Lexington Stakes suddenly becomes interesting

With Proxy and Hockey Dad both entering Keeneland's Lexington Stakes on Saturday, the race has just assumed relevance in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but Swiftsure could spoil the party.

Before the final field was set for the Lexington Stakes, Saturday's 20-8-4-2 Kentucky Derby qualifier at Keeneland had been regarded as irrelevant when it came to determining the field for the first Triple Crown race. However, this was before a pair of late entries added importance to the $200,000 contest.

Ten horses are in the field, including a pair that have collected enough qualifying points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby to give them a chance at earning invitations to Churchill Downs on May 1. Proxy is in 21st place with 34 points, just outside the 20-horse cutoff, while Hockey Dad is in 26th with 20 points.

The 100-40-20-10 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on Saturday is the only other remaining qualifying race, and there are several horses entered that can also have an impact on qualifying standings. Regardless of what occurs at Oaklawn, Proxy will definitely get into the Kentucky Derby with a victory in the Lexington.

Kentucky Derby hopefuls

Proxy is the clear favorite at 6/5 with a pair of seconds and a third-place finish in three Kentucky Derby prep races at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. There is a reasonably good chance the Michael Stidham-trained colt doesn't need any more points, especially because at least two horses that have earned a spot are expected to skip the first Triple Crown race.

He'll be starting from the seventh post position and will need to get off to a solid start to keep from getting boxed in his attempt to finish in the top two spots. Despite just an allowance race win since breaking his maiden, Proxy is still the class of the Lexington Stakes field.

With a third-place finish in his stakes racing debut in the 100-40-20-10 Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 27, Hockey Dad entered the Kentucky Derby qualifying discussion. It may be a bit unusual to have a horse return to action after two weeks, but he raced on consecutive weekends in February and produced a pair of allowance race victories.

At 8/1 odds, Hockey Dad has a couple of other horses between himself and Proxy in the morning line. A second-place finish for a total of 28 points isn't likely to help his Kentucky Derby qualifying chances since 24th-place Dream Shake already has 30 points.

Potential spoilers

A real wild card in the Lexington is 5/1 Swiftsure out of Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen's stable. He didn't break his maiden until November 27 at the Fair Grounds and only has a lone run since, a win in an allowance contest at Oaklawn on January 23.

Swiftsure has only gone six furlongs in both of his races, so he hasn't had to show any closing ability over the additional three furlongs in Saturday's race. That could make a big difference to the qualifying chances of Proxy and Hockey Dad.

Starrininmydreams is at 6/1 odds, but that seems a bit generous given his fifth- and ninth-place finishes in a pair of prep races at the Fair Grounds. Perhaps the oddsmakers feel that his outside post position could be an advantage.