Winning Cause won the $200,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday to give trainer Todd Pletcher perhaps another Kentucky Derby qualifier.
Pletcher’s next move is deciding whether the 3-year-old will join top contender Verrazano and several other of the trainer’s horses in the Derby on May 4.
The Derby is limited to 20 horses. Winning Cause is behind Pletcher’s Charming Kitten at 21st after earning 20 points and $120,000 in non-restricted earnings with his victory in the Grade 3 race. He has $137,250 in earnings.
Winning Cause has now won three times over Keeneland’s synthetic surface. Breaking from the No. 1 post with Julien Leparoux aboard, Winning Cause covered 1-1/16 miles in 1:43.93 and paid $15.60, $8.20, and $6.00.
General Election was second and returned $29.60 and $17.80. Pick of the Litter paid $8.20 to show.
No matter how things shake out with Winning Cause, Pletcher will be busy at Churchill Downs.
Besides Verrazano, tied with Orb atop the Kentucky Derby standings at 150 points, Pletcher trains fifth-place Overanalyze and No. 6 Revolutionary (110 points each), No. 13 Palace Malice (50), and Charming Kitten. The final field could change with 24 horses having Derby points, leaving the door open for Winning Cause to possibly make the field.
Charles Town Classic — Game On Dude won the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic, holding off Clubhouse Ride on the final turn for a half-length victory at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town (W.Va.) Races.
Ridden by Mike Smith for trainer Bob Baffert, the 6-year-old Game On Dude tracked the pace set by long-shot Percussion before taking over with a half-mile to go.
The winner earned $1 million for a partnership that includes baseball great Joe Torre.
The winning time was 1:52.27. Ron the Greek finished a nose behind Clubhouse Ride in third. Clubhouse Ride has finished second to Game On Dude in three straight races.
The winner paid $2.60, $2.20, and $2.20.
Illinois Derby — Race favorite Departing came on strong at the head of the stretch to win the Grade III $750,000 Illinois Derby by 3¼ lengths at Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero, Ill.
Ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., Departing ran 1⅛ miles race in 1:50.78 on the fast track.
Fordubai edged Siete De Oros by a neck for second place, and Abraham finished fourth.
The 56th running of the Illinois Derby featured a 14-horse field.