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Dirt proves no issue for Encino in G3 Lexington Stakes


Encino maintained his upward curve when gamely making all to score on his first dirt appearance in the G3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, USA, on Saturday, 13 April.

The Nyquist colt had previously made a bright start to his career with three starts on the Tapeta of Turfway Park, including taking the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes in early March.

Having shown good speed from the gates, Encino tacked over to the rail from stall eight and established an early three-quarter length advantage over How's Ur Attitude.

Encino doubled his lead leaving the back and continued to travel kindly for Florent Geroux when The Wine Steward moved up to challenge for the lead at the top of the straight.

The Wine Steward got to within half a length of Encino entering the final furlong, but the Brad Cox-trained three-year-old kept finding in front and asserted close home for a three-quarter length success.

Brad Cox said: “I want to thank His Highness Sheikh Mohammed for the opportunity with this horse and to congratulate him. Ultimately, it will be up to the Godolphin team if Encino goes for the Kentucky Derby. If that’s something that they want to do, we will prepare him for the race and he will ship to Churchill Downs in a few days regardless.

“I would say it will either be the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness Stakes. He’s 21st on the list for the Derby, so some things would have to happen, but we will watch him and hopefully he comes out of this in good shape.

“Tessa Bisha [assistant trainer] had Encino up at Turfway and, as the winter went on, she kept raving about how well he was doing. She loved him in the John Battaglia and he obviously handled the dirt today.”

Florent Geroux added: “Encino broke like a shot. I was expecting more speed with everyone anticipating the break, but it was pretty much over after the first turn and I was able to control the race from there.

“He was cruising and, when I felt The Wine Steward on my outside, I gave him an extra push because he was getting a little lost on his own. I had plenty left in the tank and he galloped out great. It looks as though added distance shouldn’t be a problem.”