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Lexington Stakes: The Final Kentucky Derby Trail Race of the Year

Written by: Brian Zipse
Published April 13, 2023
11 min read

Lexington Stakes and Post Position

Check out our predictions and odds for the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland!









C Lanerie

N Pessin




J Talamo

T Hamm




F Prat

B Cox




G Corrales

P Lobo




L Saez

B Cox




J Ortiz

S Asmussen




B J Hernandez Jr

K McPeek




L Dettori

W Mott




J Velazquez

S Joseph Jr




R Gutierrez

C Caramori




I Ortiz Jr

B Baffert

*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.

Lexington Stakes Predictions and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Demolition Duke over Disarm, First Mission and Empirestrikesfast = $30
  • $10 Exacta Part Wheel - Disarm, First Mission and Empirestrikesfast over Demolition Duke = $30
  • If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Demolition Duke (6/1)



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Lexington Stakes Predictions

Fresh off a solid second-place finish in the $1 million Louisiana Derby, Disarm headlines a wide-open field of 11 in Saturday’s Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, the son of Gun Runner has only won once in four career starts, but he has improved steadily since finishing third in his career debut at Churchill Downs and looks to use this race as a springboard to the Kentucky Derby.

An impressive maiden winner at Saratoga last summer, he has returned to finish second in both starts this year. Last out was his best yet, when he rallied up the rail to be a clear second to Kingsbarns at Fair Grounds. 

Chief among his opposition in the 8 1/2-furlong Lexington will be First Mission, who is one of two from the barn of Brad Cox. 

After running a good second to a highly regarded colt in his career debut, the son of Street Sense was a romping winner four weeks ago in a maiden race at Fair Grounds

Another horse who merits strong consideration on Saturday is Empirestrikesfast. The Empire Maker gelding has only run once, where he was a game winner at Gulfstream Park.

That victory has since been flattered when the horse he defeated, Dreamlike, came back to be part of a three-horse photo last weekend in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial.

As the final Kentucky Derby trail race of the year, the Grade 3 Lexington will offer qualifying points for the first Saturday in May on a scale of 20-8-6-4-2 to the first five finishers.

Lexington Stakes Predictions and Race Analysis


A good-looking maiden winner last summer at Saratoga, this son of Gun Runner was not seen again for more than six months. He has come back with two solid efforts upon his return for trainer Steve Asmussen. 

After a decent return, he lived up to his juvenile potential when he rallied up the rail to grab a clear second in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby last out. It did not quite get him enough qualifying points to clinch a spot in the Kentucky Derby, so they decided to run in the Lexington. 

A similar effort to his latest on Saturday would make him the horse to beat in here, but there are several interesting horses entered who could keep him out of the winner’s circle once again.

First Mission

The first of two for trainer Brad Cox, they both appear to have a world of potential. After a narrow loss to a highly regarded stablemate in his debut, this son of Street Sense stretched out in his second career start and was impressive in easily breaking his maiden at Fair Grounds.

 Things will get much tougher here, as he moves up into graded stakes racing, but he clearly is a horse with talent. He also is bred to get better as distances get longer. 

I am actually liking his stablemate a touch more on Saturday, but it would come as no surprise if this one ran a big race in the Lexington. 


This will be a tough spot for a horse who has made only one career start, but the good news is that he showed some real toughness in that career debut. Facing a highly regarded colt in his debut, he was able to fight him off down the lane for the win at Gulfstream Park. 

Not only were they way ahead of the rest at the wire, but the horse he beat, Dreamlike, came back to run a very good race in last weekend’s Wood Memorial. 

Trained by Bill Mott, this one should move forward off the effort and must be considered here, despite the inexperience. He is not my top pick, but the Empire Maker gelding could be any kind.

Arabian Lion

Perhaps the horse with the most speed in the race, this son of Justify might have to work hard early to get the lead from his outside post, as there are some quick horses to his inside. He does bring some class to the race, having faced legitimate graded stakes horses in each of his last three starts. 

He did also run a solid race last time he visited Keeneland, last fall. In his two races since that effort, he did not show much interest in fighting to the wire, and actually finished last in the short field, graded stakes races in Southern California. 

Despite that, the Baffert runner will likely get bet in here. He is a threat on talent, but I am looking elsewhere on Saturday.

Demolition Duke

The second good-looking, lightly raced horse from the barn of Brad Cox, this son of Good Magic has impressed me in his first two career starts. First, he rallied nicely to win a maiden sprint going away. 

The horse that finished second in that race at Fair Grounds came back to win by a huge margin in his next start. Demolition Duke then came back six weeks later then gave the very highly regarded Bishops Bay everything he wanted in a two-turn allowance race. 

There was no speed at all in that race, which likely favored the winner, and they finished a pole ahead of the rest. Given the experience and more speed in this one, I think he should be ready to run big on Saturday. In a wide open event, he is the top pick.


Another lightly raced horse moving up to graded stakes company, this son of Quality Road does not excite me quite as much as some of the others. 

The good news is that he is unbeaten in two starts for trainer Timothy Hamm. Both wins came at Tampa Bay Downs where he showed some tactical speed and the ability to finish. 

I’m not sure how much he was beating down there, though, so this should be a pretty significant move up in class. You can never count out the undefeated horse, but I do like others in this spot.

Prairie Hawk

After a poor stakes debut, this son of Curlin ran an improved race last time when fourth behind the talented Tapit Trice in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. And before his eighth-place finish in the Sam F. Davis Stakes, he had won two in a row for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. 

With pretty good tactical speed, he is a horse who should be in the picture early, but he does not look fast enough to be on the lead. 

He is definitely one to consider on Saturday, but I don’t know if even his improved effort last time is enough to get the job done here.


This experienced son of Gun Runner finished well behind Disarm last time when tenth in the Louisiana Derby. It was his fourth try against stakes company, and although there were some better finishes mixed in, he has yet to seriously threaten for the win. 

Having said that, this should be a kinder race scenario for the late-runner than he saw last time, with solid early fractions expected. 

Two starts back, he was able to get up for the win in a good allowance race. I can’t say that he is one of my top picks in here, but he is certainly eligible to be passing horses in the Keeneland stretch. 


Another son of Gun Runner, this one showed both good speed and the ability to pass horses in a pair of sprint wins over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park to begin his career. 

Moved up to graded stakes racing next out, he did not do much on a muddy track at Aqueduct in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes. 

Perhaps he can fare much better on a fast track, but the jury is still out on him on dirt and against quality horses. I do look for him to be more forwardly placed in the Lexington than he was last time in New York.

Baseline Beater

This late-running son of Flatter showed steady improvement before finally breaking through to win his maiden in his fifth try. 

Off the win, they put him in the Louisiana Derby where he never did much as a big longshot. The good news is that he will get more early speed to run at on Saturday, as he cuts back a furlong in distance. 

That combination should improve his chances in his second stakes attempt, but still there are too many others I like better in here. 

Curly Larry and Mo

After running second and fourth in a pair of New York-bred maiden races at Saratoga on dirt to begin his career, this son of Mo Town switched to the turf for his last four starts.

There he won once in four tries. In his only stakes try, he set the pace before finishing 14th and last in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. He also showed plenty of speed in his only start this year, but faltered late in a Gulfstream Park allowance. 

Switching back to dirt, he has found a tough spot on Saturday. He looks more like a pace presence rather than a serious player.



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How to Watch the Lexington Stakes

  • What: Lexington Stakes (Grade 1)
  • Location: Keeneland
  • Time: Saturday, April 15 -- 5:16 pm Eastern time
  • How to Watch: FanDuel TV
  • Purse: $400,000
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Brian Zipse

281 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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