Last Chance at the Big Dance: Hades Can Punch Kentucky Derby Ticket in Lexington

Hades | Ryan Thompson

Saturday's GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. at Keeneland, the final stop on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, offers a path to Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May for D. J. Stable and Robert Cotran's Hades (Awesome Slew).

Currently on the outside looking in, Hades sits in 24th place on the leaderboard with 30 points. The GI Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters. The Lexington offers 42 points on a 20-10-6-4-2 scale.

With a victory, Hades would be in the top 20. A runner-up finish would put him on the bubble.

Hades upset potential Kentucky Derby favorite and 'TDN Rising Star' Fierceness (City of Light) (third) and next-out GIII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Domestic Product (Practical Joke) (second) with a game victory in the GIII Holy Bull S. Feb. 3. Hades suffered his first career defeat finishing a well-beaten fifth behind Fierceness after getting bumped at the start in the GI Curlin Florida Derby Mar. 30.

“We need the points. I'm not going to go there to be number 21 (on the also-eligible list),” trainer Joe Orseno said. “He didn't get a chance to run in the Florida Derby.”

Hades will race with first-time blinkers in the Lexington and will also receive a rider change to Jose Ortiz. Paco Lopez was aboard Hades in his first four career starts.

“I always thought he would be better with blinkers, but he kept winning and I couldn't make the change,” Orseno said. “He'll have blinkers here; little ones.”

Two other Lexington entrants could be on the Derby bubble with a victory: Encino (Nyquist) (20 points) and Liberal Arts (Arrogate) (19 points).

John Battaglia Memorial S. winner Encino, scratched from last weekend's GI Blue Grass S. in favor of this spot, tries dirt for the first time for trainer Brad Cox. Last year's GIII Street Sense S. winner Liberal Arts was an eventful sixth (disqualified and placed eighth for interference after getting rank on the first turn) in the GI Arkansas Derby Mar. 30.

The Lexington field of 10 also includes 5-2 morning-line favorite The Wine Steward (Vino Rosso), who makes his first start since finishing a very game second in the GI Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland Oct. 7.

Saturday's 11-race card at Keeneland also prominently features the GI Jenny Wiley S. Gina Romantica (Into Mischief), a two-time Grade I winner over the lawn in Lexington, held her own against the boys finishing a respectable fourth in the GI Breeders' Cup Mile last time Nov. 4. The 3-1 morning-line favorite is one of four entered for Chad Brown, who has won five of the past six runnings of the 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares and has six Jenny Wiley victories overall.

Brown will also saddle last term's GI Matriarch S. heroine Surge Capacity (Flintshire {GB}), MGSW Fluffy Socks (Slumber {GB}) and longshot Beaute Cachee (Fr) (Literato {Fr}). “With a lot of my good grass fillies, I like to target this and I like the mile and a sixteenth to start,” Brown said.

The field of 10 also includes: Didia (Arg) (Orpen), a game winner of the GII TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational S. at Gulfstream Jan. 27; and the Charlie Appleby-trained English Rose (Ire) (Frankel {GB}), who captured the G2 Balanchine S. at Meydan last time Feb. 23.

Wet Paint (Blame), three-for-three against stakes company at Oaklawn last season, will face off against California invader Adare Manor (Uncle Mo) in the GI Apple Blossom H. in Hot Springs. Wet Paint, just up in time in last summer's GI Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, makes her first start since finishing eighth in the GI Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Nov. 4. Adare Manor, winner of last summer's GI Clement L. Hirsch S. at Del Mar, crossed the line one spot better in seventh at the Championships and kicked off her 5-year-old campaign for Bob Baffert with a runner-up finish as the favorite in the GI Beholder Mile S. at Santa Anita Mar. 9.

Saturday's graded action is rounded out by the GIII Count Fleet H. at Oaklawn and GIII Giant's Causeway S. at Keeneland.

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