LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Mr Speaker took charge down the stretch to win the $200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday and earn 10 points toward the Kentucky Derby, but will be a spectator to the Triple Crown.
With just 17 total points at stake in this Grade 3 race and facing a two-week turnaround before the 140th Derby on May 3, the winner was a longshot for Churchill Downs. But the Shug McGaughey-trained colt lived up to billing as the favorite in this last-chance Derby prep, contending throughout before breaking clear in the stretch to win by four lengths and earn his second stakes victory.
Ridden by Jose Lezcano, Mr Speaker covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.18 and paid $6.20, $3.40 and $2.40.
"I thought Jose (Lezcano) rode a great race on him," McGaughey said of his jockey. "He had him in the slot the whole way there and was just kind of waiting.
"I saw him reach up and grab him again around the 4 1/2 (furlong) pole, and I thought, `Well, he's got a lot of horse. We'll just see what happens when the running starts.'
Divine Oath returned $3.80 and $2.80 for four points; Supermonic paid $3.00 and earned two.
Ami's Holiday earned a point for fourth in his season debut.
McGaughey had considered running Mr Speaker in last week's Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes but passed because the field was too big. The Lexington turned up having 11 entries before three scratched, and the Kentucky-bred horse took advantage of the extra room.
McGaughey said Mr Speaker would run in the July 5 Belmont Derby Invitational on turf but gave no indication about the horse's next dirt start. He noted, though, that "it won't be in two weeks (at the Derby)."
Solitary Ranger and Supermonic had set the pace until the far turn when Mr Speaker began his surge. Also on the move was Divine Oath, who started slowly after brushing the gate but recovered to rally strong.
It wasn't going to be enough to catch Mr Speaker, but second place in Divine Oath's first stakes race was better than could have been expected considering how it started.
"I had a beautiful trip," jockey Javier Castellano said. "Unfortunately, I kind of missed the break out of the gate. I think that could have cost me my position in the race. I expected to be closer to the pace but unfortunately, the way (the race) unfolded, I had to come from behind. But that's the way the race developed."