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Kentucky Derby 2014 - Handicapping the Lexington Stakes

The Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland attracted a full field of eleven colts, however Dynamic Impact and Global Strike have elected to face Midnight Hawk in the Illinois Derby instead.  Despite offering 10 precious points to the victor, the 1 1/16 mile event won’t affect the current 2014 Kentucky Derby line up. Nonetheless, the Lexington Stakes may have bearing on other contests to be held for three year old colts later this year. Florida Filly Ashley Tamulonis and I put our handicapping skills to the test once again. 
MR SPEAKER—After a disappointing try on dirt in the Holy Bull, Mr Speaker bounced back smartly to miss the win by ½ length in the Palm Beach on turf. This will be his first try on polytrack, but he had sharp 4 furlong work over the surface at Keeneland on April 6, finishing the half mile work handily in 46:20. If he runs as well on the polytrack as he does on the turf, he could be quite dangerous. Based on class alone, contender.
MR SPEAKER (Pulpit - Salute, by Unbridled) took himself off of the Derby trail with a disappointing finish in the Holy Bull Stakes.  Back on the lawn, the blue-blooded colt came within a half length of winning the Palm Beach Stakes.   Mr Speaker is out of a stakes placed daughter of the Champion mare and blue hen Personal Ensign.  His dam is a half-sister to recently deceased Champion My Flag, plus sires Miner’s Mark, Our Emblem and Traditionally.  Champion Storm Flag Flying, graded stakes veteran Interactif  and second crop sire Parading are all part of this immediate family.  Pulpit offspring hit the board 5 of 11 times last spring at Keeneland and Mr Speaker zipped a strong four furlongs over the Poly in his latest breeze.  Contender.
SOLITARY RANGER—Pace makes the race, and Solitary Ranger runs best when alone on the lead. He gets the benefit of an inside draw, and if Supermonic and Global Strike don’t break running or can’t get a good position, Solitary Ranger just might get the trip he needs. The distance is within his scope, and he has 2 seconds from 3 starts at Keeneland. I’m not sure if I’m completely sold on him, but he’s worth a look.
SOLITARY RANGER (U S Ranger - Galileo's Star, by Lil E. Tee) needed a search party to find him after the Spiral Stakes last time out.  1 1/6 miles is at the very edge of his range limit, and even that is pushing it, as he walked his last quarter of the John Battaglia Memorial in 27.62.  With Supermonic and to keep him honest, it’s likely that Solitary Ranger won’t get an easy lead.  Get the search party ready.  Pass.
Dynamic Impact (Tiznow - Featherbed, by Smart Strike) going to the Illinois Derby.
Dynamic Impact (Tiznow - Featherbed, by Smart Strike) going to the Illinois Derby.
POKER PLAYER—I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t with this colt. He beat me bad in the Bourbon last fall, but when I supported him in the Spiral, he barely lifted a hoof. So what the heck do I do with him??? He likes Keeneland. He likes the distance. He gets Stewart Elliot, who has been riding well at this meet. The blinkers come off, but I guarantee if I throw my hat into his ring, he’ll run poorly again. So how about some reverse psychology? “Poker Player won’t lift a hoof!” she exclaimed loudly before running off to the windows to place a good-sized win wager.
POKER PLAYER (Harlan's Holiday - Revel in the Win, by Red Bullet) was found by the same search party that went looking for Solitary Ranger in the Spiral. Poker Player hasn’t run close to the same speed figures as he did last year. I’m with Ashley on this one. I’ll add him to the exotics, just in case.
Z LUCKY—Surprisingly his only win came in the one race in which he encountered trouble. Tell me how that makes sense. It doesn’t. Looking through his past performances, I didn’t see anything I liked. Pass.
Z LUCKY (Zensational - Undercover Angel, by Distorted Humor) takes a step up from the allowance ranks and also tries Poly for the first time.  Zensational won at the Grade 1 level over Poly and his babies have won at Turfway and Woodbine.  Distorted Humor is an excellent polysire as well, so Z Lucky’s form may improve over the surface.  The pretty gray colt has a good/bad race cycle going and gets his sixth jockey switch in as many races. You gotta watch Lukas tho. He’s sneaking and will pull off the upset when least expected.  Exotics/ live longshot.
DIVINE OATH—Undefeated in two lifetime starts, Divine Oath is brought to you courtesy of the same connections who brought us Verrazano. After not drawing into the Blue Grass, Divine Oath makes his stakes debut in this softer spot. Pletcher wins at an 18% clip when switching a runner from turf to all weather and wins at a 25% clip when stretching a runner out from a sprint to a route. I’m not sure how I really feel about Divine Oath, but it’s hard to argue with perfection.
DIVINE OATH (Broken Vow - Rejoicing, by Forestry) showed versatility in both of his starts, improving speed figures and his work over the Poly was faster than his dirt breezes.  All signs point to a horse ready to move forward.  The sire of two colts entered in the Lexington, Broken Vow is an average Polysire.  Divine Oath descends from the dame distaff line as Mr. Speaker.  His dam is a half to Bourbon Stakes winner Animal Spirits. She’s also a half to the dam of the graded stakes warrior Interactif.  Divine Oath’s third dam is the Champion and blue hen Personal Ensign.  Contender.
AMI’S HOLIDAY—A graded stakes winner on the polytrack at this distance, it’s hard to believe that Ami’s Holiday has been pegged at 10-1 on the morning line. The Harlan’s Holiday colt had a nice 1.13:80 six furlong breeze April 11. Call me crazy, but I really like him, and if I can get anywhere near 10-1 at post time, I’ll snap him up in a heartbeat.
AMI’S HOLIDAY (Harlan's Holiday - Victorious Ami, by Victory Gallop) finally makes his appearance as a three year old.  He had some time off before getting back to the worktab in February.  I think the Lexington is a starting point for the Queens Plate later this year, so Ami’s Holiday probably isn’t cranked up for the win.  Have to take his previous poly form into consideration and if he’s improved since last year, he could place in the money.  Exotics.
Ride Away—His best races have been at distances beyond a mile, so it stands to reason that after wins at 1 mile 70 yards and 1 1/16 mile, he’ll like going back to that distance. Other than that, I don’t really see much I like. Just like several others in hear, he did record a nice work over the surface, and he is trained by Motion now. Aside from that, I don’t find much else to make me pause, so I’ll take my money elsewhere.
RIDE AWAY (Candy Ride (ARG) - East Hampton, by Meadowlake) recorded his best speed figure to date in his last race, even though the race itself was kinda blah.  But he’s a son of Candy Ride and we know they love Poly. I’m expecting the switch and additional distance will perk Ride Away up.  Contender.
Morning Calm—I honestly expect this one to be outclassed. Plain and simple. He got it done in his debut, but against winners, he just couldn’t cut it. Pass.
MORNING CALM (Broken Vow - Krakowviak, by Tale of the Cat) has a good poly pedigree and his dam is a half sister to the dam of multiple G-1 winner Switch.  Other than that, I don’t know what else to say. His speed figures have decreased in every start.  Pass. 
Supermonic—If it weren’t for the fact that he got away with a slow early pace, his win over this course on the 13th would look better than it is. After going 49 and change for the half, I would fully have expected Supermonic to draw off to win by open lengths, especially given the way speed has been holding up. Of course you could look at is he just really liked the all weather surface, but we won’t know for sure until he runs again. Unfortunately, if he makes his next start here, he comes in off just 6 days, and I’m not a big fan of quick turnarounds such as that. Thanks, but no thanks.
SUPERMONIC (Latent Heat - Mesabu, by Fred Astaire) has a very good polypedigree so his open length win wasn’t a surprise. He’s also showing signs of rounding into form, as his speed figures have improved in every start this year.  A step up in class is a natural progression.  The “other” Pletcher colt in the field, Supermonic’s last race appeared to be little more than a paid workout, so the quick turn around doesn’t bother me.  Contender. 
GLOBAL STRIKE (Smart Strike - Misty Lady (ARG), by Lucky Roberto) going to the Illinois Derby.
Conclusion:  Todd Pletcher has won five of the last ten editions of the Lexington Stakes. Also, favorites don’t do so well in this race.  Every winner for the last five years has paid double (and in last year’s case, triple) digits to win.  All except one winner came from off of the pace and in most instances the pace setter tired to finish out of the money.
ASHLEY SELECTIONS: Ami’s Holiday, Solitary Ranger, Poker Player, Mr Speaker
LAURIE SELECTIONS: Supermonic, Ride Away, Divine Oath, Mr Speaker.   Watch Z Lucky as a live longshot.


