Happy Retirement To Lexington Abbey

There will always be a feeling of some unfinished business with Lexington Abbey, who throughout his career mixed it in some top sprints but ultimately was unlucky not to bag a big one. Blessed with a high cruising speed he was a real favourite within the yard and his owners. After five seasons in training he is now of to enjoy his days with long time friend and groom Louise Kelly, who looked after him throughout his career.

Bought as a 2 year old by Steven Hillen and Middleham Park Racing, Lexington Abbey was seen as a relatively cheap buy at just £22,000. This was probably owing to being by Sleeping Indian but he was a great physical who had a lovely athletic walk on him, showing all the signs of a potential sprinter. Although a strong looking juvenile it wasn’t until August he made his debut and it was at Carlisle where he showed the first signs of promise. Finishing fourth he had shown great speed before weakening late on, owing to inexperience. It was a great start to his career and a run he would improve on. Lexi couldn’t quite gain the win next time out when he was fancied to do just that up at Ayr. Again he showed natural speed but very testing ground scuppered him but still left jockey Graham Lee adamant that the winner’s enclosure would be visited next time out on better ground. He was certainly not mistaken and as the 2013 season began to wind down, Lexington Abbey made his first trip to Nottingham, a place he would enjoy over the years to come. Better ground underfoot, Lexi jumped out, showed his rival a clean pair of heels and never saw another rival. Kicking clear he won by almost 2 lengths to sign off in style and leave connections pondering what might come from him. 

With an opening mark of 85, it was hoped that Lexi could improve to compete in the top 3 yr old sprints, something that was certainly in his capabilities. Unfortunately his own enthusiasm cost him in his first 3-4 runs. Maturity was letting him down as all he wanted to do was race from the off which was costing him late in the races. With this in mind Kevin tried him over 5f for the first time at Chester which a bad draw ruined any chance (a story that would be told many more times through his career). The new trip certainly worked next time out when his natural speed helped him secure his second win, again at Nottingham. This was the upturn in form that really saw Lexi improve. Fourth placed at York was followed by two 2nd placed efforts at Ripon and then York once more. It was time to try 6f once again and again Lexi headed to York. Jamie Spencer was to find the key to him when racing over 6f that almost proved a master stroke on the first attempt. For the first time in his career, Lexi was anchored at the rear of the field and surprisingly he settled well before flying home late on just to find one too good and finish 2nd for the third time in a row. Arguably it was his best piece of form and he would round off the year with two good efforts in the Ayr Silver Cup and a highly competitive 0-105 handicap at Ascot. For a 3 year old to perform at that level really was impressive and it looked as though he would be a tope sprinter to follow. 

Unfortunately the start of 2015 wasn’t exactly how connections had planned to start. Fourth place on the opening Lincoln weekend was very promising, especially on testing ground, but that was followed by two poor efforts. Lacklustre was the best way to put it, which was something that could never been thrown at Lexi. Kevin was slightly confused with his geldings performances as he was as well as ever but he decided to send Lexi somewhere that could reignite the fire. Nottingham had been the sole course to provide Lexi with a victory so it was chosen for his next run in a bid to help him bounce back. Bounce back he did and under a typically confident Spencer ride Lexi cam late and fast to earn his third win of his career. Back to form he attempted to do the same thing next time out, again at Nottingham over 6f and he lined up against the rival (Greeb) who he had downed last time out. The tactics were the same, the run was the same, the result slightly different. Lexi had travelled even better this time out but this time his challenge was just too late and his rival just too strong. Finishing a short neck 2nd wasn’t the ideal result but it showed that Lexi was getting back to his best. He would round the season off with a pair of mid-division finishes. Those two final runs came in the Ayr Gold Cup, an upgrade from the year before, and the Coral Sprint at York, two of the most competitive sprints in the racing calendar. 

Lexington Abbey had established himself and going into 2015 it was felt that the top handicaps were well within his grasp. The start of the season had a very similar feel to it, back to Nottingham for a 5f Conditions event. On his fifth visit to the track, Lexi managed to kick start his season with his fourth career win, all at the Midlands track. It wasn’t as though he was a one trick pony but Nottingham really seemed to hold a special place in Lexi’s heart and he always performed above and beyond. He would return there for his next start in a similar race. In hindsight he probably should have gone close to winning, having travelled like the winner throughout he didn’t quicken as fast as expected and the winner didn’t come back to him. That being said he had started the season in impressive fashion. Kevin is not one to get over excited and make big claims as horses can easily make you look foolish but he was sure that Lexi could secure a big one, the heritage handicaps. 

Unfortunately Lexington Abbey would never manage another win and would not gain that “big one” although he did come close. The story on many of the occasions seemed to be the same. Kevin does not like to make excuses but the draw seemed to beat Lexi so many times that there was a feeling of what if. Different jockeys got on board and the debrief sounded like a broken record, “if I had been drawn the other side I’d of won”. It is easy to say that when you have run well and the race has developed away from you so we can never be sure if those statements were true. Going down a neck in the Coral Sprint was the one that really hurt. Lexi lead everywhere bar the line and looking as though the day had finally come, victory was snatched away in the dying strides. 

Last year he rounded off with a very good fourth in the Portland handicap, with Ryan Moore again using the line that connections had heard so many times before. It felt as though this year would be another chance to tackle the big sprints and hopefully provide his owners with some big days out. It could be argued that he was improving last year and despite being 7 yrs old, he was still lightly raced. Unfortunately a routine canter led to injury, a small stress fracture that was felt would keep him from exercise for a few months but would not affect his career. Recovery went well and it gave connections the opportunity to start looking forward to the mid season targets. Lexington Abbey was just starting his build up to fitness, returning to the gallop for steady canters. In just a couple of routine canters there was reoccurrence of the injury. Obviously everybody was devastated but Lexi’s welfare was paramount to all involved. On veterinary advise it was decided that a nice retirement was the best action as racing would prove a potential risk of a more severe injury.

Lexington Abbey will now spend his days with his groom Louise Kelly who has been at his side from day one. Leaving the yard with 4 wins and over £95,000 in prize money, Lexi made his mark, especially at Nottingham where his record stands 111213. It is so unfortunate he didn’t get another crack this year because he would have had a big say but he can now enjoy spending his days being doted over by Louise.