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Keeneland racing analyst Tom Leach interviews these horsemen with horses racing Saturday in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1):
Eric Guillot, trainer of Laoban.
Kevin Warner, co-owner of Twizz and a Friday starter, Keightley, named for the legendary University of Kentucky men’s basketball equipment manager, Bill Keightley.
On a brisk Thursday morning at Keeneland, Toyota Blue Grass (G1) hopeful American Dubai stretched his legs with a blowout through the stretch and trainer Dale Romans’ two entrants, Brody’s Cause and Cherry Wine, made their first appearances on the track with gallops after the morning renovation break.
The Toyota Blue Grass will be run Saturday with a 6 p.m. post time. In addition to its Grade 1 status and $1 million purse, the race carries 170 points toward the Kentucky Derby on a scale of 100-40-20-10 to the first- through fourth-place finishers.
Post 2 – Donegal Moon/Post 4 – Zulu/Post 11 – Cards of Stone: Tristan Barry, assistant to three-time Toyota Blue Grass-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, said he spent a lot of time over the winter at Palm Beach Downs in Florida with Zulu, the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s $1 million race.
“He’s a very talented horse. He’s high energy,” Barry said about the Bernardini colt, who was second to Mohaymen in the Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 27 for owners Michael B. Tabor, Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stables. “He just likes his job. He enjoys what he’s doing. He appears to want to go a route of ground.”
On Thursday, Barry said, “Zulu went out after the break today, blinkers on. Had a nice gallop around the track, a mile and an eighth, and went back and stood in the gate. Did that very well.”
Donegal Racing’s Donegal Moon galloped 1 3/8 miles around 9:15 a.m. Cards of Stone arrived at Keeneland this morning and is to train Friday.
A New York-bred by Bustin Stones owned by Highclere America, McConnell Racing Stable, Wachtel Stable and Darlene Bilinski, Cards of Stone is the lone gelding entered in the Toyota Blue Grass. Six geldings have won the race: Fencing (1937), Ruhe (1951, 2nd division), Rockhill Native (1980), Bachelor Beau (1986), Prairie Bayou (1993) and Dominican (2007).
Regarding the Derby qualifying points for the Pletcher horses, Zulu has 20, while Cards of Stone and Donegal Moon have none.
Post 3 – Cherry Wine/Post 6 – Brody’s Cause: William Pacella, Frank Jones Jr. and Frank Shoop’s Cherry Wine galloped after the break with exercise rider Miguel Garcia aboard as trainer Dale Romans looked on.
Cherry Wine, fourth in the Rebel (G2) in his most recent start, has five Derby qualifying points.
The Albaugh Family Stable’s Brody’s Cause returned to the scene of his biggest win, galloping after the break with Garcia aboard.
Brody’s Cause won the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) here last October and finished third in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Brody’s Cause has 14 Derby qualifying points.
Post 5 – Crescent Drive: Paul Van Doren’s Crescent Drive jogged to the starting gate and then galloped once around after the renovation break with exercise rider Juan Gonzalez aboard.
Trained by Tom Amoss, Crescent Drive has no Derby qualifying points and will be making his dirt debut in the Toyota Blue Grass.
Post 7 – Laoban: About 7:30 a.m., McCormick Racing and Southern Equine Stable’s Laoban jogged two miles and schooled in the starting gate for trainer Eric Guillot.
Laoban has 22 Derby qualifying points.
Post 10 – American Dubai: With owner Richard Keith looking on, American Dubai galloped after the break and blew out through the stretch in :23 and change, according to Keeneland clockers. Exercise rider Jerry O’Dwyer was aboard.
“I was at a bad angle in the stretch, but somebody who had a watch on him got his last eighth in :11,” trainer Rodney Richards said.
American Dubai, who picked up two Derby qualifying points with a third-place finish in the Southwest (G3), drew post position 10 in a full field of 14 horses for the Toyota Blue Grass.
“Going a mile and an eighth, there is plenty of time (to get position),” Richards said. “A lot depends on how he breaks, and he didn’t break well in his last race.”
American Dubai finished 13th in the Rebel (G2) in his most recent start.
Keith, who is from Hobbs, N.M., has built a small stable in three years. He, like Richards, never has attended the Kentucky Derby, a fact that could change with a strong showing Saturday from American Dubai.
Post 13 – Star Hill: Calumet Farm’s Star Hill jogged once around the track before 6:30 a.m. with exercise rider Jennifer Patterson up.
