04/18/2002 11:00PM

Take the "Easy" money in Lexington

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The Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland on Saturday will be the last of the major prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby on May 4. Counting the scratch of the morning-line favorite, Officer, who is injured, the grade 2, $325,000 Lexington will feature a field of eight promising 3-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles around two turns.

At present, as many as 30 horses are still hoping to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, which is limited to 20 horses. For many horses in the field, the Lexington will offer one last chance for a boost in graded stakes earnings - the determining factor in which horses will be in, and which horses will be out come the first Saturday in May.

With Officer out of the race, the likely Lexington favorite will be Easyfromthegitgo, who lost his last start by just a nose to Repent in the Louisiana Derby. And while Easyfromthegitgo's price will not be very juicy, he holds a huge experience edge over the rest of the field and clearly looks like the horse to beat.

Easyfromthegitgo's Beyer figures stack up favorably against most of his rivals at route distances, and his running style from just off the pace should put him in a perfect spot to rally past the speed horses in the stretch. Easyfromthegitgo is trained by the red-hot Steve Asmussen, the country's leading trainer in wins (119), and the trainer of last week's Arkansas Derby winner Private Emblem.

The Lexington's wild card will be Ethan Man, who is nearly perfect (3-for-4) in sprints so far in his career, but is stretching out to two-turns for the first time in Saturday's race. He could vie for favoritism along with Easyfromthegitgo, but will need to prove himself at a new distance and will probably be involved in a quick early pace along with One Tuff Fox.

One Tuff Fox earned a 101 Beyer in an allowance win at Fair Grounds in his last race back on March 4. However, it remains to be seen if he can compete with the likes of Easyfromthegitgo after being softened up on the lead by a horse as talented as Ethan Man.

SELECTIONS:

LEXINGTON

Keeneland, Saturday - Race 8

Grade 2, 1 1/16 miles, purse: $325,000

1) 3-Easyfromthegitgo

2) 7-Ethan Man

3) 8-One Tuff Fox


$100 PLAY

Play No. 3 Easyfromthegitgo to win and try to bump up your payoffs by hooking him up in the exactas with No. 7 Ethan Man and No. 8 One Tuff Fox. Toss No. 5 Tails Of The Crypt into your trifectas.

$20 exactas: 3-Easyfromthegitgo with 7-Ethan Man/8-One Tuff Fox ($40 bet)

$5 trifectas: 3-Easyfromthegitgo OVER 5-Tails Of The Crypt/7-Ethan Man/8-One Tuff Fox ($30 bet)

$30 to win on 3-Easyfromthegitgo