04/17/2012 1:09PM

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.

juliuso More than 1 year ago
Mr Pletcher should have placed El Padrino in here for a workout and to get him the earnings bump he would need to get in.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Wesley Ward,,,,,,, hmmm, just what does WEsley have in the needle to hit at such an unbelievable rate with 2 year olds?? It has nothing to do with hormones does it Wesley? Funny because he cant saddle older horses to win with such repetition. TVG would lead you to believe the guy is the horse whisperer. A trainer receives a horse, hands it to a Mexican to hook up to a merry-go-round, has it break from the starting gate on Saturday morning and puts it in a race. Where in that process does a man become so adept at having winners come back so frequently? Food for thought.
Nick Gunritz More than 1 year ago
Doesn't matter, Summer Front will win.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like Summer Front too. Hopefully he has some good odds.
John Burton More than 1 year ago
Go Bob! Run CASTAWAY in the Lexington! I'd love to see him run and get into the derby! Mr. Maker enter MORGAN GUERRILLA too! He is a very talented colt too and I wish he had won the Illinois Derby. He should have! he ran the most and the hardest! But if he does not run in the KDerby, bring him to Pimlico for the Preakness!
Sharon Farrelly More than 1 year ago
Trust me i know this horse well. The only reason he lost the sunland was because an idiot jockey decided to go 21.3 with a rabbit-quarter horse-like sprinter who had no reason to be in that race to start with. I dont see much speed other than bodiemeister and he might rate in the derby. First things are first win the lexington. When he won the swest stks, it took nothing out of him. He could have came right back in two weeks. I just dont think baffert will send castaway to the derby cuz it might ruin bodie's chances if he decides to go wire to wire.
Rodney Dangerfield More than 1 year ago
Sharon, The three year old division's at Oak Lawn were very weak this year, and this horse does not belong any where near the Derby. Sorry...But have a nice day anyway !!!
Douglas More than 1 year ago
Sorry , But The Best Colt Won The SUNLAND DERBY , Flat-Out ! DADDY NOSE BEST / JULIEN LEPAROUX were just waiting in the wings as plan !
Jordan More than 1 year ago
The thing that causes me most concern regarding the Sunland race is not that Castaway lost or even that he was beaten a large margin. You are correct, the pace was ridiculous and it gave Castaway no shot to win. No, most concerning for me is that the "rabbit quarter horse" finished ahead of Castaway. I understand not winning, but Castaway wasn't even able to outfinish the horse he was running with early.
Sharon Farrelly More than 1 year ago
Watch the sunland derby on video. You will see castaway duel with another horse and then draw away in an extra gear. Then watch the sunland derby and watch the jockey pushing castaway in 21 and change as hard as he could. To me it looked as if if the race was fixed. I have never seen a jock push a horse harder to the first quarter in a mile 1/16.. I dont know what he was thinking. Also, sunland is a completely diferent track than churchill and oaklawn. Its an all weather track that favored closers that day. In my opinion you completely cross the race out and pretend it never happened. Did you see how fast baffert changed jockeys. All im saying is if he ran like he did in the southwest then he would have won that race easily with daddy nose best 2 back in second. He beat opine by 12 in the southwest and opine beat castaway by 9 in the sunland. When he wins by 3 in lexington you will see my point and understand the logic with speed duels and fractions. He will then be about 25-1 to win the derby if baffert decides to run him versus bodie. I wouldnt be surprised if baffert tries to rate him in the lexington. why would you want him to win wire to wire impressively? That would compromise bodies chances to wire the ken drby field.
Chris Jones More than 1 year ago
Why would anyone continue reading your post after the line "to me it looked as if the race was fixed?" That is foolishness! This was not a $2k claimer on a weekday at Sunland.
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
Did Bob Baffert change jockeys? I thought Bejarano has always ridden Castaway? I may be wrong. I just didn't think Bob Baffert changed jockeys.
Sharon Farrelly More than 1 year ago
War cnant and commendable type could steel the kty derby if he gets loose on the lead