Trained by Rusty Arnold, Star Hill has 10 Derby qualifying points that he picked up with a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
Post 14 – My Man Sam: Chad Brown trains My Man Sam for Sheep Pond Partners, Newport Stables and Jay W. Bligh. The Trappe Shot colt went to the track after the first wave of horses following the morning renovation break and galloped about 1 3/8 miles.
My Man Sam has no Derby qualifying points.
Reddam Racing’s undefeated Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist had his return to the track delayed by at least a day because of a slightly elevated white blood cell count.
“It is standard routine to take blood work,” said Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. “His temperature is normal, but he had a slightly elevated white blood cell count.”
Nyquist arrived at Keeneland on Sunday, a day after his 3¼-length victory in the Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) extended his undefeated streak to seven.
“He’s happy and he was a handful walking this morning. He wants to do something,” Sisterson said.
With five weeks between the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby, a missed day of training at this juncture should be no issue.
“Why rush him back? Especially when they forecast rain coming in, so why take a risk?” Sisterson said. “He is dragging us around the shedrow and the way his energy is, I’d probably say he’ll go out Friday.”
Nicholas Alexander’s Sunday Rules brings a glossy, 8-for-9 record into Saturday’s 15th running of the $300,000 Madison (G1) and a venture into deeper waters than what she has faced in Southern California.
“I always thought that she was a very talented filly and I wanted to see how she stood with the best of the best,” trainer Phil D’Amato said from his home base at Santa Anita. “I think we will have a good gauge Saturday.”
The 5-year-old California-bred daughter of Tribal Rule was one of 13 fillies and mares entered in the Madison, a seven-furlong dirt test that attracted two Breeders’ Cup winners among five Grade 1 winners.
“I have been watching that race for years and I never have seen it come up that tough,” D’Amato said. “We have the Breeders’ Cup in our backyard at Santa Anita this year and this will give us the chance to see if she can compete.”
A winner of her first five starts, Sunday Rules last raced on Jan. 30, winning the restricted California Cup Sprint Stakes by 2¼ lengths under Edwin Maldonado, who will be aboard Saturday.
“If the Breeders’ Cup was this week, I would be very content with her training,” said D’Amato, who saddled his only two Keeneland starters in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships with Obviously (ninth in the Mile-G1) and Big John B (10th in the Turf-G1).
Sunday Rules worked a best-of-29 five furlongs in :59 at Santa Anita on March 29 and breezed a half-mile in :47.60 at Keeneland on Monday.
D’Amato has 16 stalls here this spring.
“I have a couple more coming in from California on the 13th and then a couple more coming up from Florida,” D’Amato said. “We plan to take them on to Churchill Downs.”
Should Sunday Rules pass her Saturday test, her performance could be the start of a huge weekend for D’Amato, who is gunning for his first training title at Santa Anita.
“The meet ends Sunday,” said D’Amato, who holds a 35-32 lead over Doug O’Neill. “Hopefully we can hold him off.”
$125,000 APPALACHIAN (G3) PRESENTED BY JAPAN RACING ASSOCIATION (entries taken Sunday; race Thursday, April 14) – Baciami Piccola (GB), Catch a Glimpse, Daddy’s Great Bay, Felt in Pocket, Outsider Art.
$300,000 MAKER’S 46 MILE (G1) (entries taken Tuesday; race Friday, April 15) – Conquest Typhoon, Heart to Heart, Reload, Shining Copper, Tourist.
$350,000 COOLMORE JENNY WILEY (G1) (entries taken Wednesday; race Saturday, April 16) – Akatea (IRE), Dacita (CHI), Illuminant, Tepin, Wekeela (FR).
$200,000 BEN ALI (G3) (entries taken Wednesday; race Saturday, April 16) – Ami’s Holiday, Breaking Lucky, Eagle, General a Rod, Neck ‘n Neck.
$150,000 LEXINGTON (G3) (entries taken Wednesday; race Saturday, April 16) – Big Squeeze, Direct Message, Lomcevak, Pinson, Riker, Synchrony, Yo Carm.
$100,000 GIANT’S CAUSEWAY (entries taken Wednesday; race Saturday, April 16) – Eden Prairie, Exaggerated, Jewel of a Cat, Lindisfarne, Maggiesfreuddnslip, Miss Ella, Miss Matzoball, Rapid Rhythm, Sweet Success.
$150,000 ADENA SPRINGS BEAUMONT (G3) (entries taken Thursday, April 14; race Sunday, April 17) – Cosmic Girl, Kinsley Kisses, Lightstream, Nickname, Northwest Tale, R Girls a Charmer.
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