In a surprising move, we’re looking at another week where the usual big G1 prep is overshadowed by a traditionally smaller race. The Blue Grass (II) is normally a small fish kind of race, but this year it witnesses a jump in interest and in entries with the largest field it has had since 1974. Multiple stakes winners, the two-year-old champion Hansen [pictured], and a whole lotta speed will make this a great race to watch as well as possibly wager.
Special consideration is due to those with Polytrack or grass experience, and really all horses should be considered as this race has a history of producing high-odds winners. I picked last year’s winner Brilliant Speed (gotta love those Dynaformers!) at 19-1.
$750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on all-weather track at Keeneland. Post Time: Saturday, April 14 at 6:18pm EST.
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) Heavy Breathing - Corey Lanerie, Todd Pletcher - The promising son of Giant’s Causeway went to the lead as usual in the Spiral Stakes (III) and did surprisingly well after setting some heated fractions, finishing third overall. Naturally, you have to like a little Giant on synthetic with experience at the surface and at the distance. Breezes are very good as are connections. On the rail spot and with Javier Castellano skipping out on him, I expect this guy to help set the pace once again.
2) Gung Ho - Edgar Prado, Mike Maker - Kitten’s Joy kids dominate at Keeneland, and Gung Ho looked like a good son running on gamely to finish second last out in the Rushaway over at the synthetic Turfway despite a stumbled start. Worked a nice bullet 5-furlonger in :59. A class test awaits Gung Ho here as Maker’s second-stringer looks the part of one.
3) Prospective - Luis Contreras, Mark Casse - The Tampa Bay Derby (II) winner and son of Malibu Moon has the attitude of a champion and has wins on synthetic from his early days at Woodbine. He’s done super all year so far with 2 wins and an erroneous second, working smoothly with a good 5 panel breeze in 1:01. He hasn’t beaten a whole lot of high-class, but I do think he’s got what it takes. If nothing else, I love his determined attitude.
4) Hansen - Ramon Dominguez, Mike Maker - David, meet Goliath. The bright white son of Tapit has learned the rating game and excelled at it with his romping Gotham (III) win following a sloppy second in the Holy Bull (III). His past two works were a :59 bullet and a 1:00 flat over 5 furlongs. He’s matured so much between those two starts and with his personality, I have little reason to believe he’s not going to throw in a pristine effort here… even though he doesn’t need to win, I think this horse naturally wants to. Synthetic experience makes him an easy case to win here.
5) Russian Greek - Miguel Mena, Gennadi Dorochenko - A recent transfer from Jerry Hollendorfer, the very well-pedigreed Giant’s Causeway colt was considered a potential major player on the west coast early on but did not amount to much after being 5th in the El Camino Real (III) and 8th in the Spiral (III), both on synthetic. Breezes have been steady, but not very impressive. Can a new trainer and jockey turn things around for this synthetic specialist? Odds will be stacked against him here.
6) Dullahan - Kent Desormeaux, Dale Romans - The Even the Score colt and half brother to Mine That Bird has only glowed further upon his juvenile career as a sophomore, running a very good runner-up to Howe Great in the grass-bound Palm Beach (III) following his 4th in the Breeders’ Cup (I). Working a blazing :57 1/2, he appears sharper than ever and ready to take on a final prep race at the same place where he won his big Breeders’ Futurity (I). While he sports only 1 win in 7 starts, it’s hard to knock Dullahan. His race against Howe Great proved he’s still got it and will probably keep improving. Rebound, rebound, rebound.
7) Politicallycorrect - Elvis Trujillo, Wesley Ward - The Kitten’s Joy gelding here is making his belated graded debut after a series of setbacks, but managed to nab 2 wins in 3 starts all at Gulfstream this year with a little synthetic background racing at Keeneland last year. Fired a nice bullet recently in :59 flat at Keeneland. He seems to be progressing nicely, but distance might be a question. He has benefited in the past from a fast pace, which he’ll likely find here again. Factor in his top local owners and breeding and he gets another plus.
8) Midnight Crooner - Garrett Gomez, Bob Baffert - Distance isn’t much of an issue for this late-blooming War Chant son, who last out placed 3rd in the Pasadena Stakes and will be making his graded debut here. He was too impressive snapping his maiden by more than 7 lengths at the synthetic Golden Gate, and has promising works before shipping in. Garrett Gomez can only help Crooner’s chances, but he’ll nonetheless be a longshot with great connections here.
9) Holy Candy - Joel Rosario, John Sadler - The hot topic colt of late, the Candy Ride [ARG] son broke his maiden on his fourth try at Santa Anita by 3 1/2 lengths. He ships in having done some longer works as opposed to the customary 4 or 5-furlong bullet and has only 1 start on synthetic. Despite generating buzz as a possible for the Santa Anita Derby (I), he’ll have too much going against him to do that well here.
10) Howe Great - Javier Castellano, Graham Motion - The other Team Valor Derby hopeful lies in this Hat Trick [JPN] colt, who I have been enthusiastic about since he ran impressively in the Kitten’s Joy at Gulfstream. Working slow and long at Keeneland, he has Castellano in the irons and a mission to get more graded earnings. His connections have confided he has no chance against horses like Hansen, and this will be Howe Great’s first synthetic start. I think he’s extremely good and hopefully that will transfer on to the all-weather.
11) Ever So Lucky - Julien Leparoux, Jonathan Sheppard - The Indian Charlie entry has had only one unfortunate start this year where he finished 3rd after being swallowed in the Swale (III). For some reason, despite being stated that he’s no distance horse, Sheppard is taking his chances with him here at 1 1/8 miles with no synthetic or turf experience. Sheppard set out to purposely tire him out in a recent work, cooking him in :57 flat over 5 panels. He can be rated and has a nice cruising speed, but even with Sheppard and Leparoux I won’t back him. I steer clear of Indian Charlies beyond a mile as well as horses who have let me down when they should have been up to the task.
12) Hero of Order - Eddie Martin, Gennadi Dorochenko - The freak 109-1 winner of the Louisiana Derby (II) is set to try to make a name for himself again here as a pacesetter to watch. Sporting 2 wins in 14 tries, the Sharp Humor colt breezed a sharp :48 flat over 4 panels to warm up with no toteboard appearances in 4 synthetic tries. I’m calling cahoots and passing.
13) Scatman - Shaun Bridgmohan, Michael Lauer - The Scat Daddy colt proved to be a game competitor putting up a fight last out against Secret Circle in the Rebel Stakes (II), where he finished a hardened third. He hasn’t won a stakes just yet, but he’s knocking on that door with a second in the Southwest (II) and a couple good races on synthetic. A long breeze preceded by a good :49 work has him all tuned up. This is a tough field but all things considered, Scatman shouldn’t be tossed out of consideration the way he has been running. Now that *he* knows he’s running beyond a mile, perhaps he can keep chase a little longer before he settles.
Predicted Trifecta: 1) Hansen 2) Dullahan 3) Prospective (The best horse here is Hansen, intentions-wise, I think Dullahan is the main upset threat but I think he might be saved a bit to peak for the Derby. Prospective’s a fighter I think could come out near the top)
Value Pick(s): Scatman, Prospective, Politicallycorrect