One final Kentucky Derby 2023 prep brings a chance for one final runner to clinch a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gates.
Disarm (7-2) is on the outside of the Kentucky Derby qualifying bubble entering Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Lexington Stakes. He can clinch a Derby berth by finishing in the top three in this event at Keeneland.
The Lexington Stakes is a 1 1/16-mile event for 3-year-old runners. Post time is 5:16 p.m. and the race can be seen on FanDuel TV.
This event awards Derby points to its top five finishers on a 20-8-6-4-2 prep.
Disarm, with 40 points, is the only Lexington starter who can race their way into the field Saturday. The Steve Asmussen trainee can do so by finishing third or better and improving his tally to 46 points, bumping Jace’s Road (45) out of the current field.
Fair Grounds’s Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 25 marked Disarm’s only prior Kentucky Derby trail start. He moved up from mid-pack that day in a field of 12 to take second place, 3 1/2 lengths back of winner Kingsbarns.
Disarm brings a 4: 1-2-1 record and $290,350 in earnings into the Lexington Stakes. Asmussen, jockey Jose Ortiz and breeder-owner Winchell Thoroughbreds team up with the Gun Runner colt.
First Mission (3-1) is the morning-line favorite in this race for trainer Brad Cox. He won a maiden race March 18 at Fair Grounds in his second career start and makes a stakes bow here.
Arabian Lion (7-2) returns to a Keeneland course where he was second in an allowance race last November on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile undercard. Trained by Bob Baffert, he was fourth Feb. 4 at Santa Anita in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3).
Empirestrikesfast (4-1) was a debut winner March 11 at Gulfstream Park for trainer Bill Mott. He makes his second career start in this spot.
The Lexington Stakes has produced two Kentucky Derby victors: Charismatic (1999) and Swale (1984). 2022 Lexington winner Tawny Port was seventh in the Derby for Cox.
Here is a look at the field for the 2023 Lexington Stakes (trainers and jockeys in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. Baseline Beater (Neil Pessin, Corey Lanerie), 20-1
2. Reinvest (Timothy Hamm, Joe Talamo), 30-1
3. Demolition Duke (Brad Cox, Flavien Prat), 6-1
4. Transect, SCR
5. First Mission (Brad Cox, Luis Saez), 3-1
6. Disarm (Steve Asmussen, Jose Ortiz), 7-2
7. Denington (Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez Jr.), 20-1
8. Empirestrikesfast (Bill Mott, Frankie Dettori), 4-1
9. Prairie Hawk (Saffie Joseph Jr., John Velazquez), 15-1
10. Curly Larry and Mo (Caio Caramori, Reylu Gutierrez), 50-1
11. Arabian Lion (Bob Baffert, Irad Ortiz Jr.), 7-2
TimeformUS pace projections show Arabian Lion making the lead under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. from the outside post and setting a fast early pace. Favorite First Mission is projected to be near the front.
Visit Horse Racing Nation’s free past performances page for more information on the Lexington Stakes, plus a pair of Grade 1 races on Saturday’s schedule.
Kentucky Derby links
Kentucky Derby 2023 will be run in three weeks on the first Saturday in May and the Horse Racing Nation staff has put together an early look at the morning line for the top 22 horses on the official Derby points list.
Reinier Macatangay compares Disarm to the rivals he will face in the Lexington Stakes. Macatangay also ranks the top five Kentucky Derby preps, putting last Saturday’s Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at No. 1.
The decision to enter Disarm in Saturday’s Lexington Stakes at Keeneland isn’t a matter of getting him enough points to be eligible for Kentucky Derby 2023. Rather, it’s about options, said David Fiske, racing manager for owner Winchell Thoroughbreds.
Ed DeRosa writes that Disarm’s name recognition is sure to attract money, which makes this an excellent betting opportunity as the morning line projects an underlay given his fair odds of 8-1.
Recent history has not been kind to chalk in the Lexington Stakes. Since the Keeneland main track was converted from a Polytrack synthetic back to real dirt, My Boy Jack in 2018 was the only favorite to win the race.
Only a handful of prospective Kentucky Derby starters satisfy both the final fractions theory and speed figure criteria. Hear more from turf writer and publicist Jennie Rees on the final fractions theory.
Champion jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. is missing a Kentucky Derby from his resume but has the mount on favorite Forte. “For sure it’s the best chance I’ve had in the past couple years.”
