The G1 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland on Saturday is always a target for trainer Chad Brown, and he could be set fair to win it for a fifth time as he is responsible for the market leaders Shantisara and Regal Glory. The highlight of the undercard is the 2022 Lexington Stakes, the final prep for the Kentucky Derby, in which Tawny Port and In Due Time bid to clinch a place in next month’s main event.
2022 Lexington Stakes
Grade 3, $400,000, 1m 1/2f, 3yo
It’s the last-chance saloon for Kentucky Derby hopefuls, the Lexington offering the winner of this final prep 20 RTKD points, which for two of today’s runners will confirm a place in the gate at Churchill Downs.
The morning-line choice Tawny Port (5-2) is currently 20th in the points standings, and a first-four finish would lock him into the Derby. He has done well on the synthetic surface at Turfway Park, winning twice and finishing runner-up to Tiz The Bomb in the G3 Jeff Ruby Stakes on his last start, but his only run on dirt resulted in a flat fifth place behind Epicenter in an admittedly super-hot G2 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds – although it nevertheless still reads well in this company.
The other who could leapfrog into the Derby top 20 is In Due Time (3-1), who stepped right up on his stakes debut when runner-up in the G2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park, three and a half lengths behind Simplification, with Howling Time (15-1) a never-at-the-races ninth. In Due Time has always had a big reputation and is liable to move up again.
Several of these are on a recovery mission, notably Call Me Midnight (6-1), who sprang a shock when getting up in the last stride to win the G3 Lecomte at the Fair Grounds but never fired in the G2 Louisiana Derby at the same track. Consistency is an issue, although if he can put it all together he’d be in the mix.
Also on the comeback trail is Major General (4-1), who burned his unbeaten record when last of ten in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby, a race that has not worked out well. He’s better than that and if revisiting his good juvenile form would have a shot, but he has plenty to prove as does Ethereal Road (10-1), who wheels back off just one week’s rest after never getting into the race in the G1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, finishing seventh. His earlier runner-up spot in the G2 Rebel at the Fair Grounds – Dash Attack (10-1) seventh – is weak form.
Stakes debutants We All See It (15-1), Skate To Heaven (30-1) and Strava (20-1) may find the task of bridging the class gap beyond them, but Midnight Chrome (20-1) is well worth a look after his third-place in the G2 Remsen at Aqueduct behind recent big-race winners Mo Donegal and Zandon.
His recent third in an allowance optional claimer at Gulfstream was on turf, but it will have tuned him up and he should appeal to exotics players.
Lexington Stakes Odds & Prediction
There are plenty in this with something to prove, but IN DUE TIME comes here off a lifetime best and can take advantage of class relief to seal a place in the field for the Kentucky Derby.
|Odds by JazzSports
|Jose L. Ortiz
|In Due Time
|We All See It
|Skate to Heaven
|Irad Ortiz, Jr.
|Call Me Midnight
2022 Jenny Wiley Stakes
Grade 1, $500,000, 1m 1/2f turf, 4yo+ fillies/mares
Chad Brown. G1 on turf. Older fillies and mares. Normally this would provide bettors with a natural short-cut to solving the puzzle, but not this time.
Brown has the two overwhelming favorites in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland on Saturday, a race he has won a joint-record four times, and as the old saying goes it’s six-to-five and pick ‘em.
The slight favorite on the morning-line is the four-year-old Shantisara (6-5), whose move from France last summer brought about enormous improvement. After a sighter, she went on a tear, winning the G3 Pucker Up at Arlington, the Jockey Club Oaks at Belmont Park, and, saving the best until last, the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup here over a mile-eighth, in which she drew off to win by five lengths.
There’s a feeling that she’s stronger over slightly further than today’s mile-sixteenth, and she does have a six-month layoff to contend with, but such was her progress last year that it seems probable there’s more to come as she matures out of her sophomore campaign.
She has the advantage of youth over barn mate Regal Glory (7-5), but the mare has the benefit of a more recent run and it was a good one, driving clear to win the G1 Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park over a mile-eighth in late January.
The performance was a continuation of her back-end form of 2021, which saw a marked improvement from what came before. She evolved into a bona fide top-level campaigner, running second in the G1 First Lady here over a mile before making all to win the G1 Matriarch at Del Mar, again over a mile.
She has a little more speed than her barn mate, but really there is hardly anything between them.
The British import Waliyak (6-1), a G3 winner in France over a mile-eighth on her final start on the other side of the pond, adapted well on her North American debut when fourth – beaten a length and a half – in the G1 EP Taylor at Woodbine. Any juice in the turf today will help her, although it’s fair to say that Canadian form doesn’t always match up well in a US context.
That also applies to Lady Speightspeare (8-1), a G1 winner at Woodbine as a juvenile but beaten in all three starts in the lower 48, latterly when fourth in the G2 Hillsborough over a mile-eighth at Tampa Bay Downs last month behind another Brown-trained filly.
Gate-to-wire course-and-distance winner Navratilova (8-1) made her stakes breakthrough as a longshot in that G3 Rubicon Valley View in October but didn’t repeat that level at Gulfstream on her first start of 2022 when third in the G3 Honey Fox over a mile. This is a tough spot for her, as it is for stamina-rich maiden winner Scarabea (20-1), fifth in the G3 Orchid over a mile and a half at Gulfstream just two weeks ago.
Jenny Wiley Odds & Prediction
It’s a coin-flip between Chad Brown’s two high-class distaffers, and the potential for further improvement can give the younger SHANTISARA an edge despite her lack of a recent run.
|Odds by JazzSports
|Julien R. Leparoux
|Jose L. Ortiz
|Colby J. Hernandez
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