By Dick Downey
Shug McGaughey achieved the highest high winning the Kentucky Derby last year, took a one-two punch when Honor Code and Top Billing were knocked off the Derby Trail this year, then won the last points race on the Derby Road with Mr Speaker.
An easy four-length winner of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes under Jose Lezcano, Mr Speaker got 10 Derby points and will look further down the road for his next effort.
Divine Oath finished second, edging Supermonic by a head, with Ami’s Holiday another 3/4 length back in fourth. They were followed by Solitary Ranger, Poker Player, Z Lucky and Ride Away. Dynamic Strike, Global Impact and Morning Calm were scratched.
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. He’s a Phipps Stable homebred.
As the 2-1 favorite in the field of eight, Mr Speaker returned $6.20, $3.40 and $2.40.
Shug McGaughey, winning trainer: “I thought Jose 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 4 1/2 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 Blue Grass, but when it came up a big field I decided not to. Racing Secretary told me last week they were going to have six (in this race) so I decided to go, and it ended up with 11.”
“We ran him on the dirt one time (seventh in the Holy Bull), 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, maybe 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.”
Todd Pletcher. trainer of Divine Oath: “We were hoping to get a crack at the 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.”
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 it unfolded, I had to come from behind. But that’s the way the race developed.”
Joel Rosario, rider of third 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 do better.”
Robby Albarado, rider of fourth 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 others cleared him and he stayed. He stayed to the wire. A good fourth.”