Churchill Downs tweaked its qualifying system last year by awarding points for fifth-place finishes and increasing the points total for some earlier preps. One effect of that shift has been that second-place finishers in recent major prep races are outside of the current field.
Three of trainer Todd Pletcher’s Kentucky Derby hopefuls worked Friday at Palm Beach Downs, including Florida Derby (G1) hero Forte.
Lexington starters Disarm and First Mission are among 11 of J. Keeler Johnson’s watch list horses in action at Keeneland and Oaklawn.
Prospective Kentucky Derby field
The top 18 points earners along Churchill Downs’s U.S. trail nominated for the Kentucky Derby earn a spot in the starting gates for the Grade 1, $3 million race May 6.
One spot is reserved for the top points earners on the European and Japanese Derby trails. Churchill officials do not expect any of the runners from the European trail to make the trip, thus opening up a 19th spot for a U.S. trail entrant.
Here is a look at who would make up the current field.
1. Forte, 190
2. Practical Move, 160
3. Angel of Empire, 154
4. Tapit Trice, 150
5. Two Phil’s, 123
6. Lord Miles, 105
7. Derma Sotogake, 100
8. Kingsbarns, 100
9. Raise Cain, 64
10. Rocket Can, 60
11. Hit Show, 60
12. Confidence Game, 57
13. Verifying, 54
14. Sun Thunder, 54
15. Wild On Ice, 50
16. Mage, 50
17. Blazing Sevens, 46
18. Reincarnate, 45
19. Jace’s Road, 45
Other Saturday stakes
Here is a look at other stakes races of note taking place Saturday across the U.S. All post times are EDT and races may be seen on FanDuel TV.
5:01 p.m. – $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles, Laurel Park
Coffeewithchris (5-2) owns a pair of Laurel Park stakes wins and looks for a third in this race that awards its winner – if Triple Crown-nominated – an automatic berth into the Preakness Stakes. John Salzman Jr. trains and Jaime Rodriguez rides the Ride On Curlin gelding, runner-up March 18 in the local Private Terms Stakes. Brittany Russell trains Prince of Jericho (3-1), second to Coffeewithchris on Feb. 18 in Laurel’s Miracle Wood Stakes. Ninetyprcentmaddie (4-1), seventh in February’s Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct, won the City of Brotherly Love Stakes on March 6 at Parx for trainer Butch Reid.
5:48 p.m. – $600,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1), 4-and-up fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles (turf), Keeneland
In Italian (7-5) returns to the Keeneland lawn, where she followed a First Lady Stakes (G1) win in October with a second-place effort Nov. 5 in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. gets the call on the 5-year-old Dubawi mare, a double Grade 1 winner for trainer Chad Brown. Charlie Appleby trains With The Moonlight (5-2), the 2022 Saratoga Oaks Invitational (G3) winner who enters off a Group 2 win Feb. 24 at Meydan Racecourse. Queen Goddess (4-1), a Grade 1 heroine for trainer Michael McCarthy, took the Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G3) on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream.
Related: Jenny Wiley fair odds: Pace makes race for In Italian | Keeneland: Chad Brown duo headline Saturday's Jenny Wiley
5:58 p.m. – $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3), 4-and-up, six furlongs, Oaklawn
Tejano Twist (5-2) runs for back-to-back Grade 3 wins at Oaklawn after closing from ninth place to take the Whitmore Stakes on March 18. Jockey Francisco Arrieta and trainer Chris Hartman team up with the 4-year-old Practical Joke gelding, who carries the highweight of 124 pounds. Brad Cox trains Strobe (7-2), who makes his stakes bow off a 5 1/4-length win at six furlongs Jan. 27 at Fair Grounds. Skelly (4-1) also enters off an allowance victory, his coming locally March 17 for trainer Steve Asmussen.
7:12 p.m. – $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1), 4-and-up fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles, Oaklawn
Secret Oath (4-5) carries 123 pounds in a field of only four runners after winning the local prep for the Apple Blossom, the Azeri Stakes (G2), on March 11 by 2 3/4 lengths. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione will be up on the Grade 1-winning, 4-year-old Arrogate filly for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Asmussen trains Clairiere (6-5), a two-time Grade 1 winner who was runner-up to Secret Oath in the Azeri. Hot and Sultry (5-1), an Oaklawn stakes victor, was fourth in the Azeri for trainer Norm Casse.
Related: HorseCenter: Ky. Derby bubble + Secret Oath vs. Clairière | Lukas seeks another Apple Blossom win 40 years after his 1st