04/17/2012 12:09PM

Keeneland: Baffert putting Castaway in Lexington

Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography
Castaway, with Rafael Bejarano riding, wins his division of the Southwest at Oaklawn, collecting $150,000 in graded stakes earnings.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Coolmore Lexington Stakes might produce a starter for the Kentucky Derby after all. Bob Baffert has decided to run Castaway in the Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington on Saturday at Keeneland, and a victory would give the colt enough graded earnings to run back in the Derby if his connections so wished.

Castaway earned $150,000 in winning a division of the Grade 2 Southwest Stakes in February, then got another $12,000 when he was a distant seventh as the 8-5 favorite in the Grade 3 Sunland Park Derby last month. Victory in the Lexington is worth $120,000, which would give Castaway a total of $282,000 – sufficient to make the Derby, as things stood Tuesday – if the colt reverses form and wins Saturday.

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Castaway, in a bit of serendipity, is owned by the Coolmore team of Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith. A Street Sense colt, he took six races to win for the first time in California before following his maiden victory by taking the Southwest at Oaklawn Park.

Baffert said Tuesday from California that he was not sure whether the Coolmore team would want to run back in the Derby if the colt wins Saturday. “We’re just trying to make some money,” he said.

Baffert said the 25-length defeat for Castaway at Sunland was accountable to the “suicidal pace” which the colt took part in. “Ridiculous,” he said. Shaun Bridgmohan has picked up the mount for the Lexington.

At least 10 3-year-olds were expected when entries were taken Wednesday for the Lexington.

In a more convoluted scenario regarding a Derby possibility, Morgan’s Guerrilla, second in the Illinois Derby, would have to win the Lexington in his fourth career start – and first over Polytrack – and then hope for defections from what shapes up to be the current Derby field of 20 to get a chance to run.

Morgan’s Guerrilla, owned by a partnership headed by the father-son team of Tom and Jack Conway, has $100,000 in graded earnings, all from his runner-up finish in his stakes debut in the April 7 Illinois Derby. If he won Saturday, he would rank 22nd in the earnings standings, and that’s assuming Trinniberg is not entered.

“I’m assuming Mr. [Tom] Conway would want to run, but obviously there’d be a whole lot of luck involved,” said trainer Mike Maker. Morgan’s Guerrilla “is a son of Ghostzapper, and they run big on the Poly, but he’d have to do a lot of things right for us to be in that position.”

A win would give Morgan’s Guerrilla a total of $220,000 in graded earnings, actually tying him with Reveron for 21st, but Reveron would get the nod over him because of higher earnings in stakes (including ungraded), which is the next tie-breaker in the eligibility criteria. Reveron won the ungraded, $100,000 Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day.

Maker, who already has Hansen as one of the top contenders for the 138th Derby on May 5, is well aware that Morgan’s Guerrilla has things stacked against him, considering it will be just a two-week span from the Illinois Derby to the Lexington. “He is a very gifted horse,” said Maker. “We’ll just have to see what happens.”

The 1 1/16-mile Lexington looks very well-matched. Besides Castaway and Morgan’s Guerrilla, other top contenders include Holiday Promise, runner-up in the Vinery Spiral for Todd Pletcher; Golden Ticket, runner-up in the Tampa Bay Derby (Ken McPeek); News Pending, runner-up in the Fountain of Youth (Dale Romans); and Summer Front, making his first start at 3 after going unbeaten in three starts, all on turf, as a 2-year-old (Christophe Clement).

Other probables include All Squared Away, Gold Megillah, Hammers Terror, and Johannesbourbon.

Maker won the Lexington last year with 9-1 shot Derby Kitten, who went on to run 13th in the Derby.

Making new plans

With the notable exception of Prospective, who finished sixth, the also-rans from the Blue Grass Stakes last Saturday are being put in regroup mode. Trainer Mark Casse said Prospective, who has $367,327 in graded earnings and can make the field, remains on the fence in regard to his Derby status. “We’ll make our decision after he works about a week out from the race,” said Casse.

Otherwise, horses such as Howe Great (fifth), Heavy Breathing (seventh), Midnight Crooner (eighth), and Ever So Lucky (10th) all will resume racing in the near future, albeit with lower aspirations.

Typical of this is what Jonathan Sheppard said about Ever So Lucky. “We will get our heads together and come up with something,” he said.

Stakes standouts in claimer

The second race here Thursday might be a $32,000 claiming race at six furlongs on Polytrack, but two of its participants, Silver Timber and Kelly Leak, have known far greater glory in recent times.

Silver Timber, an earner of more than $750,000, is a six-time stakes winner who captured the Grade 3 Woodford here in 2009 and 2010 and ran back in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint both years.

Kelly Leak has earned nearly $840,000, the bulk of it by winning the Sunland Park Derby in 2009, when the purse was $900,000 but the race was still ungraded. Finishing fourth behind Kelly Leak in that race was Mine That Bird, who romped in the Kentucky Derby in his next start.

Silver Timber and Kelly Leak figure among the favorites in a field of six.

Baby race may shrink

Another of the popular “baby” races comes up Thursday, with 10 2-year-olds going 4 1/2 furlongs in race 3, but don’t look for all of them to start. There are three stable couplings, making for a maximum of seven betting interests, and parts of one or more entries are frequently scratched in such a situation.

Wesley Ward, who has dominated the 2-year-old events here in recent years, invariably scratches half of his couplings in these races, meaning either Justcallmemoni or Muggsy likely will scratch Thursday.

◗ Bret Calhoun is nearing a career milestone: win No. 2,000. Entering Thursday action, Calhoun stood at 1,999 wins and has his first chance to hit the mark with Control Tower in the sixth race. Calhoun, 47, is best known for winning two races at the 2010 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs, the Filly and Mare Sprint with Dubai Majesty and the Turf Sprint with Chamberlain Bridge.

◗ Churchill announced Tuesday that three fillies have been made late nominees to the May 4 Kentucky Oaks: Jemima’s Pearl, Oaks Lily, and Welcome Guest. All were made eligible to the $1 million race by a late payment of $1,500.