04/16/2010 11:00PM

Exhi wires in Lexington


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Todd Pletcher won the for the third straight year when Exhi led all the way Saturday at Keeneland to render the results of the Grade 2 race moot toward the May 1 Kentucky Derby.

Exhi, a 19-1 shot under Robby Albarado, earned $180,000 of the $300,000 Lexington purse and surely will not make the 20-horse cutoff for the Derby. Pletcher, watching from Gulfstream Park in Florida, said Exhi, a Maria's Mon colt, would not be pointed toward the Derby, regardless. Exhi held off Bushwacked by a length in the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race.

"He's had some success on the Polytrack, so maybe he's found his niche," said Pletcher. "We'll enjoy this and go on from here."

Exhi, owned by Wertheimer and Frere, returned $41.80 after finishing in 1:44.38. The colt was coming off a victory in the ungraded Rushaway Stakes on Polytrack at Turfway Park and now has won 3 of 8 overall starts.

After Bushwacked, the complete order of the 29th Lexington was Uptowncharlybrown, Chief Counsel, Prince Will I Am, Kettle River, Distorted Dave, Heavenville, Krypton, Connemara, Call Shot, and Lonesome Street. Bettors saw the 12-horse race as being so competitive that the lowest odds were 4-1 on Connemara and Uptowncharlybrown, while the longest shot, Lonesome Street, was only 22-1.

Only one Lexington starter had sufficient earnings going into the race to crack the Derby field: Connemara, a Pletcher-trained colt who had no mishap finishing 10th. That prerace situation was atypical in that the Lexington often produces a starter for the Derby.

Pletcher has won four of the last six runnings of the Lexington with Coin Silver (2005), Behindatthebar (2008), and Advice (2009).

West Ocean takes Giant's Causeway

Pletcher and Giant's Causeway are the trainer and sire, respectively, of Derby favorite Eskendereya, so maybe there was something to be read into the results of the race that preceded the Lexington.

West Ocean ($4), trained by Pletcher, set a stakes record in capturing the . A 4-year-old Elusive Quality filly, also owned by Wertheimer and Frere, West Ocean finished 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.23 over a firm turf course.

Libor Lady took an open lead soon after the start but was no match for the stretch run by West Ocean, who shot clear to prevail by 4 3/4 lengths, with Libor Lady narrowly holding second over Silver Time. West Ocean, now a winner in 5 of 8 career races, also set a course record in winning her previous start over the Fair Grounds turf.

The victory was the fourth of the Saturday program for jockey Javier Castellano, who swept the second through fourth races.

A crowd of 29,419 was in attendance for the Coolmore Lexington card.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch