Phipps Stable's homebred Mr Speaker, under a ground-saving ride from Jose Lezcano, took command at the head of the stretch to score a four-length victory in the 33rd running of the $200,000 Coolmore Lexington (G3) for 3-year-olds before a sun-drenched crowd of 34,933 on Saturday at Keeneland. It was the fourth-largest attendance in track history.
Trained by Shug McGaughey, Mr Speaker raced next to the rail while tracking early leaders Solitary Ranger and Supermonic, who raced through fractions of :24.13, :48.07 and 1:13.17.
Leaving the far turn, Lezcano moved Mr Speaker off the rail and surged around the leaders to quickly take over en route to completing the 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:44.18.
A Kentucky-bred son of Pulpit out of the Unbridled mare Salute, Mr Speaker improved his record to 7-3-1-1 and boosted his earnings to $269,880 with Saturday's $120,000 check.
As the favorite in the field of eight, Mr Speaker returned $6.20, $3.40 and $2.40. Divine Oath finished second under Javier Castellano to return $3.80 and $2.80 in finishing a head in front of stablemate Supermonic, who paid $3 to show under Joel Rosario.
Finishing another three-quarters of a length back in fourth was Ami's Holiday, who was followed in order by Solitary Ranger, Poker Player, Z Lucky and Ride Away.
Quotes from connections:
Shug McGaughey (winning trainer of 2-1 favorite Mr Speaker): “I thought Jose (Lezcano) rode a great race on him. 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 4½ (furlong) pole, and I thought, 'Well, he's got a lot of horse. We'll just see what happens when the running starts.'
“This horse we've been high on. I brought him here with the idea of running in the (Grade 1 Toyota) Blue Grass, but when it came up a big field I decided not to. Racing Secretary (Ben Huffman) told me last week they were going to have six (in this race) so I decided to go and it ended up with 11.”
On running Mr Speaker on dirt
“We ran him on the dirt one time (a seventh in the G2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Jan. 25), and I don't think that was a true indication of his dirt form. I think he probably will handle the dirt. He laid up maybe a bit closer than we wanted him to (in that race), maybe (was) a little eager, and I don't think Jose wanted him eating the dirt. So I think one of these days we'll try him again, but it's not going to be in two weeks (in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands).”
Javier Castellano (rider of runner-up Divine Oath): “I had a beautiful trip. 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.”
Todd Pletcher (trainer of Divine Oath): “We were hoping to get a crack at the (Toyota) Blue Grass Stakes, but this was always the back-up plan. I think he would have made a good showing of himself like he did today. He ran well today.”
Joel Rosario (rider of third-place finisher Supermonic): “It was a good race. I thought he'd be laying second or in front. I got kinda held up. He wanted to be there. He ran his race all right. Probably the horse that won the race was the best horse. Hopefully, next time he'll (Supermonic) do better.”
Robby Albarado (rider of fourth-place finisher Ami's Holiday): “The horse ran a big race. They rushed up on him at the three-eighths pole and he lost a little position there, got in a little tight quarters. Then the (first two finishers, Mr Speaker and Divine Oath) cleared him and he stayed. He stayed to the wire. A good fourth.”
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