Advice springs Lexington upset
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Advice rallied from last under Garrett Gomez to post a 15-1 upset Saturday in the final prep on the Kentucky Derby trail, the Grade 2 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, but whether the colt will move on to Churchill Downs in Louisville for the May 2 Derby was left in doubt.
Advice is owned by WinStar Farm, the Kentucky powerhouse that already has Hold Me Back and Mr. Hot Stuff as likely starters for the 135th Derby. WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden said before the Lexington that, even in case of a win Saturday, Advice would not go in the Derby, although he said after the race that the subject would come under review.
The Lexington still might have produced at least one Derby starter in Square Eddie, the 3-2 favorite who had a rough trip under Edgar Prado before finishing third behind Advice and Conservative. Square Eddie hopped at the start, trailed every rival but Advice to the half-mile pole, then made a huge circling move on the far turn to make the lead before tiring from those efforts.
"I was so proud of this colt," said trainer Doug O'Neill. "Edgar did a great job with him. We'll huddle up and see whether to go on to the Derby."
For trainer Todd Pletcher, victory in the Lexington was his third in the last five runnings, following Coin Silver in 2005 and Behindatthebar in 2008. Pletcher opted for a pair of equipment changes - blinkers off and a different bit - for Advice in the Lexington.
Longshot Pitched Perfectly set the pace to the far turn in the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race before the field began to bunch together. Square Eddie quickly swept to the lead, but Advice was full of run under Gomez and went on to finish a length before Conservative, another late runner, who was sent away at 18-1. Square Eddie finished another length back.
"I actually had a good trip from the 11-hole," said Gomez, who already is committed to either Dunkirk or Pioneerof the Nile for the Derby. "I was kind of able to weave my way through there."
Advice returned $33.60 after finishing in 1:43.33. The win was the first for the son of Chapel Royal since his career debut last July and was worth $186,000 from the $300,000 purse.
The victory continued a huge year for WinStar, which won the $6 million Dubai World Cup three weeks ago with Well Armed.
The attendance of 33,680 was the second-largest in Keeneland history, just short of the record of 33,821, set two years ago on Lexington Day.
In other Derby developments:
* Trainer Kelly Breen said he and owner George Hall would like to run Atomic Rain in the Derby if possible, joining their confirmed starter, West Side Bernie.
Breen said Saturday that he would look into the chances of Atomic Rain making the field, and "if it looks like he probably will," Breen was going to have his assistant, Miguel Santiago, work the colt Sunday morning at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Joe Bravo would have the Derby mount on Atomic Rain, who most recently was fourth in the Wood Memorial and has $77,500 in graded earnings.
Meanwhile, West Side Bernie had a strong gallop of nearly two miles Saturday morning at Churchill Downs with Breen aboard.
"I might have him work real easy Monday, or I might just open-gallop him until I get a more serious work into him closer to the race," said Breen.
* Trainer Bob Baffert made his first appearance of the Derby season Saturday morning at his Barn 33 headquarters at Churchill. Baffert, a three-time winner of the Derby, has Pioneerof the Nile as a major contender this year.
"Coming here with a horse like this, I feel like I have a chance to win it, so it's exciting when you know you have a good horse," he said.
* Two notable works were scheduled for Sunday morning at Churchill by Papa Clem, who was set to breeze seven furlongs just eight days after winning the Arkansas Derby, and Take the Points, a Todd Pletcher-trained colt with $85,000 in graded earnings. Take the Points is being listed as "possible" to enter the Derby picture, depending on how the race outlook continues to shake out.
* Mark Johnson, who earlier this year was named the new race caller at Churchill, was up early to watch the Saturday works. Johnson, who arrived Thursday in Louisville from his native Great Britain, won the announcing job in a five-way tryout last fall.
* In earlier Saturday action at Keeneland, Diamondrella ($8.80) launched a torrid rally under Rajiv Maragh to win the $100,000 Giant's Causeway, a 5 1/2-furlong turf stakes for fillies and mares, after Ready's Echo ($4.60) and Born to Be ($17.60) both posted impressive scores in Polytrack allowances. All three of those winners last raced in October.