CORRECTION / Breaking News Updates: G3 Lexington Stakes May Have 11 Hopefuls; Serengeti Empress Still Improving; Mark Hennig & Bourbon War Doing REAL Well in Sunny Florida

(Knicks Go, trained by Ben Colebrook, may take another swing at there Triple Crown in this Saturday’s G3 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

It’s a busy time of year, for sure. Horse time in Kentucky.

Foals hitting the ground. Mares being bred. Yearlings to be fed. Babies learning how to race. Keeneland’s relaunch of the 2-Year-Old In-Training Sale, along with a Horses of Racing Age Sale that will be conducted today. Racing as it was and is meant to be in the beautiful Bluegrass. And, of course, the awaiting of the greatest horse race of all time — the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby on the First Saturday in May.

It’s a fun time of year, for sure. Horse time in Kentucky.

And, here’s a look at a few “breaking stories” for you to indulge:

This Saturday’s G3 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes Could Be a Thriller: 

There is very little time and precious few chances left for the anxious and the prospective owners and horses that are looking and hoping to earn a spot in the 145th Kentucky Derby on the First Saturday in May.

There is the G1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, AR. this Saturday.

And, there is the G3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland this Saturday, as well.

These are the last two chances and opportunities to gain the points for the prestigious, yet over-filled right now, starting gate for the Derby. These are the last two opportunities for both horse and owner to gain momentum and the point to wedge into the “Top 20” — who will make the race. These are the last two steps on a long, arduous, dirt road to the Derby.

And, as a result, you can look for a lot of excitement between now and Saturday at Keeneland, as owners and trainers contemplate, measure twice, and cut once in their final decision-making process leading into Derby Fever. Just a year ago, My Boy Jack shipped into town just for the Lexington — and the necessary points — to get into the KY Derby. He won by an inch at the wire. He got into the Derby. And, he was the hot horse all week long, leading up to the “Run for the Roses” — where he finished a fast-closing 5th.

Now, the same hopes and dreams are back. Looking for one last chance at redemption and ascension.

As of this morning, “The Pressbox” has learned that a field of 13 may be lining up for the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes, which will be contested at 11/16-miles over the main dirt track.

The leaders of the pack would appear to be the talented quartet of Anothertwistafate, Dessman, Sueno, and Harvey Wallbanger.

Anothertwistafate — winner of three in a row, including the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 16, before he was second to Cutting Humor in the Sunland Derby — has been stuck in Arizona for much of the time since his last race. A viral epidemic, which claimed the life of a stablemate, kept him away from his home in Northern California.

But now he is headed to Lexington. With ability. With a chance. And, with high hopes.

He was beaten just a neck in the Sunland Derby and looked to be closing hard in that 11/8th-mile event. And now, after five career starts, he has a record of 3-1-0. Yet, not surprising, either. The connections thought enough of this one to purchase the son of Scat Daddy for $360,000 at a 2YO sale a year ago.

And, I’m guessing here, but wasn’t the KY Derby won by a son of Scat Daddy just a year ago? Maybe?

Dessman, a son of Union Rags, is another talented colt from the barn of Team Baffert. He has run three times so far in his abbreviated career. Won on debut at Santa Anita in January. Came back to run second to Sparky Ville in the G2 San Vicente Stakes just a month later. Was nipped just a nose in that one.

Despite missing a race, or perhaps two, due to the issues at Santa Anita, Dessman was shipped to Arkansas on the same day as the Rebel Stakes. Like his two more heralded teammates — Game Winner and Improbable — Dessman was second that day. He ran in a 11/16-mile allowance event over the dirt. Was beaten 11/2 lengths, but was carried 5 wide into the turn.

Look for better on Saturday.

Sueno, who is trained by Keith Desormeaux, is much like the aforementioned My Boy Jack. Trained by the same conditioner. Spent a lot of time on the West Coast. Under appreciated and lesser known. But not without significant talent.

Three races ago, Sueno ran a bang-up second to the now-injured Gunmetal Gray in the G3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. Next time out, the son of Atreides was second to the now-injured Super Steed in the G3 Southwest Stakes. Last time out, he was third to By My Standards and Spinoff in the G2 Louisiana Derby — where he made the lead at one time in the stretch before slowing.

In 6 lifetime starts, Sueno has never missed the board yet. And, he is looking for one more big bite of that post-game apple to stride on to Louisville, too.

And, then there is Harvey Wallbanger. Upset winner of the G2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park two races back, and a compromised 8th in the G1 Florida Derby last time out. He has experience at Keeneland, losing a Maiden Special Weight event here by a simple nose.

He, like his stablemates Restless Rider and Signalman, has been training very well of late, and he got to blowout 3 furlongs on Tuesday, as well.

