ROUTINE MORNING FOR TOYOTA BLUE GRASS RUNNERS AT KEENELAND
Seven entrants in Saturday’s $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) stabled at Keeneland had routine gallops on a brisk and breezy Wednesday morning.
Horses competing in the race are required to be on the Keeneland grounds 54 hours in advance of the race, no later than noon Thursday.
Here is the rundown of Wednesday’s activity for Toyota Blue Grass horses at Keeneland:
Post 2 – Donegal Moon/Post 4 – Zulu: Two of trainer Todd Pletcher’s three entrants in the Toyota Blue Grass — Donegal Moon and Zulu — galloped about 1 3/8 miles. The third runner, Cards of Stone, is to arrive today from New York.
Zulu, the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Toyota Blue Grass who was second to e in the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2), arrived at Keeneland Tuesday from Palm Beach Downs in South Florida. Owned by Michael B. Tabor, Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stables, the Bernardini colt made his first appearance on the track Wednesday just before the renovation break.
Donegal Racing’s Donegal Moon, a son of Malibu Moon who arrived at Keeneland Monday, was on the track after the break.
“Everybody went well,” assistant Tristan Barry said.
Pletcher has sent out 21 horses in previous runnings of the Toyota Blue Grass, including three starters in 2011. He won the race with Bandini (2005), Monba (2008) and Carpe Diem(2015). Carpe Diem raced for Stonestreet and WinStar Farm.
Zulu has 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Donegal Moon and Cards of Stone have no Derby qualifying points.
Pletcher’s Toyota Blue Grass hopefuls might be overshadowed by two other horses he has entered Saturday. He will send out Rachel’s Valentina in the Central Bank Ashland (G1) and Stopchargingmaria in the Madison (G1). The former is a Grade 1 winner who was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) last October at Keeneland. The latter won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) here.
Both runners will be making their 2016 debuts Saturday.
“It fit their time schedules, and obviously they like the track,” Barry said. “(The races always are (tough) at Keeneland in the spring. There are no easy spots.”
Post 5 – Crescent Drive: Paul Van Doren’s Crescent Drive galloped before the morning renovation break.
A Flower Alley colt trained by Tom Amoss, Crescent Drive will be making his graded stakes and dirt debut Saturday. Crescent Drive has no Kentucky Derby points.
Post 7 – Laoban: “He’s high as a kite, higher than a Georgia pine,” trainer Eric Guillot said about Laoban, who was feeling good in the cool weather when he made his first appearance on the track at 6:30 a.m. on a windy Wednesday. The Uncle Mo colt, who arrived from Southern California Tuesday, jogged two miles.
Guillot said Laoban, whose last work was a six-furlong move in 1:11.20 at Los Alamitos on March 30, would school in the starting gate Thursday.
“He’s not bad in the gates,” the trainer said about the colt, second to Shagaf in the March 5 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct. “He’s just slow in the gates. He’s so big. I want him to be sharp, focused.”
Owned by McCormick Racing and Southern Equine Stable, Laoban is set to become Guillot’s first starter in the Toyota Blue Grass. With a win, he would give the trainer his first victory at Keeneland and become the first horse in race history to break his maiden in the race.
Laoban has 22 Kentucky Derby points thanks to a third-place finish in the Sham (G3) and a runner-up finish in the Gotham.
Post 10 – American Dubai: Richard Keith’s American Dubai walked through the Paddock and galloped after the renovation break.
The E Dubai colt has two Kentucky Derby points thanks to a third-place finish in the Southwest (G3).
Trainer Rodney Richards is scheduled to return to Keeneland Thursday morning from Oaklawn Park. American Dubai would be the second horse he has raced at Keeneland.
Post 13 – Star Hill: Calumet Farm’s homebred Star Hill galloped before the renovation break.
Trained by Rusty Arnold, the Elusive Quality colt has 10 Kentucky Derby points thanks to a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his most recent start.
Post 14 – My Man Sam: About 9 a.m., maiden winner My Man Sam accompanied Wavell Avenue, winner of the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) who is making her 2016 debut in Saturday’s Madison (G1), and stakes winner Ava’s Kitten to the track for 1 3/8-mile gallops for trainer Chad Brown.
Owned by Sheep Pond Partners, Newport Stables and breeder Jay W. Bligh, My Man Sam will become the third Toyota Blue Grass starter for Brown, following Balance the Books (6thin 2013) and Bobby’s Kitten (12th in 2014). The race was run on Polytrack from 2007-2014.
Brown’s assistants Baldo Hernandez and Whit Beckman are overseeing his Keeneland string while he remains in New York. On Saturday, Brown is to be at Aqueduct to saddle Shagaf in the Wood Memorial (G1).
My Man Sam, a colt by Trappe Shot, has no Kentucky Derby points.
For more about the Toyota Blue Grass weekend races, click here.
