Betting a 15-1 Longshot in the Lexington Stakes

Gambling
Noble Reflection enters Saturday’s Lexington Stakes at Keeneland off of a 4 ½-length win at Oaklawn Park on March 7. (Coady Photography)

The $200,000, Grade 3 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes Saturday at Keeneland might not be the most prominent steppingstone on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, but it consistently ranks among the most intriguing to handicap.

Held over 1 1/16 miles, the Lexington isn’t a top-tier qualifier for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. To the contrary, it awards just 20 qualification points to the winner, one-fifth of the 100 points up for grabs in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on the same afternoon. As a result, the Lexington tends to draw two types of horses – established performers on the bubble for qualifying to the Kentucky Derby Presented, and unheralded up-and-comers with an eye on competing in the Preakness or Belmont Stakes.

weekend Television schedule

Thursday, April 8: 1 p.m.-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Friday, April 9: 1 p.m.-6:30 p.m. ET on FS2; post time varies on TVG

Saturday, April 10: 1 p.m.-3 p.m. on FS1; 3 p.m.-8 p.m. on FS2; 7 p.m.-8 p.m. ET on NBCSN; post time varies on TVG

Sunday, April 11: 1 p.m.-4 p.m. on FS2; 4 p.m.-6:30 p.m. on FS1; post time varies on TVG

Certainly the 2021 Lexington has attracted a field of this composition. For starters, you have #7 Proxy, who currently ranks #20 on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. A Godolphin homebred trained by Michael Stidham, Proxy hasn’t finished out of the top four in six career starts, including three Kentucky Derby prep races. Runner-up in both the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes and the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds, Proxy arrives at Keeneland off a fourth-place effort in the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby.

A son of three-time leading sire Tapit out of the Grade 1-winning mare Panty Raid, Proxy has seemed like a work in progress. He’s bred to improve with maturity, and inexperience has arguably gotten the better of him at times. He’s suffered more than his fair share of troubled starts, and he’s prone to drifting and/or losing focus at inopportune times. Wearing blinkers in the Louisiana Derby didn’t seem to trigger an improvement, as Proxy failed to gain ground down the lane while finishing 3 ¾ lengths behind the winner.

It’s possible Proxy will finally put everything together in the Lexington. On April 4 at Keeneland, he worked a blazingly fast half mile in :46.80, suggesting he’s still progressing even after his busy winter campaign. Cutting back from 1 3/16 miles to 1 1/16 miles could also help Proxy’s chances, since his best efforts have come over shorter distances.

But Proxy is facing some formidable up-and-comers in the Lexington. Consider the undefeated #2 Swiftsure, hailing from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. A son of champion 2-year-old and successful sire Uncle Mo, Swiftsure has surely been swift in his first two starts. After wiring a maiden sprint at Fair Grounds (defeating the capable Blameworthy by 3 ¼ lengths), Swiftsure employed pace-tracking tactics to dominate an allowance sprint at Oaklawn Park, drawing clear to beat next-out Gazebo Stakes winner Sir Wellington by 3 ½ lengths.

Swiftsure has the pedigree to stretch out in distance, and three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. is named to ride. But Swiftsure hasn’t run in 2 ½ months, and he’s never run farther than three-quarters of a mile. Can he challenge for victory in the Lexington while stretching out in distance, stepping up in class, and returning from a layoff?

Two of those question marks apply to the similarly promising #1 Noble Reflection. Sold for just $60,000 as a yearling, Noble Reflection finished third in his debut at Del Mar last summer, beaten only by future graded stakes winners Dr. Schivel and Spielberg. Thereafter, Noble Reflection spent 7 ½ months on the sidelines, but he came back better than ever in a March 7 maiden sprint at Oaklawn. Carving out fast fractions of :21.83 and :45.14 proved to be no obstacle for Noble Reflection – when asked to accelerate, he pulled away under a hand ride to defeat next-out maiden winner Gaslight by 4 ½ lengths.

Noble Reflection is clearly a talented prospect, but like Swiftsure, he’s stepping up significantly in class and distance for the Lexington. Plus, drawing the rail could be challenging – Noble Reflection will have to break early and use his speed to avoid getting boxed in behind rivals, and dashing to the front could potentially be difficult since several speedy rivals (Swiftsure included) are drawn to his immediate outside.

