Calumet Farm keeps swinging for the fences and hitting home runs at New York racetracks.
The historic farm, currently owned by Brad Kelley, won the Personal Ensign Stakes (G1) last summer with 9-1 Vexatious and last fall's Cigar Mile Stakes (G1) with 7-1 True Timber. This year, the farm has pulled off even more surprises, taking the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino with Bourbonic, sent off at odds of 72-1, and the Man o' War Stakes (G1T) with Channel Cat at 13-1.
Nor was Calumet finished. On July 31 at Saratoga Race Course, they added another top score when Lexitonian registered a 34-1 surprise in the $350,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1). He paid $70 for a $2 win ticket.
Hustled to show speed from his inside post under Jose Lezcano, Lexitonian led early with an opening quarter-mile in :22.04, chased by Strike Power. The plot then thickened, with Special Reserve joining the leaders in a three-wide bid and taking command with a half-mile in :44.45.
Narrowly in front of Lexitonian in the lane, as Strike Power began to fade, the Joel Rosario-ridden Special Reserve opened up a half-length advantage with five furlongs in :56.54. But Lexitonian, a 5-year-old homebred son of Speightstown , was the stronger of the two sprinters over the final eighth, and he battled back to hit the wire a half-length in front. He raced six furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.38
"This horse is a very good horse. He tries hard all the time," said Lezcano. "He's the type of horse that needs to be involved, and sometimes he doesn't break all that well and has to stay in the back.
"He broke well today. Joel tried to get away from me, but when I dropped my hands, he took off again and won the race."
Whitmore, last year's champion male sprinter and Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner, rallied from sixth to finish third, a length and a quarter behind the runner-up. His race Saturday was his first since early May.
"I got a perfect trip," said his rider, Ricardo Santana Jr. "He hadn't run in a couple of months. He's a good horse."
The Vanderbilt was Lexitonian's third stakes triumph, his second in graded competition, from 19 career starts. He previously won the Concern Stakes and Chick Lang Stakes (G3) as a 3-year-old in 2019.
Both this year and last, he has come close to victory at the top stakes level. He was second in the May 1 Churchill Downs Stakes presented by Ford (G1), and runner-up in last summer's Big Crosby Stakes (G1) at Del Mar when edged by a nose.
After being eased and finishing last of six in the June 5 Hill' N' Dale Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park, he had few believers at the betting windows, starting as the largest price in the field of nine.
Jack Sisterson—who has trained all but one of Calumet's graded winners in 2020-21, except for the Todd Pletcher-conditioned Bourbonic —didn't lose faith in Lexitonian.
"You'd think a horse that was eased and thrown in some clunkers, you'd sit back and think let's drop him down a grade and give him a confidence builder. But I've run him in every grade 1 and been hard on him and this is how he responds today. I have to give credit to Lexitonian," Sisterson said.
Earlier Saturday, Sisterson pledged a percentage of his horses' earnings on the day to the family of Mike Recio. Recio, a co-founder of South Point Sales, is hospitalized with sepsis, and a GoFundMe account and trust have been set up for donations to his family.
"Growing up, this sport was a passion of mine, and now it's a livelihood. I'm speechless," said Sisterson of his success. "To be up here on a stage like today and even to compete in a race like this is very humbling.
"He's a homebred and people don't see how much work goes into the foals, weanlings, and yearlings. Eddie Kane, (Calumet Farm general) manager, puts so much hard work and effort, and it's rewarding for me to give a little bit of success back to them."
Bred in Kentucky, Lexitonian is the lone winner of six foals from the winning Tapit mare Riviera Romper, who is out of Darley Test Stakes (G1) winner Swap Fliparoo. Three of Riviera Romper's foals are unraced, including a yearling colt by Keen Ice . The mare also foaled a full sister to Lexitonian this year.