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Check out our predictions and odds for the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland!
CLEAR THE AIR
R Santana Jr
CLASSIC CAR WASH
I Ortiz Jr
D W Lukas
B J Hernandez Jr
*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.
$5 Exacta Part Wheel - Raise Cain and Tapit Trice over Verifying, Sun Thunder, Classic Car Wash, and Hayes Strike = $40
$10 Exacta Box - Raise Cain and Tapit Trice = $20
If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Raise Cain (5/1).
Fresh off an impressive late run that carried him to his first stakes victory, Tapit Trice is the horse to beat among a field of 11 Kentucky Derby hopefuls in Saturday’s 99th edition of the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the son of Tapit has won three straight after rallying for third in his career debut.
After a romping allowance victory at Gulfstream Park to begin his season, the big gray was made a heavy favorite in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby four weeks ago and lived up to expectations with a 2-length score.
Chief among his opposition in the 9-furlong Blue Grass will be the Brad Cox-trained Verifying. An impressive allowance winner at Oaklawn Park two starts back, he caught a sloppy track and some traffic when fourth in the Grade 2 Rebel last out.
As a juvenile, the son of Justify finished second to another Blue Grass entrant, Blazing Sevens, in the Grade 1 Champagne.
Another horse who merits strong consideration on Saturday is Raise Cain. The son of Violence won the Grade 3 Gotham by 7 1/2- lengths in his last start.
Trained by Ben Colebrook, he also has a win over the track, having scored in a maiden race by more than five lengths before finishing third, also at Keeneland, in the Bowman Mill in his stakes debut.
As a Kentucky Derby trail race, the Grade 1 Blue Grass will offer qualifying points for the first Saturday in May on a scale of 100-40-30-20-10 to the first five finishers.
After a solid third, in which he rallied well to begin his career, this son of Tapit has done nothing wrong for trainer Todd Pletcher. Each victory -- a maiden at Aqueduct, an allowance at Gulfstream Park, and the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby -- has been better than the last.
The one negative to his three-race winning streak is his tendency to break slowly. Drawn the rail in this 11-horse field, that could be an issue. Still, there is speed in here, and he will likely look to drop pack soon after the break anyway.
He is the horse to beat on Saturday, and a similar effort to the last two likely will be enough, but as the heavy favorite, I am going to give the slight edge to another.
Trained by Brad Cox, this son of Justify has looked the part of a very good horse in his two career victories. A debut win at Saratoga and a seasonal debut victory at Oaklawn Park were impressive enough to believe he belonged on the Kentucky Derby trail.
Unfortunately, he has had three chances in graded stakes racing and has yet to break through. Will that first stakes win happen on Saturday? It's possible for the talented colt, but once again he will face other speed and a deep field of competition.
He did not have the best of trips in the Rebel last time, but still, I believe he needs to do better if he is going to win a race like this.
After a mediocre effort on the Tapeta surface of Turfway Park, this son of Violence was ignored in the Grade 3 Gotham. That was a mistake, as he bounced back in a big way with a runaway victory on an off-track at Aqueduct.
It was certainly his best race to date, but he had run some nice races last year, including an easy maiden win at Keeneland, which is his home base. With a little more early speed than the favorite, he also could get the first jump on Saturday.
Tapit Trice is the horse to beat in the Blue Grass, but I think the odds difference will be substantial. For that reason, I am leaning toward this one. He is the top pick.
After a solid juvenile campaign in which he won twice, led by a sloppy edition of the Grade 1 Champagne, the son of Good Magic did absolutely nothing in his 3-year-old debut.
Trained by Chad Brown and to be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., he is eligible to bounce back off the poor effort in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, but it’s tough to go from an absolute drubbing to a Grade 1 victory. This is especially true of young horses.
It would not shock me if he runs a good race, given his back class, but I am looking elsewhere in this solid field.
After a very good second behind Angel of Empire in the Grade 2 Risen Star, he disappointed last time in the Louisiana Derby. The runner-up finish two starts back has since been flattered, as both the first and third-place finishers came back with big wins.
If the son of Into Mischief can bounce back here, he is a contender. He lacks early speed, but he has been a pretty consistent late runner.
Even the fifth-place finish in the last one is not all that bad when you consider the lack of early pace and the traffic encountered. The Kenny McPeek-trained runner looks like a serious threat to be a part of the exotics on Saturday.
He had no answer for the powerful finish of Tapit Trice last time, but he was clearly second-best in a big field in the Tampa Bay Derby.
It was actually the fourth straight solid performance since returning from a layoff late last year for trainer Mark Casse. A son of Noble Bird, he will need a bit better to win this, but cannot be dismissed off his recent form.
I do like a few others better here, but he should offer value and is a legitimate threat to be in the exotics on Saturday.
The second of three from trainer Kenny McPeek, he comes in off a pretty nice stakes win at Laurel Park. This will undoubtedly be tougher, but off the win he merits consideration.
Unfortunately, he has had plenty of chances against better horses in the past and has not been able to seriously contend for the win, but he has shown the ability to rally into the lower spots on the exotics
The son of Connect ran poorly in his only previous start at Keeneland, but I think he is a different horse now. He will be the one I use below in the exotics.
Having never raced on dirt before, it’s a bit of a guessing game with this one from the barn of Ben Colebrook. He’s had three career races and they’ve all come over the Tapeta track at Turfway Park.
He’s been solid with a win and two seconds while running against some decent horses there. As a son of Uncle Mo, he could appreciate the dirt, but his female side is more for the turf.
With good form, he could be a contender if he loves dirt, but that’s too large of a question mark as he runs in his toughest test yet.
Officially unbeaten after being put up by disqualification in his debut, this Kenny McPeek-trained runner has shown some versatility already in his two-race career.
In his debut, he set all the pace on the turf and could have wired it, if not for the trouble. Next out, he waited on some traffic before rallying for the win in an allowance race over a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park.
This race will probably be too large of a step up, but he is an interesting horse to keep an eye on down the road.
The timeless D. Wayne Lukas shoots for another Kentucky Derby starter when he sends out this son of Flatter for his first stakes attempt on Saturday. The Blue Grass is certainly not an easy spot for a stakes debut, but he does come in off two straight wins.
Showing steady improvement in his four career starts, he was a game maiden winner at a flat mile two starts back at Oaklawn Park. Off that effort, he came back twelve days later to wire a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race at the same track.
It’s an unusual progression but one that should have him sharp and contesting the lead here. As for hanging around when the real running begins, crazier things have happened, but it seems like a lot to ask.
Once a winner in four lifetime starts, this son of Ransom the Moon will try graded stakes racing for the second time after running a non-threatening fifth behind Raise Cain in the Gotham.
His lone win came in a maiden race at Turfway Park on their Tapeta track. In two starts on dirt, he has finished fifth in both.
It’s possible there is some room for improvement from the off-track last time, but there are too many others to prefer over him to get excited for his chances.
Blue Grass Stakes Race Information
What: Blue Grass Stakes (Grade 1)
Time: Saturday, April 8 -- 5:15 pm Eastern time
How to Watch: NBC, FanDuel TV
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.
Email: [email protected]
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