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LEXINGTON, KY – Undefeated Godolphin homebred Essential Quality drew post 4 for the $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2), and trainer Kenny McPeek’s Simply Ravishing drew post 3 for the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1), as they headline Saturday’s card at Keeneland.
The Blue Grass is a 1 1/8-mile dirt route restricted to 3-year-olds that offers qualifying points along the Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) prep series. The winner will receive 100 points, the runner-up 40, with 20 to third and 10 to fourth.
Joining the Blue Grass on Saturday’s loaded Keeneland card is the Ashland, a 1 1/16-mile dirt route for 3-year-old fillies that awards Kentucky Oaks (G1) points to the top four finishers on the same 100-40-20-10 basis.
Three Stakes Top Keeneland Opening Day Card
The Brad Cox-trained Essential Quality has sat near the top of every reputable Kentucky Derby contenders list on the market since he was a powerful winner of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Breeders’ Futurity (G1), both over this same course. Luis Saez retains the mount.
Essential Quality enters the Blue Grass undefeated after winning the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park to start his 2021 campaign. The Tapit colt broke his maiden on debut going 6 furlongs but is bred for routing, winning his other 3 starts each at 1 1/16 miles.
Kentucky Derby Contenders Pedigree Analysis: Essential Quality
Hidden Stash returns to Keeneland, where he broke his maiden in a 1 1/16-mile route last October before defeating Churchill Downs optional claimers at the same distance a month later. He was third in his 2021 debut at Tampa Bay Downs, in February’s Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3), then nearly won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), missing by 3/4 of a length. Rafael Bejarano, aboard for both wins and in the Tampa Bay Derby, rides for the fourth time.
Highly Motivated is yet another entry proven over the local ground, having won the 6 1/2-furlong Nyquist Stakes on the Breeders’ Cup Future Stars Friday undercard. The Chad Brown trainee finished third going a one-turn mile in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct during his seasonal unveiling and should improve in his second start off the bench. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano remains the only one to ride Highly Motivated in the afternoons as he enters the starting gate for the fifth time.
Here is the full field for the Blue Grass:
Simply Ravishing makes her first start since finishing fourth in last November’s Golden Rod Stakes (G2) 1 start after finishing in the same spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). She broke her maiden on debut and won the off-turf P. G. Johnson Stakes, both at Saratoga, before arriving at Keeneland and taking the Alcibiades Stakes (G1) to earn her shot in the world championships.
In preparation for her 2021 unveiling, Simply Ravishing worked with stablemate Crazy Beautiful, winner of last weekend’s Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2). The New York-bred daughter of first-crop stallion Laoban has earned $414,200 for co-owners Harold Lerner, Nehoc Stables, and Magdalena Racing (the racing banner for McPeek’s wife, Sherri).
Simply Ravishing Lives up to Name with Dominating Alcibiades Performance
Will’s Secret returns to Keeneland looking to avenge her fifth-place finish against maidens last October in her second career start and first try routing, though her fortunes have improved since. The Dallas Stewart trainee broke her maiden 2 starts later and hasn’t lost since, taking the Martha Washington Stakes and Honeybee Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park. Jon Court rides for the fifth consecutive race.
Undefeated Malathaat will be making her first start since winning last December’s Demoiselle Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct. The Todd Pletcher-trained daughter of Curlin broke her maiden at Belmont Park last October and repeated in November’s Tempted Stakes before winning the Demoiselle, earning herself an early spring freshening. Joel Rosario will be aboard her for the first time.
Here is the full field for the Ashland:
The Inside Track to the Blue Grass Wagering Guide, with in-depth coverage of every single race on Keeneland’s Saturday card, will be available for pre-sale soon and is included with all monthly premium subscriptions.
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