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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby 2014 - Handicapping the Lexington Stakes...

1-6-10 Mr. Speaker does it.
Poker Player looks good at 7-1, 4-6-10
Didn't think many would share my longer shot like of Z Lucky, but I was reading around and I'm definitely not alone. Likes in the big field(numerical order) 1, 5, 6, 7, 10.

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Meet Laurie Ross


I've been around horses for most of my life, working in racing stables as a hot walker and exercise rider in my teenage years, and later as a volunteer with rescued and retired racehorses. I became interested in pedigree when the sons and daughters of my favorite horses started their racing careers.   


For more than a decade, I've passionately studied pedigree, how it applies to handicapping and breeding theories. In 2010, I joined Horse Racing Nation as their Pedigree Analyst, focusing on juvenile stakes winners, Triple Crown contenders and first crop sires from a handicapping perspective.   


In 2011, I accepted the role of South Florida Coordinator and Advisory Board Member for the national non-profit Thoroughbred Racing Fan Association (ThoroFan). Working closely with Gulfstream Park management and other race fans, we created a ThoroFan Chapter at Gulfstream Race Track. Our main project is assisting Thoroughbred rescue and re-training groups.


I continue to maintain my website Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds and blog of the same name. As a pedigree consultant, I specialize in assisting small to mid-size breeding/training operations with broodmare breeding reports, sales catalog analysis and recommendations on claims and private sales. 10 - 20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue and retraining groups.
I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic please contact me at

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