Down to the Wire: Illinois Derby & Coolmore Lexington Stakes

Dance With Fate stole the show at Keeneland when he closed well to win the G1 Blue Grass Stakes. He was ridden beautifully by Corey Nakatani in doing so. Personally, I'm a big fan of Two Step Salsa as a sire, so a G1 win from his leading son was nice to see. In Arkansas, Danza shipped in from Florida and blew 'em away, providing us with another interesting Kentucky Derby prospect. A big weekend of racing is on tap, so let's get right to it. 

4/19/2014: Hawthorne Race 9 -- G3 Illinois Derby (9f):
We may be uncertain whether or not he'll ultimately show up at Churchill Downs come Kentucky Derby day, but Midnight Hawk does have the points to run on the first Saturday in May, so this could very well turn out to be his final Derby prep. The Baffert-trained son of Midnight Lute always runs his race and has never finished outside of the top three in five career starts (four of which being graded stakes). He holds a speed and class edge here and should get the win. If you're hard-pressed on betting against him, one to consider is Class Leader, who won his two most recent starts, both of which came at Fair Grounds. The lightly raced son of Smart Strike out of the multiple graded stakes winning mare Class Kris will be making his third start of this form cycle and fourth career start overall. I expect him to be able to sit a good trip just off the pace and although this is a step up in class for him, he seems the improving type to me. 

Pick: #8 Class Leader to Win

4/19/2014: Keeneland Race 9 -- G3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (8.5f, AW):
The synthetic track at Keeneland has played kindly to closers this meet and I'd expect this race to go no differently. Mr Speaker is the class of this field, his two most recent turf starts at Gulfstream immediately make him a contender here, and his most recent runner-up finish in the G3 Palm Beach caught my attention. I'm a big fan of Pleuven, who is a strong closer, and coming down the stretch, he blew by Pleuven with ease. The Pletcher-trained Divine Oath also merits consideration. The son of Broken Vow is undefeated in two starts, both of which came on the turf at Gulfstream, and he beat the likes of Big Bazinga and Ring Weekend along the way. 

Pick: #1 Mr. Speaker to Win, Double (starting in R8): 6,10 / 1,6

Bonus Pick for Saturday, April 19, 2014:

Charles Town Race 12 -- G2 Charles Town Classic (9f): #1 Clubhouse Ride
While Game on Dude is a deserving favorite in nearly every race in which he runs, he runs his best races when he gets an easy lead and with Moreno in the field, the lead here will be contested from the start. Clubhouse Ride comes here after having finished third in two straight at Santa Anita, but the track hasn't necessarily played to his strengths, not that there's much shame in losing to multiple graded stakes winner Sahara Sky; the up-and-coming Big Macher; or Fury Kapcori, who is undefeated in 2014. 

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