Check out our predictions and odds for the 2021 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland!
|R Bejarano||V Oliver|
|J Rosario||T Pletcher|
|J Castellano||C Brown|
|L Saez||B Cox|
|F Geroux||M McCarthy|
|A Jiminez||P Lobo|
|7||HUSH OF A STORM||20/1
|S Gonzalez||W Morey|
|8||SITTIN ON GO||30/1
|C Lanerie||D Romans|
|D Cohen||R Diadoro|
$1 Superfecta part wheel – Essential Quality over Untreated, Hush of a Storm and Highly Motivated over Untreated, Hush of a Storm and Highly Motivated over Untreated, Hush of a Storm, Highly Motivated, Hidden Stash, Keepmeinmind and Rombauer = $24
$1 Superfecta part wheel – Essential Quality over Untreated, Hush of a Storm and Highly Motivated over Untreated, Hush of a Storm, Highly Motivated, Hidden Stash, Keepmeinmind and Rombauer over Untreated, Hush of a Storm and Highly Motivated = $24
Essential Quality (3/5)
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Essential Quality, the champion juvenile of 2020 and a strong winner of his seasonal debut, looks to build upon his credentials as the Kentucky Derby favorite when he rates top billing in a field of nine set for Saturday’s Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
Undefeated in four starts, which includes three graded stakes victories, the gray son of Tapit come back to the site of his most important victory, last fall’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Trained by Brad Cox, Essential Quality also won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at the Lexington oval.
The champ’s main competition on Saturday could come from the Chad Brown-trained Highly Motivated. Third in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct in his 2021 debut, the son of Into Mischief will be making his return to Keeneland, where he was an impressive winner of the Nyquist Stakes last November in his final start at 2.
Several others in the $800,000 feature merit consideration in the deep field, including recent winners Untreated, Rombauer, and Hush of a Storm, as well as experienced stakes performers Keepmeinmind and Hidden Stash.
The 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass will offer the top four finishers Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a scale of 100-40-20-10.
|Blue Grass Stakes Information|
|What||Blue Grass Stakes (Grade 2)|
|When||Saturday, April 3 — 6:35 pm Eastern time|
|How to Watch||TVG|
The unbeaten son of Tapit has been the best horse on the track in each of his four starts, which already includes two wins at Keeneland. His return to the races in last month’s Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park came on a sloppy track, but it mattered little to the champion, who looked every bit the colt who clinched a championship last fall. With the ability to lay close the pace if need be, a fondness for Keeneland, and every right to appreciate the added distance, it’s hard to look past him on Saturday. While there are several interesting horses in the field to make a go of it, none of them come close to the credentials he already has in his back pocket. With Luis Saez again in the saddle, he is strictly the one to beat in his final stop before the Kentucky Derby.
Watching this one win the Nyquist stakes on the same afternoon that Essential Quality was clinching an Eclipse Award, it was easy to imagine him winning big races in the future. He’s only run once since, and while his third-place effort in the Grade 3 Gotham was not bad, it was just a little below his high expectations. There is no reason to believe he cannot move forward off the effort, and the return to Keeneland is a plus, but jumping on him as a clear second choice offers little value. He’s also never before raced around two turns. While he is the most likely in the field to run big and challenge the favorite, I will look for others for better odds.
While this Vicky Oliver trained son of Constitution has yet to make a big splash, he continues to improve with each and every start. After finishing off last year with a pair of victories at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, he proved he belongs with good horses with a pair of solid rallying efforts in graded stakes races at Tampa Bay Downs. Things only get tougher for him on Saturday, but it’s hard to argue with his progression, as well as his liking for the added distance. He’s in with a shot.
This task is a lot to ask in only his third career start, but this son of Nyquist might just have the talent to run a big race. He did not fire in his career debut for trainer Todd Pletcher, but he came right back to run a very impressive race in dominating maiden company at Tampa Bay Downs. This will obviously be a major step up in class, but if he can show a little more speed early under new rider Joel Rosario, this well thought of colt is certainly eligible to run a strong race on Saturday.
This one has a very good experience at Keeneland, twice having rallied into the picture behind Essential Quality in his Grade 1 victories last fall. This son of Laoban has only started once this year, and he failed to kick it in down the stretch when finishing a non-threatening sixth behind the highly regarded Concert Tour in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes. He’ll obviously need to do better on Saturday, and perhaps a return to Keeneland will help. Still, he’s a horse who likes to come from way back, so I’m not loving the likely pace scenario in here for him.
A winner of the El Camino Real Derby in his only start this year, he traveled to Keeneland to run in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he rallied to finish fifth behind Essential Quality. With pretty good form on dirt, synthetic, and turf, he has proven himself a horse of some quality. As such, he should be respected on Saturday. Unfortunately, it seems he lacks any early speed which I think puts him at a disadvantage in this field. A nice horse, but I like others better.
After a poor effort in his career debut at Churchill Downs, this Creative Cause colt turned things around completely with three straight good looking wins at Turfway Park. In his last two, he even beat some horses of quality. The question now becomes not only about class but also whether he can bring his good form over from the Tapeta surface to the dirt at Keeneland. His work over the track suggests that he can. As a sizable longshot here, I do like him a bit, as he is clearly headed in the right direction. Maybe a win is a stretch, but I do think he can be a contender for the exotics.
A winner of only a maiden race at Churchill Downs in five career starts, this Paulo Lobo-trained son of Broken Vow will make his stakes debut on Saturday. While he did show some signs of life after a few races under his belt last year, his return to the races when he finished fourth in an Oaklawn Park allowance race makes it difficult to like his chances against this salty field of 3-year-olds.
After beginning his career in promising fashion with a win in an Ellis Park maiden, followed by an upset victory in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, this son of Brody’s Cause has not come close to the winner’s circle in four successive graded stakes tries. Beaten by more than a combined 30 lengths in his first two starts this year, he is hard to recommend in the Blue Grass.
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Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
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