While trainer Mike Stidham isn't fully closing the door on a run in the GI Kentucky Derby for his pupil Proxy (Tapit), Saturday the colt will divert from the big-stage preps in an attempt for a confidence builder as he figures a prohibitive favorite in the GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. at Keeneland.
A second-out graduate Nov. 26 at Fair Grounds, the Godolphin homebred repeated in an allowance there Dec. 19 before passing the class test with a good second in the GIII Lecomte S. Runner-up in the GII Risen Star S. after that, he couldn't quite progress further when an even fourth in the GII Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby last out Mar. 23.
“We felt like he was really going in the right direction with the intention of trying to make it to the Kentucky Derby, but that last race, it wasn't really that big step forward that we really needed to have confidence going into the Derby,” Stidham told TDN's Katie Ritz. “With Godolphin having the favorite in Essential Quality, it wasn't as important to kind of force Proxy into a race that maybe he's not quite ready for. We're not really thinking hard about the Derby right now. I've learned in this business you never say never, so I'm not going to say definitely no. If he really ran well in this race, came out of it really well, certainly we would have to consider it. But right now, we're not thinking along those lines.”
A trio of twice-raced 3-year-olds look like the most probable beneficiaries if Proxy stumbles. Swiftsure (Uncle Mo) debuted as an 11-10 favorite Nov. 27 at Fair Grounds and ran to the money with a wire-to-wire, open-length victory before repeating over three next-out winners in another convincing score Jan. 23 at Oaklawn. Noble Reflection (Liam's Map) sports the best Beyer in the field outside of Proxy, earning an 89 for a sharp 4 1/2-length maiden tally off a near seven-month layoff Mar. 7 at Oaklawn, and Bezos (Empire Maker) rebounded from a disappointing seventh in his universally-touted debut with a dominant 4 1/2-length triumph going a mile at Santa Anita Mar. 26.