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The Keeneland card for Blue Grass Day looks amazing… Apex, Red Rifle, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint runner-up Shumoos (what!! Haven’t seen her in ages!), Twinspired, Regally Ready, Russian Greek, and a lot of other horses I haven’t seen in a while or have been looking forward to seeing next are going to be racing. But, of course, the highlight of the card and the subject of this post is the Blue Grass Stakes (I) for Kentucky Derby hopefuls, which LUCKY FOR YOU DERBY HANDICAPPERS, has the biggest field it’s had since 1974! Lots of excellent horses from every surface are shipping in for some last-ditch Derby points.
Weather looks pretty clear for the race.
$750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (I) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on all-weather track at Keeneland. Post Time: Saturday, April 13 at 5:40pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, All carry 123 lbs, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Dynamic Sky - Joel Rosario, Mark Casse - The Sky Mesa colt takes one more shot at gaining more points to break the bubble in this race after winning the Pasco at 7 furlongs, just missing the 1 1/16 mile Sam F. Davis (III), and running a stale 4th in the Tampa Bay (II). The rail will help him get position should Casse want him up a bit further earlier. He runs well enough on poly with no off-the-board starts and a runner-up in last year’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (I).
2) My Name is Michael - Shaun Bridgmohan, Bill Mott - The failed favorite last out in the synthetic Spiral (III), the Macho Uno colt got stuck in traffic and didn’t move much. He broke his maiden on Woodbine’s poly, but hasn’t done much since then. He loses Rosario and gets Bridgmohan.
3) Undrafted - Corey Nakatani, Wesley Ward - The sprinter-type Purim gelding has been 3rd in all 3 of his starts this year all at least stakes-level. He just missed second last out in the Swale (III) at 7 furlongs on dirt, where winner Clearly Now went on to just miss winning the Bay Shore (III). Likely to provide some pace, Undrafted often has little kick at the end of his sprints. His pedigree suggests distance ability and he might have synthetic/turf ability with Dynaformer as his grandsire. I wouldn’t tab him to win, but he could finish up there.
4) Java’s War - Julien Leparoux, Ken McPeek - Impressive running second to Verrazano last out in the Tampa Bay (II), the War Pass colt was 3rd in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (I) and looks strong heading in. Provided there’s some pace, I anticipate Java progressing even further in his second start back and with top Keeneland rider Leparoux in the irons.
5) Palace Malice - Garrett Gomez, Todd Pletcher - Taking one last shot after a poor trip cost him dearly in the Louisiana Derby (II), the Curlin colt makes his poly debut with Garrett Gomez shipping out to ride. Palace Malice’s breeding does have plenty of turf influence with Smart Strike as his grandsire and Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up Royal Anthem as his damsire, so he could take to poly at that angle. The short 3-week turnaround to make this race is a detractor in his 4th start of the year.
6) Channel Isle - Joe Rocco Jr, D. Wayne Lukas - Uninvolved in a trafficky 7th last out in the Spiral (III), the English Channel colt takes one more shot at earning points on a surface he should like after running 2nd and 3rd last year at Keeneland as a maiden. Looking to get some pace, Channel Isle will be a nice price after he got stuck in the Spiral and hasn’t done much this year. The trade back to poly might benefit him.
7) Uncaptured - Miguel Mena, Mark Casse - Aiming to break the bubble and officially be in the Derby, the Lion Heart colt nearly bested Black Onyx in his first start back in the Spiral (III). His poly record is tops: 4 wins and a second in 6 tries. He should be even better in his follow-up start and on his preferred surface.
8) Charming Kitten - Joe Bravo, Todd Pletcher - Apart from a poor trip in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (I), this Kitten’s Joy colt has never been worse than 3rd and is graded stakes-placed among top company on grass. He went 4-wide last out to finish 2nd behind Rydilluc in the Palm Beach (III) at 9 furlongs. A good value bet for a Pletcher horse, Kittens normally do pretty well on poly and this colt should be no exception.
9) Tesseron - Alan Garcia, Josie Carroll - The Tapit colt comes off a long layoff since February where he finished 4th in a grass-bound Gulfstream allowance won by Spiral (III) winner Black Onyx. He may be even better on poly where he ran 2nd in the Grey Stakes (III) despite a poor start last year. He breezed 6 furlongs at Keeneland in preparation. His morning line (from what I heard) is 50-1, which is probably too long considering his poly experience. Still, he should be decent enough to include in exotics.
10) Footbridge - Corey Lanerie, Eoin Harty - A colt worth talking about shipping in from out west, the Darley-connected son of Street Cry [IRE] has a dreamer’s turf/poly pedigree but will make his poly debut here. He ran second to several good horses (Govenor Charlie, Curly Top) while trying to break his maiden. Taking a stretch-out and trading dirt for poly should help this colt even more. Lanerie is a leading rider here as well.
11) Balance the Books - Javier Castellano, Chad Brown - Trainer Chad Brown substituted this Lemon Drop Kid graded winner for his original entry Noble Tune, suggesting this one might be better suited for the Derby. He debuted last month poorly in the Spiral (III) losing by nearly 20 lengths. Given Brown’s poor poly record and Balance the Books’ faulty sophomore debut on poly, I’m going to skip him for this race.
12) West Hills Giant - Jose Espinoza, John Terranova - The surprise Gotham (III) runner-up ships down to Keeneland for more points. The Frost Giant colt handled turf poorly, and will likely try to be up front early again to try to outrun the field once more. Should improve even more on his 3rd start of the year, but a big question mark is drawn on how he’ll handle Keeneland.
13) Rydilluc - Edgar Prado, Gary Contessa - The Medaglia d’Oro colt was pure eye candy cantering away from the field on the turn to win the Palm Beach (III) for his third straight victory. He is usually forwardly-placed in his races, and keeps Prado. Contessa has little experience training on poly, but Rydilluc did turn in a 7-furlong breeze that he was happy with this week. Should he maintain his grass form here, you better watch out.
14) Fear the Kitten - Rosie Napravnik, Mike Maker - Bred for turf/poly success, the Kitten’s Joy colt broke his maiden here at Keeneland, but made up ground too late in a crowded Spiral Stakes (III) to be 5th. I would not be surprised if the Napravnik-Maker double comes to life again here at Keeneland, outer post or not. Definitely use in exotics.
AE - 15) Divine Ambition - James Graham, Darrin Miller - Cross-entered in the lighter-filled Arkansas Derby (I), the Divine Park colt was 2nd to the excellent Crop Report last out in the Rushaway at Turfway. He had a good blow-out over 4 furlongs to prep here at Keeneland. He led the whole way up until the end of the Rushaway, so he is certainly not without a chance leading on the front end should he make the field.
Top Picks in Order (with fair odds):
1) Java’s War (4-1)
2) Rydullic (3-1)
3) Uncaptured (5-2)
With a tangible pace, there seems to be no reason why we should see the group of favorites here fail with a good trip, but from there it gets hard as nearly everyone here has poly experience or is very likely to favor it well enough. Uncaptured and Java’s War look ready to rocket in their second starts of the year on a surface they both like, though I honestly am preferring Java for his turn-of-foot and proven Keeneland prowess. On talent alone, Rydilluc makes the top list and I’m pinning some high hopes on him to snuff out at least Uncaptured. To complete the super, I’d go with Fear the Kitten or Footbridge.
Value Pick: My Name is Michael will likely be longer than his 15-1 odds after a tough trip canceled him out of the Spiral (III). Fear the Kitten may get overlooked despite his trainer often leading the Keeneland ranks and a clear-cut outer post. Footbridge is apt to be the wiseguy of the field should he prove to like the track.