An overfilled field of 3-year-olds (15, including one also-eligible) have been entered for the Grade 2, $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. The Blue Grass, which serves as a major steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby, offers 170 total Derby qualifying points, with 100 going to the winner, 40 to the second place finisher, 20 to third place, and 10 points to fourth. The race will be one of three Derby prep races shown on the NBC Sports Network. Coverage begins at 5:30 PM with the network covering the Blue Grass, the Grade 2 Wood Memorial, and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Good Magic has been named the 2-1 favorite for the race. Trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic was a $1 million purchase at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and the 2017 Eclipse Award champion 2-Year-Old Male of the Year. In his lone 2018 race, Good Magic finished third in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Jose Ortiz has the mount once again on Good Magic, who will break from post position 11. Brown was not thrilled with the draw:
“The post is slightly disappointing, but he’s training very well.”
Trainer Dale Romans is no stranger to success in the Blue Grass. This year, he brings Free Drop Billy back to the site of his biggest win (the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity) as he tries to bounce back from a lackluster performance in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes. Free Drop Billy will try to join fellow Romans trainees Dullahan and Brody’s Cause as winners of both the Breeders’ Futurity at age 2 and the Blue Grass at age 3.
The Blue Grass will go off as the 10th on an 11-race program with a local post time of 6:23 p.m. The full field from the rail out: Zing Zang, Sporting Chance, California Night, Kanthaka, Quip, Marconi, Blended Citizen, Gotta Go, Tiz Mischief, Free Drop Billy, Good Magic, Flameaway, Machismo, and Arawak. Should any runner scratch prior to Saturday, then Determinant will be eligible to run.
#11 Good Magic – It’s a make-or-break race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion. He must bounce back from a poor showing in the Fountain of Youth. With only one win in four starts, he really has only earned a top-notch speed figure once, but he should enter this race much fitter than his last and has picked it up in his morning workouts. Trust that Brown has him ready to roll.
Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers
#2 Sporting Chance – He shipped away from Oaklawn Park to try earning Derby points in an easier spot, but it’s still going to be difficult for this horse that needs to improve. His first race of the season was a decent third in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, but he followed that up with a fairly average Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. Reuniting with jockey Luis Saez, he can pick up valuable points with the right trip.
#10 Free Drop Billy – He finished second in his 3-year-old debut, the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes, to Audible, winner of the Grade 1 Florida Derby last weekend. His last start in the Gotham left a lot to be desired, but he stretches back out in distance to two turns while returning to the site of his biggest win, last year’s Breeders’ Futurity. He’s the logical horse to knock off the heavy favorite.
#4 Kanthaka – He was incredibly impressive two starts back, winning the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes around one turn, but he wasn’t as good when he stretched out while finishing third in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. At first glance, that effort seemed solid, but he was also beaten by 6 1/2 lengths. This will be an easier spot, but he may not like the distance. A hot pace up front would certainly help his chances.
#5 Quip – He pulled off a big upset last out in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at odds of 19-1, stalking the pace before holding off Flameaway by a length. His only career loss came in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, where he got a very poor trip. From a speed figure standpoint, he still has to improving, but he’s steadily improving with each race, and it’s logical that he’ll run his best race ever here. (UPDATE: Reportedly being scratched from Blue Grass Stakes and rerouted to next week’s Arkansas Derby.)
#1 Zing Zang – He’ll finally get more distance here, which is what he really needs. He has absolutely no early speed, so he needs a pace meltdown to have a shot at winning. He’s made up ground in every Derby prep start, but not nearly enough to get close to the winners. An underneath play seems to be his ceiling.
#12 Flameaway – Since moving back to the dirt this year, it’s been nothing but positive. He won the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, then finished second in the Tampa Bay Derby. However, it’s questionable as to what types of fields he was facing in those races. Catholic Boy, the runner-up in the Sam F. Davis, came back to finish fourth in the Florida Derby.
#6 Marconi – He stretches back out in distance, which is definitely what he needs. He seems to be a bit green and is devoid of much early speed. A grinder is probably the best way to describe him, and a hot pace here would really help. It’s interesting that he gets the services of international star jockey Ryan Moore, which can only help.
#9 Tiz Mischief – He rounded out his 2-year-old season running very well in the Kentucky Jockey Club, finishing second by a head. However, his 3-year-old year has gone very poorly, with losses by 13 lengths in the Holy Bull and 11 1/2 in the Tampa Bay Derby. He must turn it around quickly, but I’m not sure he will do enough to make an impact in this race.
#14 Arawak – He looks to hop onto the Derby trail after a decent third-place in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks. His only race on the dirt was not good, though, so he’ll need to show some improvement in a major way to compete against this much tougher field.
#13 Machismo – It looks like he’ll get another shot against stakes company after finishing a decent fourth in the Fountain of Youth. However, he did get beat by 6 1/2 lengths in that spot, and the 1-2 finishers of that race came back to run last and second-to-last in the Florida Derby.
#7 Blended Citizen – This is a decent turf and synthetic runner that won the Jeff Ruby by a neck in his last start. However, his races on dirt have been poor, which makes him hard to play in this spot.
#8 Gotta Go – He stretched out in distance in his last start and finished a well-beaten sixth in the Fountain of Youth. I’m not sure that he wants to go this far, and I’m also not sure that he’s good enough against this field, no matter the distance.
#3 California Night – He stretches out in distance while also jumping up in class for this race. He’s two-for-three lifetime, but he must step up big in a very tough spot.