But these are not the only 4 with a chance, a hope, a dream or a prayer in the Lexington Stakes. Here’s a look at the prospective field:

G3 Lexington Prospects4/13/19
11/16-Mile / DirtHorseTrainerRiderLast RaceCommentInteresting Note
1AnothertwistafateBlaine D. WrightJuan Hernandez2nd in the Sunland DerbyRider Change or No?Looked Good in Last; Needs to be Better in Next
2Award WinnerBrian LynchUndecided4th in GP AllowanceWould Be Huge StepAlso Entered for KEE Allowance on 4/12/19
3Chase the GhostDallas StewartUndecided9th in G2 Risen StarWas 6th in LeComteLongshot Trainer Takes Another Shot Here?
4DessmanBob BaffertFlorent Geroux2nd in Oaklawn Park AllowanceJockey Change?Part of Team Baffert’s Deep Bench / Yet Another?
5Durkin’s CallBill MottJunior Alvarado1st in Gander StakesMight Opt for Lexington StakesRan on 3-17 for 2nd Straight Win at AQU
6Harvey WallbangerKen McPeekBrian Hernandez8th in Florida DerbyWorked 3F on Tuesday in :37.40Race Didn’t Set Up For His Later Run, At All
7Hog Creek HustleVickie FoleyMiguel Mena8th in G2 LA Derby2nd in LeComte; 4th in Risen StarWill Have To Step It Up on Saturday
8Knicks GoBen ColebrookUndecided7th in G3 Gotham StakesMystery Horse This YearHas been 11th, 5th, 7th Since 2nd in BC Juvenile
9OwendaleBrad CoxUndecided8th in G2 Risen StarSon of Into Mischief; Big MeetAnother Who Has to Improve Mightily Here
10RoilandTom AmossJames Graham6th in G2 LA DerbyGate Issues Have HurtTrack So Far Has Favored Speed Types
11SkywireMark CasseUndecided8th in G3 Jeff RubyWon 2 in a Row Before PolyBack to Dirt May Help This Stalker
12SuenoJ. Keith DesormeauxCorey Lanerie3rd in the LA DerbyUndecidedBeginning to Like This One More & More
13ZendenVictor Barboza, JrSamy Camacho4th in G2 Tampa Bay Derby2nd to Call Paul in Swale StakesBeaten Only 3 by Tacitus / Don’t Dismiss
2/16/2019 – Jockey James Graham pilos Serengeti Empress into the stretch, then pulls away from the pack to win the 39th running of the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds. Hodges Photography / Britt Benson.

Serengeti Empress Doing Well; May Breeze Next Week:

We chatted, via text, with trainer Tom Amoss this morning. Seems as if the slow and patient recovery time given the superstar lady Serengeti Empress may be paving off for the horse, the boss and the connections.

The brilliant filly — who looked like she was on a stroll and headed toward a major and significant roll in this year’s Kentucky Oaks — bled out the nostrils in her last start in the Fair Grounds Oaks in her last race. She went from the front of that class, to being vanned off for full inspection and treatment.

But she has responded very well to some of her down time, and slow morning gallops, and looks to be ready for a more strenuous test around the oval soon. As soon as next week — maybe.

When asked about his star pupil this morning, Amoss answered:

“(She’s doing) good. First work since the FG Oaks will be at the beginning of next week. Maybe Tuesday,” Amoss texted back.

Here’s hoping and praying for the best.

Both trainer and horse deserve it.

(Mark Hennig, trainer of Bourbon War)

CORRECTION: Bourbon War & Hennig Chilling Out in Sunny Florida:

Bourbon War, an exquisite son of Tapit and trained by the talented Mark Hennig, did not rush to the alter this week and try to gain more points for the entry into the Kentucky Derby. Instead, the duo are still homed up at Gulfstream Park in sunny South Florida and are patiently waiting out the drama of this final weekend of Derby preps.

After finishing a closing fourth in the Florida Derby in the last out, Bourbon War now finds himself on the proverbial “bubble” for this year’s Kentucky Derby. Right now, arguably, he has the points to inch into the field. After this Saturday? We shall wait and see.

When contacted this morning, and asked how he was going, Hennig responded with:

“I’m great.”

When I asked if the horse was, too?

“Yes,” Hennig texted back. “I wouldn’t be great if he wasn’t.”

Then there was a smiling face.

What a line. What an answer. And, what an attitude.

Surely, Hennig would love to take a chance at this year’s Kentucky Derby. His horse, who ran a huge second to Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth, appears to be peaking at just the right time and with the right energy. Surely, he would and could be a contender.

But now only time and fate will decide.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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