What a difference two months can make. After failing to challenge when finishing eighth in the Feb. 16 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds, Owendale looked like a completely different horse in the April 13 Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland, producing a sweeping rally from off the pace to triumph in eye-catching fashion.
A wide but clean trip may have been the key factor for Owendale. Under a patient ride from Florent Geroux, the son of Into Mischief settled back in eighth early on, while the leaders waltzed along through slow fractions of :24.33, :48.23, and 1:12.88, which served to compress the majority of the ten-horse field into a tight pack.
The compact nature of the field meant Owendale’s winning move was brief but brilliant. When asked to challenge, the colt swept past the leaders in the blink of an eye and entered the homestretch in command of the lead. From there he finished fast (running the final sixteenth of a mile in :06.09) to win by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:44.14 seconds, good for a 98 Beyer speed figure.
After the race, Ricky Giannini—assistant to winning trainer Brad Cox—chalked up Owendale’s remarkable improvement to maturity.
“I wish I could tell you (what was different this time around),” he said. “Last race, we felt like he ate too much dirt, and he kind of backed out down the backside and then had too much to do. Today he ate the same amount of dirt. I think he’s just maturing and turning into a good horse. He’s always trained like it, and today he put it all together and got the job done.”
Unfortunately the Lexington runner-up, Anothertwistafate, did not enjoy the same good fortune. The 7-5 favorite spent the majority of the Lexington buried inside and behind horses, marking the second straight race in which he has received such a trip. Forced to wait in traffic while Owendale made his winning move, Anothertwistafate got through on the rail turning for home, but couldn’t close ground on the winner.
“I wish I had a better trip,” said jockey Javier Castellano. “I was in tight all the way, and the two horses in front stopped early, but I kept coming and saved ground. The winner got the jump, and in the meantime I was bottled up inside on the rail looking for room, and I didn’t have any room.”
Sueno, coming off of a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2), likewise had to wait in traffic on the far turn, but generally received a more comfortable trip than Anothertwistafate. However, when Sueno got clear turning for home, he changed leads a bit awkwardly and could only rally mildly for third place.
It remains unclear whether the Lexington Stakes will produce a starter for the Kentucky Derby. Anothertwistafate (#23 on the qualification leaderboard), Sueno (#24), and Owendale (#29) are all on the outside looking in for qualification purposes and will need several defections in order to make the field.
Owendale in particular seems unlikely to make the cut, but perhaps that’s a blessing in disguise. Owned by Rupp Racing, the improving colt could be a prime candidate for the Preakness Stakes (G1) five weeks from now, where he could potentially offer a stiff challenge to the Kentucky Derby winner.