But several other key Lexington contenders have questions to answer as well. #6 Hockey Dad made noise on the Road to the Kentucky Derby when finishing third by one length in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park, but can he reproduce that effort while transitioning from a synthetic Tapeta track to the Keeneland dirt? #9 King Fury showed promise when battling to victory in the 1 1/16-mile Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall, but can he bring his A-game off a 4 ½-month layoff? And what about #3 Bezos, a flashy Santa Anita Park maiden winner conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, but one who brings modest speed figures to the mix?

Ultimately, betting is a question of risk vs. reward, and in a race where the big names all have questions to answer, I’m hesitant to accept a short price. Proxy is 6-5 on the morning line, which represents a 45% chance of winning. Can Proxy prevail in the Lexington? Absolutely. Is 6-5 a fair price? I’m not so sure.

In contrast, the 15-1 odds available on Noble Reflection are enticing. True, he’s facing a formidable task in his second start of the season. But I loved the decisive nature of his maiden win, which came back fast from a speed figure perspective. If Noble Reflection makes the lead from the rail, he can prove difficult to catch at a very nice price. The risk vs. reward ratio feels right to me.

Depending on your budget, here are three Lexington Stakes wagering strategies to consider:

Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget

$4 to win on #1 Noble Reflection

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $4 to win on 1

$3 exacta box: 1,7 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $3 exacta box 1,7

Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget

$10 to win on #1 Noble Reflection

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $10 to win on 1

$1 trifecta: 1 with 7 with 2,3,6,9 ($4)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $1 trifecta 1 with 7 with 2,3,6,9

$1 trifecta: 1 with 2,3,6,9 with 7 ($4)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $1 trifecta 1 with 2,3,6,9 with 7

$3 trifecta: 7 with 1 with 2,3,6,9 ($12)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $3 trifecta 7 with 1 with 2,3,6,9

Wagering Strategy on a $60 Budget

$10 to win on #1 Noble Reflection

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $10 to win on 1

$2 trifecta: 1 with 7 with 2,3,6,9 ($8)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $2 trifecta 1 with 7 with 2,3,6,9

$2 trifecta: 1 with 2,3,6,9 with 7 ($8)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $2 trifecta 1 with 2,3,6,9 with 7

$4 trifecta: 7 with 1 with 2,3,6,9 ($16)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $4 trifecta 7 with 1 with 2,3,6,9

$0.50 superfecta: 1 with 7 with 2,3,6,9 with 2,3,6,9 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $0.50 superfecta 1 with 7 with 2,3,6,9 with 2,3,6,9

$0.50 superfecta: 1 with 2,3,6,9 with 7 with 2,3,6,9 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $0.50 superfecta 1 with 2,3,6,9 with 7 with 2,3,6,9

$0.50 superfecta: 7 with 1 with 2,3,6,9 with 2,3,6,9 ($6)

What to say at the betting window: Keeneland, 9th race, $0.50 superfecta 7 with 1 with 2,3,6,9 with 2,3,6,9

Good luck, and enjoy the race!

2021 Stonestreet Lexington S.
April 10th, 2021

Winning Time: 1:43.50
  • Purse: $200,000
  • Distance: 1 1/16 Miles
  • Age: 3 yo
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Winning Time: 1:43.50
Results
Win
Place
Show
1st
9 King Fury
$38.40
$18.80
$10.20
2nd
5 Unbridled Honor
$15.00
$8.00
3rd
10 Starrininmydreams
$5.80
4th
7 Proxy
5th
1 Noble Reflection
6th
4 It's My House
  • Breeder / Bryan Keith OSteen & Caryl Carlisle OSteen
7th
2 Swiftsure
  • Breeder / Siena Farms LLC
8th
6 Hockey Dad
Scratches
Payoff
Pick 3
5-8-9
5-8-9
$298
Daily Double
8-9
8-9
$114
Exacta
9-5
9-5
$219
Consolation Pick 3
5-6-9
5-6-9
$53
Superfecta
9-5-10-7
9-5-10-7
$386
Trifecta
9-5-10
9-5-10
$622
Z-5 Super Hi-5
9-5-10-7-1
9-5-10-7-1
$2,768
Payoff
Pick 3
5-8-9
5-8-9
$298
Daily Double
8-9
8-9
$114
Exacta
9-5
9-5
$219
Consolation Pick 3
5-6-9
5-6-9
$53
Superfecta
9-5-10-7
9-5-10-7
$386
Trifecta
9-5-10
9-5-10
$622
Z-5 Super Hi-5
9-5-10-7-1
9-5-10-7-1
$2,768

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