04/12/2015 5:20PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Lexington Stakes

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Divining Rod wins the Lexington Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland.

Grade 3, $250,000 Lexington Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Keeneland, April 11, 2015
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Divining Rod
Trainer: Arnaud Delacour
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Owner: Lael Stables
Beyer Speed Figure: 98

The Lexington was run on the same day as the Arkansas Derby and thus concluded the prep season toward the Kentucky Derby, but this race was worth one-tenth the point value of the Arkansas Derby and thus drew a field of horses who were unlikely to move on to the Derby.

DIVINING ROD, the winner, doubled his point value to 20, and with several horses above him looking iffy to make the race, that might very well be enough to get in. But Roy Jackson, who races as Lael Stables with his wife, Gretchen, soon after the race squashed any debate over whether Divining Rod would run, saying, “No, I don’t think so.”

The Jacksons won the Derby in 2006 with Barbaro, a homebred like Divining Rod.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

The significance of this race, though, may be through Carpe Diem, who won the Tampa Bay Derby – in which Divining Rod finished third – before his victory in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 4. Danzig Moon, fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby, came back to finish second in the Blue Grass. At the least, Divining Rod’s win is another indication the form of the Tampa Bay Derby is holding up. It also shows that Divining Rod is continuing to improve. The decision to bypass what looks like a brutally tough Derby could pay dividends down the line, allowing this colt more time to develop. This was only his fifth lifetime start.

In the Lexington, Divining Rod broke sharply from the rail and saved ground while under a snug hold behind the early leader FAME AND POWER. He stayed there until midway on the far turn when he was tipped three paths wide to go after Fame and Power and DONWORTH, who had moved to challenge Fame and Power for the lead. He moved past those horses in upper stretch with a nice turn of foot and drew away to easily win in a race that began and ended at the sixteenth pole. Considering how well Divining Rod was going throughout, he looked like a winner every step of the way.

Donworth just did take second over Fame and Power in a promising try, considering this was only his second start and first around two turns. He broke half a step slow and wound up three paths wide into the first turn, then made a determined bid to advance into second in the midst of a second quarter-mile that went in 23.87 seconds. He moved to challenge Fame and Power for the lead midway on the far turn, failed to fend off Divining Rod, but prevailed narrowly in a spirited stretch drive with Fame and Power for the runner-up spot.

Fame and Power finished third after setting the early pace, which he grabbed when sent for the lead from post 6. He was challenged by Donworth on the far turn and raced with that one the final quarter-mile, virtually in unison, and just did get touched out for second.

COMFORT, who finished fourth, was clobbered at the start when TIZNOW R J veered in, causing a chain reaction that also impacted QUIMET. He had to check shortly out of the gate and wound up last into the first turn. He advanced while three paths wide on the far turn and got within less than two lengths of the leaders but did not have enough to hold in Divining Rod, was out-quickened in upper stretch, and only made incremental impact on the second- and third-place finishers in the closing yards.

The rest were well beaten.

HENRY JONES, who finished fifth, bobbled slightly leaving the gate, raced between and just behind Divining Rod and Donworth entering the backstretch, dropped back to race in the clear heading down the backstretch, was outrun midway on the turn, had his rider glance toward his hindquarters as if he thought something was amiss, and was ridden sympathetically through the stretch.

Tiznow R J, who finished sixth, veered in sharply at the start after bobbling to bother the two rivals nearest to his inside, raced outside Quimet down the backstretch, could not keep up with Comfort when that rival rallied past him with three furlongs to go, dropped back, and failed to change leads in yet another desultory effort.

Quimet, who was bumped hard leaving the gate, raced on the rail while inside Tiznow R J and behind Divining Rod around the first turn and through most of the backstretch, but began to drop back readily beginning with three furlongs to go and wound up last.