ARNOLD DOUBLES UP FOR TOYOTA BLUE GRASS AND CENTRAL BANK ASHLAND
Trainer Rusty Arnold will try to join some select company on Saturday when he sends out runners in the 92nd running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) and the 79th running of the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1).
Arnold will be represented by Calumet Farm’s Star Hill in the Toyota Blue Grass and Ashbrook Farm’s Weep No More in the Central Bank Ashland.
Six trainers have swept the two stakes in one year, a feat initially accomplished by Ben Jones in 1948 with Bewitch and Coaltown, and most recently by Kenny McPeek in 2002 withTake Charge Lady and Harlan’s Holiday.
Star Hill comes into the Toyota Blue Grass off a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 12. He will break from post position 13 and be ridden by Emisael Jaramillo, who is making his Keeneland debut this season.
“He is a vastly improving 3-year-old,” Arnold said. “We have got to give it a shot. A lot of the horses in there are in the same spot. We were coming here and we’ve got to give it a try. He is going the right way.”
Weep No More has not run since winning her stakes debut in the Suncoast at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 13.
“She won two straight races and was ready to run and got caught in the (herpes) quarantine at Payson for 21 days,” said Arnold, who saddled Karlovy Vary to victory in the 2012 Central Bank Ashland.
Weep No More, who will break from post position one under Corey Lanerie, had her final work for Saturday’s race with a :49.60 half-mile Tuesday morning.
Todd Pletcher also could pull off the training double. He will saddle Rachel’s Valentina in the Central Bank Ashland and send out the trio of Zulu, Donegal Moon and Cards of Stone in the Toyota Blue Grass.
Other trainers with Ashland-Blue Grass doubles on their resumes are Woody Stephens in 1949 with Tall Weeds and Halt; George Poole in 1971 with You All and Impetuosity; LeRoy Jolley in 1976 with Optimistic Gal and Honest Pleasure; and D. Wayne Lukas in 1987 with Chic Shirine and War.
MADISON TURNS INTO A HANDICAPPER’S DELIGHT
Longtime Keeneland morning-line oddsmaker Mike Battaglia received quite a treat when he began going through Saturday’s 11-race card.
“I came down Tuesday because I had to make the line for the Toyota Blue Grass (G1) and the (Central Bank) Ashland (G1),” Battaglia said. “Then I started going through the rest of the card and I got to the Madison (G1), and I just said, ‘Whoa. There’s two Breeders’ Cup winners in there.’ ”
The Madison, for fillies and mares going seven furlongs on the main track, drew a field of 13, five of them Grade 1 winners including Breeders’ Cup winners Stopchargingmaria(Distaff) and Wavell Avenue (Filly and Mare Sprint). Also in the field are four other graded stakes winners.
“That’s an ungodly race,” Battaglia said. “You love to see a race like that.”
Who will be the program favorite?
“I put Stopchargingmaria on top over Wavell Avenue with Cavorting the third choice,” Battaglia said. “As to who I am going to pick, I have no idea.”
LYNCH READY TO HIT THE TURF RUNNING
Trainer Brian Lynch, who scored his first Keeneland stakes victory last fall when Grand Arch won the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), has settled into Barn 35 with a 24-horse string.
One of the first orders of business for Lynch will be Saturday’s $200,000 Shakertown (G2) when he sends out Power Alert (AUS), who he co-owns with the AJ Suited Racing Stable.
“I am worried a little bit about the weather, because he is a horse that likes firm turf,” Lynch said of Power Alert, who finished fourth as the favorite in last year’s race that was run over a course labeled as “good” following heavy rain the day before.
Another Lynch runner who likes firm ground is Terry Hamilton’s Heart to Heart, who will take a three-race win streak into next week’s $300,000 Maker’s 46 Mile (G1).
“I would love to get a Grade 1 with him,” Lynch said. “He has won a lot of graded stakes and hopefully he can take the next step this year.”
Heart to Heart, a 5-year-old son of English Channel, has won four of his past five starts with his only defeat coming over a yielding course in last fall’s Shadwell Turf Mile.
“He is bigger and stronger and plays catch me if you can,” Lynch said. “The thing about him is that he runs the turns so well, that by the time they straighten out, he has spurted away.”
Lynch also has his eyes on next Thursday’s $125,000 Appalachian Presented by Japan Racing Association (G3) with Amerman Racing Stables’ Baciami Piccola (GB). The 3-year-old filly won the Florida Oaks (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs in her U.S. debut on March 12.
Grand Arch had his second Keeneland work of the spring Sunday. He has not raced since finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) last October at Keeneland.
“We lost a little time with him,” Lynch said. “It was nothing major, but it looks like he won’t race at the meet.”
Cheyenne Stables, Southern Equine Stable and Gatewood Bell’s Clothes Fall Off breezed three furlongs in :35.80 over a fast track after the morning renovation break. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Clothes Fall Off won the Correction at Aqueduct in her most recent start and drew post position eight for Saturday’s Madison (G1).
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