04/19/2012 2:26PM

Keeneland: Lexington unlikely to produce Kentucky Derby starter

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Bob Coglianese
Summer Front, unbeaten in three starts on turf, will try to transfer that form to Polytrack in the Coolmore Lexington.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The metaphor is well-worn: the Coolmore Lexington Stakes serves as the final stop for the Kentucky Derby train steaming into Louisville.

Well, hardly anybody is in the depot this year. Only two marginal possibilities to advance to the May 5 Derby are in the field of 11 3-year-olds set to run Saturday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington at Keeneland, and it would be no surprise if the race winds up carrying zero effect two weeks hence.

Still, the 31st running of the Lexington, which goes at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack, looks every bit a wide-open affair and a terrific horse race, and fans probably will just have to settle on that as their overarching theme. Yes, Castaway, with $162,000 in graded earnings, would make the 20-horse cutoff for the Derby by taking home the $120,000 winner’s share Saturday and could possibly make the field by finishing second, while Morgan’s Guerrilla ($100,000 in graded earnings) still might need some luck to make it in case of a victory, depending on what develops until Derby entries are taken May 2.

[MORE: Download PPs and watch the full Saturday Keeneland card LIVE on DRF.com]

But the list of plausible Lexington winners extends well beyond those two. One of the more interesting entrants is Summer Front, a Christophe Clement-trained colt unbeaten in three starts, all over turf. A bay colt by the hot young sire, War Front, he won a maiden sprint at Belmont Park in late September, then followed up with wins in ungraded stakes, the King Cugat at Aqueduct in early November and the Dania Beach at Gulfstream Park in mid-December.

“He is a very exciting prospect,” said Clement. “He has been impressive in every single race. He has been training brilliantly at Payson Park the last couple of months.”

As most horseplayers are well aware, turf form often transfers favorably to a synthetic surface, and Clement said he is confident that could be the case with Summer Front, noting the colt breezed swiftly over the Keeneland strip when Waterford Stable bought him for $475,000 at the 2-year-old in training sales here last April.

“We could have waited to run him on the turf on Derby weekend [in the American Turf], but I thought this would be a very good spot for him,” said Clement.

Summer Front drew well, getting post 2 with Ramon Dominguez to ride.

Among the other serious challengers lacking Derby aspirations are Golden Ticket, runner-up in the Tampa Bay Derby; Holiday Promise, runner-up in the Vinery Spiral Racing Stakes; News Pending, a two-back runner-up to Union Rags in the rich Fountain of Youth; and Gold Megillah, third in the Rushaway at Turfway last out.

Golden Ticket, trained by Ken McPeek, took six tries to win a maiden race. After doing so at Gulfstream in February, he then ran big at 12-1 when chasing home Prospective at Tampa.

“He’s on the upswing, which you always like to see this time of year,” said McPeek.

Longshots rounding out the cast are Johannesbourbon, Skyring, Hammers Terror, and All Squared Away.

A crowd of more than 25,000 is expected for this final Saturday of the 15-day spring meet, with the weather forecast calling for a high temperature of just 54. TVG will have extensive coverage, while all Keeneland races are available through live streaming on drf.com.

Polytrack races at 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland begin and end at what otherwise is the sixteenth pole.

◗ Directly preceding the Lexington on a 10-race card is the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway (race 8), a 5 1/2-furlong turf dash that drew an oversubscribed field of 13 fillies and mares.

Wild About Marie, winner of the Franklin County Stakes here last fall, could have things set up for her again in a race with plenty of speed, most notably Inspired, the lukewarm morning-line favorite. Robby Albarado has a return call on Wild About Marie.

The Saturday card also includes three straight allowances (races 5-7). First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

Coolmore Lexington S. (G3), Post Time: 5:13 ET Saturday

Purse: $200,000; 1 1/16 miles

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

Morgan's Guerilla

M. Maker

J. Leparoux

6-1

1

Summer Front

C. Clement

R. Dominguez

9-2

1

Johannesbourbon

K. Gorder

G. Gomez

8-1

1

Skyring

D. Lukas

J. Court

30-1

1

Golden Ticket

K. McPeek

M. Cruz

6-1

1

Holiday Promise

T. Pletcher

J. Alvarado

6-1

1

Castaway

B. Baffert

S. Bridgmohan

3-1

1

Hammers Terror

M. Stidham

R. Albarado

30-1

1

All Squared Away

W. Ward

J. Garcia

50-1

1

News Pending

D. Romans

K. Desormeaux

5-1

1

Gold Megillah

H. Motion

J. Velazquez

10-1