First Mission wins Lexington; Disarm qualifies for Kentucky Derby

Americas Best Racing/Jessica Morgan/Eclipse Sportswire

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Favorite First Mission charged past Arabian Lion down the stretch for a half-length victory in the $400,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, the final Kentucky Derby qualifier.

The biggest beneficiary might have been third-place Disarm, whose finish in the Grade 3 race earned six points for 46 total during qualifying season and a possible spot in the 149th Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6. The Steve Asmussen-trained colt had 40 points off his runner-up finish to Kingsbarns in the Louisiana Derby on March 25 and just needed to finish on the board to move past four other horses with 45.

“It looks like he got enough points to go, so we have the option to go,” said Disarm’s owner, Ron Winchell. “We’ll see how he comes out of this race. We’ve always thought a mile and a quarter (of the Derby) would be fine for him.”

Disarm achieved that simple goal, albeit far behind 2-1 choice First Mission, who earned 20 points with his first graded stakes win and second in a row overall with a runner-up finish as a 3-year-old. The dark brown colt was among a five-horse group in front throughout the race and used space along the rail to charge past Arabian Lion over the final furlong.

First Mission’s impressive performance had Godolphin USA bloodstock director Michael Banahan thinking of entering the horse in the Preakness on May 20 at Pimlico in Baltimore, the second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.

“We were very hopeful and confident that if he showed the talent that we thought he had, we had a big, big chance,” Banahan said. “It’s exceptionally nice to see that happen, and especially the experience he needed to get, coming down (the stretch) in tight on the rail.”

With Luis Saez aboard, First Mission ran 1 1/16th mile in 1:43.74 and paid $6.38, $4 and $3.16.

Arabian Lion returned $5.14 and $3.52 for second, while Disarm was 4 1/4 lengths back and paid $2.96 to show.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.