Remember the Star?

They say you’ll never forget your first. You know, your first big score? – I don’t know if it was my biggest as a horse-player, but it surely goes down as one to remember. This past Saturday was the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

The Lexington Stakes is contested at 1-1/16 miles over the new dirt surface at Keeneland. The race is for three-year-old colts and geldings but is also an option for fillies if they are targeting the Kentucky Derby. The race was first run in 1936 for two-year-old’s, and from 1938 to 1941, the race was listed as an overnight handicap for three-year-old’s and up at a distance of 1-¼ miles over the main track. Then, in 1986, the race was listed as a Grade III event before holding status as a Grade II from 1988 until 2010. In 2011, the race was downgraded to a Grade III and is now considered to be the final Kentucky Derby prep race.

The race is named after the famed stallion Lexington who lived from 1850 to 1875. Lexington was a bay colt bred in Kentucky and was described as a shorter horse, standing a mere 15.3 hands, and as a horse with an excellent disposition. Originally named “Darley,” the colt was trained by Dr. Warfield and “Burbridge’s Harry,” a former slave. In 1853, the colt was sold to and renamed Lexington by Richard Ten Broeck.

The weather couldn’t have been better, and whatever deal that was made with the Racing Gods should be extended for the entire month. After reading a great article in the Lady and the Track, I was magically transported to a simpler time. I was a younger racing fan and asked my brother to tag along for a trip to beautiful Keeneland. As we pulled in, you were treated to the springtime splendor of blooming trees, rolling hills, and tailgate parties taking place in the parking lot. There was a festive environment embracing the day and celebrating the Thoroughbred. I had done all of my homework, and the crowds at Keeneland were legendary. For each big day, you’ll hear Curt Becker announce ” ladies and gentleman, thank you for coming out to watch the Lexington Stakes as Keeneland celebrates another attendance record.” – Back in the day, Keeneland had no simulcast at the time. You had eight races which eventually became nine, and no exotic wagering outside of the first daily double. Parking was tight, and it seemed like the pearl of central Kentucky wasn’t worried about changing to suit the player. “Why fix perfection?”

Mutuel lines were long, and you had to get right back in as soon as the race was over. You would see “Blue-Bloods” in line with a $2 show ticket, or a regular Joe with $100 across. It was the great melting pot, and I believe the track is one of the only places where you’ll see a bank president handicapping with a dusty barn groom. The year was 1988, and two brothers were having the day of their wagering lives. The Lexington Stakes was coming up with 40 minutes to post, and I suggested to my brother Don, we go “all-in” and make a sweet exacta box in the race. “We’ll tune into WLAP and catch the pre-race and race call, and we’ll beat the crowds and traffic.” He agreed, and to this day I don’t think I’ve ever had that much fun listening to a race.


It was a man-size bet from two youngsters. A $100 exacta box, and $100 to win on Risen Star. Hearing Mike Battaglia call the race for WLAP was the only outside call as there was no announcer at the time. “Mike saw some incredible races over the years bringing them to life, and when he said he couldn’t call the winner. I knew out $100 win bet on Risen Star was golden. We laughed all the way home, and had to return to cash the ticket the next week. Times were simpler. No simulcast outlets, and if you wanted to catch the race you had to make the trek or wager with your bookie. This was a day that I’ll remember forever.


If you happened to download your E-Z Win Forms you had to be pretty happy this past weekend. Winning Ponies was dialed in with the Lexington Stakes with the top two selections finishing 1-2. The exacta paid a solid $25.80, and the winner paid $7.80 to win. As the Kentucky Derby preps are in the books, now is a great time to go back and refresh yourself on the preps along the way. You have them right at your finger tips as all prep races for the Oaks and Derby can be seen by taking a look at the replay section. As you’re reading this, there are just 19 days and 8 hours until the Run for the Roses. – Be sure to tune into the Winning Ponies Internet Radio Show with John Englehardt live on Thursday, or catch it on podcast as he’ll be having the best in racing handicappers and industry professionals as we count down to Derby. You’ll be able to read stories, blogs, and in-depth handicapping as the days get closer. Any handicapper that has a mint julep in hand and bankroll ready for the windows only needs to download their E-Z Win Forms for the 141st running of the Kentucky Oaks and Derby. There are incredible undercards and for this handicapper I have never had a losing weekend since having this tool in my arsenal. With over $2,372,300 in exotic payouts, I’m looking forward to another big weekend at the windows. So, start looking over the preps! Check back for news, stories, and free selections, and most of all be sure to download your E-Z Win Forms for the biggest weekend in racing. Best of luck from your friends at Winning Ponies!