leap for the son of Anthony’s Cross. He might have a good mud pedigree, but I do not think that will move him up enough to be competitive.

5. UNBRIDLED HONOR

Unbridled Honor regressed in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) after graduating in his first start of the year. He fired a pre-race four-furlong bullet over a chewed-up Palm Beach Downs surface in company with recent maiden winner, the filly Iced Latte. The large, gray colt stayed a neck behind and was shown the whip after the wire to pass. It did not help. The filly was moving much easier, and Unbridled Honour did not handle the surface. I expect that he got a lot out of the work, and he will be running at the end of the Lexington.

 

Unbridled Honor languished at the back of the field of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) before launching his bid in the far turn. He showed no signs of the after boosters kicking in, simply passing tired runners to complete the superfecta. Regardless of whether or not the speed collapses, Unbridled Honor should still grind his way into better position in the stretch.

6. HOCKEY DAD

Hockey Dad had his three-race win streak hosed in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). He put in a strong effort, fighting down the stretch, and he was overtaken a half-furlong from the wire. Nine furlongs might have been a little far. The distance cut-back should help, as well as a return to dirt. 

 

Hockey Dad is an interesting colt. He has wins on turf and dirt and very nearly completed the hat trick, running a solid third in the Jeff Ruby on tapeta. Four of his five starts were in state-bred company, but he obviously handled open company just fine. He is certainly worth using underneath.

7. PROXY

Proxy was last seen tiring to fourth, beaten 3 3/4 lengths by track-record-setting Hot Rod Charlie. Proxy has competed every month for the last six months and has been game in each start. The Stidham trainee had a sharp pre-race four-furlong breeze at Keeneland He’s the class of the Lexington and in many eyes, the one to beat. Tapit gets 18-percent mud winners, but surprisingly, Proxy’s dam Panty Raid and none of her offspring have run over an off-track.

 

Proxy has been the image of consistency, showing up each time and running his race. He has some of the best speed figures in the field and is the deserving favorite. Stidham has the colt on his toes for this race, so maybe Proxy will finally get his picture taken as a graded winner.

8.  ULTIMATE BADGER

Ultimate Badger had a challenging task in the Swale (G3) and Hutcheson Stakes. It is hard for a one-run closer to win sprints at Gulfstream, especially against talented horses like Drain the Clock. The Dale Romans trainee made up ground both times despite a wide trip, once over a muddy track. He is worth a close look.

Unlike most of this field, Ultimate Badger has experience over an off track, compiling a 2: 1-1-0 record in the mud. His prior starts in two-turn graded stakes were not pretty, resulting in a seventh-place finish, beaten by 12 lengths, in the Iroquois (G3), and an eighth-place finish, beaten by 18 lengths, in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2). Maybe his mud experience moves him up, but I do not think it will be enough to land him in the superfecta.

9. KING FURY

King Fury is making his 3-year-old debut and hoping for improvement. His worst performances were at Keeneland, both in Grade 1 events. So, was it the track or the company? Curlin’s son should improve with maturity, and trainer Kenny McPeek takes the blinkers off of King Fury, hoping for, well, something. If you’re hoping for a long shot to blow up the tote, he is your guy. Not my guy, though.

 

Laurie, I have to think it was the company more than the track that played into King Fury’s poor performances because even at Churchill Downs he could not hit the board. However, this is not a very deep field, so he could surprise us with a placing. Additionally, McPeek gets 27-percent winners when taking the blinkers off.

10. STARRININMYDREAMS

Starrininmydreams showed promise last year, but his work at the Fair Grounds was a nightmare. My hunch is that he did not like the track. Super Saver’s son won an allowance race last year over a sloppy track, and if he reverts to that form, he could be an interesting long shot play. Jockey Luis Saez thinks enough of Starrininmydreams to keep the mount, and trainer Dallas Stewart is known to pull a fast one now and then.

 

Laurie, I think you’re on to something concerning Starrininmydreams not liking the Fair Grounds track. I do have to give him credit for improving from the Risen Star (G2) to the Louisiana Derby. His speed figure leaped from 69 to 85, and he went from running ninth, beaten by 27 lengths, to running fifth, beaten by 9¾ lengths. Stewart gets 21-percent winners third off the layoff, and this colt is a proven mud runner. Also important to note is that Starrininmydreams is being wheeled back off "just" three weeks.

 

Final Thoughts

Laurie: The Lexington Stakes is the last call for alco… uh, Derby points. Proxy and Hockey Dad need to win it to be a firm member of the elite twenty. However, Stidham said it was unlikely that Proxy would run in the Kentucky Derby after his hard campaign at the Fair Grounds. Hockey Dad’s connections are noncommittal.

The last three Lexington winners closed from off the pace, and all previously started in either the Risen Star or Louisiana Derby. Only one hit the board. Experience is a factor. The last dozen winners had between four and nine previous starts and had faced winners.

Two horses, Proxy and Starrininmydreams, fit that profile. The latter will have to sit closer to have any shot, and his speed figures would need to improve. That is tough to do from post 10, while Proxy has tactical speed and class on his side.

Ashley: With thunderstorms in the forecast, we are looking for a proven mudder or a colt with a good mud pedigree. Both Ultimate Badger and Starrininmydreams have successful mud form, and of the two, I like Starrininmydreams better. Proxy is the class of the field, but I do like the chances of Swiftsure and Unbridled Honor.

Selections

Ashley

Laurie

#7 PROXY (6-5)

#7 PROXY (6-5)

#2 SWIFTSURE (5-1)

#8 ULTIMATE BADGER (15-1)

#5 UNBRIDLED HONOR (10-1)

#5 UNBRIDLED HONOR (10-1)

#10 STARRININMYDREAMS(6-1)

#1 NOBLE REFLECTION (15-1)



Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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