When Godolphin’s Mystic Guide won the $12 million Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) at Meydan March 27, Mike Stidham’s cell phone lit up with 387 congratulatory text messages, the trainer said.
That is a notification tally that will be difficult for him ever to surpass, but perhaps a favorable turn of events April 10 could send off another rapid series of alerts. The trainer is again at center stage, starting leading contenders—and half siblings—Proxy and Micheline for Godolphin at Keeneland in the $200,000 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (G3) and the $300,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1T).
Both homebreds are out of the Include mare Panty Raid , a millionaire that counted the 2007 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (G1) at Keeneland among her five victories. Proxy is by Tapit , Micheline by Bernardini .
Though the Jenny Wiley is richer and more prestigious by grade, the 1 1/16-mile Lexington will be one of the most-watched races across the country Saturday, with fans eager to get a glimpse at 3-year-olds that could race in the Triple Crown. The 10-horse Lexington includes promising 3-year-olds Noble Reflection , Swiftsure , Bezos , Hockey Dad , Unbridled Honor , and Starrininmydreams .
For most, a future start is unlikely to come in the May 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1)—though it is not out of the range of possibilities. Though the race offers qualifying points to the Derby on a limited 20-8-4-2 scale to its top four finishers, two horses—Proxy (34 points) and Hockey Dad (20 points)—already have enough points to rank among the top 25 horses on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. Up to 20 horses can start in the Derby, with preference determined by points.
Still, Stidham admits a Derby start is a longshot for his colt after running fourth in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots March 20. Additionally, Godolphin already has the probable favorite for the Derby with the Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality , winner of last week’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.
“Why beat him up in a 20-horse field and maybe set him back for the rest of the year? So that’s why we’re here,” Stidham said of his trainee. “We’re going in this race with the hopes of coming out a grade 3 stakes winner. He hasn’t won a stakes yet, which is what we’re trying to accomplish.”
What Proxy has done is threaten throughout the winter at Fair Grounds in its series of Derby preps. Besides his fourth in the Louisiana Derby, he was second in both the Lecomte Stakes (G3) and Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2).
He added blinkers for the Louisiana Derby, an equipment change that didn’t produce a better outcome, but that generated a faster speed figure on the Ragozin Sheets, which Stidham uses to evaluate racing performances.
“I am adjusting from semi cups to like just a French cup with a hole, so he will have more of a peripheral view,” Stidham said of an adjustment to the colt’s blinkers for Saturday. “With this cup, you’ll still take away a little bit of the rearview from him.”
He worked with his new equipment April 4 at Keeneland, Stidham said, when the colt sizzled four furlongs in :46 4/5, the fastest of 64 works at the distance that morning.
Stidham has left the Derby door slightly ajar, calling it “very unlikely but you can’t say absolutely not.”
Reddam Racing’s Hockey Dad earned his 20 qualifying points with a third in the March 27 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), a race that received a points hike this year by Turfway Park‘s owner, Churchill Downs Inc. The versatile son of 2016 Derby winner Nyquist has run well on turf, dirt, and synthetic. His race in the Jeff Ruby, which followed four efforts vs. California-breds at Santa Anita Park, was his first stakes attempt for trainer Doug O’Neill.
O’Neill and Paul Reddam of Reddam Racing have twice won the Derby, first with I’ll Have Another in 2012, followed by Nyquist.
Six-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, who won the 2016 Lexington with Collected , entered Bezos in Saturday’s race. The colt jumps in class after a second-out maiden victory March 26 at Santa Anita Park for owners SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Stonestreet Stables, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm, and Robert Masterson. As an unraced maiden, the highly touted son of Empire Maker was backed to 26-1 odds in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, though he was removed from three subsequent pools after finishing seventh at 3-5 odds in his Feb. 7 debut.
Bezos breaks his maiden at Santa Anita Park
The Lexington has produced two winners of the Kentucky Derby, Swale in 1984 (following a runner-up finish) and Charismatic, who scored in both races in 1999.
Just once since the points era began in 2013 has a Lexington starter competed in the Derby. My Boy Jack ran fifth in the 2018 Derby after winning the Lexington.
More often, the Lexington has propelled 3-year-olds into the Preakness Stakes (G1). The respective 2019, 2017, and 2015 Lexington winners—Owendale , Senior Investment , and Divining Rod —all ran third in the Triple Crown’s second leg. Last year the Lexington was not run after Keeneland canceled its spring meet with the onset of COVID-19.
Keeneland, Saturday, April 10, 2021, Race 9
- Grade III
- 1 1/16m
- 3 yo
- 5:30 PM (local)