Folks, we are approaching Blue Grass Stakes weekend at Keeneland! The Saturday card is worth more than $2.1 million in stakes purses, with five of them graded. We've got Kentucky Derby & Oaks points to go around — 100 points to the winners of the Blue Grass Stakes and the Ashland Stakes. We've also got our top turf sprinters dashing five and a half furlongs over the Keeneland lawn. It's a Grade 2 affair so we can expect wicked fast fractions. There's several more competitive races in store, so let's preview the action.
The $800K Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) — 1 1/8 miles, Dirt, three-year-olds only, winner receives 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. Post Time is 6:36 PM ET.
Our current Kentucky Derby favorite ESSENTIAL QUALITY (3-5) is back in action. He'll break from post position four as he makes his highly anticipated second start of the year. ESSENTIAL QUALITY is undefeated for trainer Brad Cox, but will have to tussle with the talent of HIGHLY MOTIVATED (3-1), who comes off a game third-place finish in the Gotham Stakes (G3) as the favorite. HIGHLY MOTIVATED is eligible to improve in what will be his second start off a layoff. KEEPMEINMIND (8-1) will try to rebound off his disappointing showing in the Rebel Stakes, which was his first start in almost four months. He'll break from post nine with jockey David Cohen back in the irons. HIDDEN STASH (20-1) will try to upset this field, having ran second in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3). ROMBAUER (15-1), the winner of the El Camino Derby Real, travels from the opposite coast for this affair. It is interesting that the UNTREATED (10-1) attracted jockey Joel Rosario off his mount on DREAM SHAKE in the Santa Anita Derby, which is schedueld the same day. UNTREATED cracked the triple digit Equibase Speed Figure in just his second start, which indicates rapidly developing talent. He delivered a sharp 4F breeze last weekend, going :48.79, the fourth fastest workout at that distance at Palm Beach Downs.
The $300K Madison Stakes (G1) — 7 furlongs, Dirt, Fillies and mares, four-year-olds and upward. Post Time is 6:02 PM ET.
BELL'S THE ONE (2-1) from the Pessin barn and KIMARI (5-2) from Ward's, loom large in this field of seven. BELL'S THE ONE will be making her comeback race, having been on the shelf since her third-place effort in the Breeder's Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1). KIMARI is ready to roll, having won her comeback race in last month's Spring Fever Stakes at Oaklawn Park. It'll be KIMARI's first time going seven furlongs; all of her previous races were a bit shorter. Late running SCONSIN (3-1) will break from the six-hole for trainer Gregory Foley. She hasn't run since her valiant 4th place finish in the Breeder's Cup Fill & Mare Sprint (G1), where she tied her highest speed figure. But before we think the layoff is a problem, note her five furlong bullet work in :59.40, the fastest of 9 workouts at that distance at Fair Grounds. She is sharp as a tack.
The $400K Ashland Stakes (G1) — 1 1/16th miles, Dirt, three-year-old fillies only, winner receives 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks. Post Time is 5:30 PM ET.
Highly regarded MALATHAAT (9-5) makes her first start of the year for trainer Todd Pletcher. She aims for her fourth win a row. She was last seen winning the Demoiselle (G2) back in early December, but while on vacation, she's been shuffled down the KY Oaks Leaderboard to 21st. She'll look to re-establish herself in her division against five others, which includes SIMPLY RAVISHING (5-2) for Ken McPeek, WILL'S SECRET(7-2) for Dallas Stewart.
The $200K Shakertown Stakes (G2) — 5 ½ furlongs, Turf, three-year-olds and upward. Post Time is 4:57 PM ET.
A large field of thirteen will run five and half furlongs over the Keeneland lawn. Prominent among them is Grade 2 winner IMPRIMIS (7-2), who will be rematched with the foe who defeated him last time out, THE CRITICAL WAY (9-2). While they seek to settle their scores, a host of other competitors will try to snatch the race from them, including: TURNED ASIDE (6-1), BOUND FOR NOWHERE (3-1), KANTHAKA (6-1), HIGH CRIME (8-1).
The $200K Commonwealth Stakes (G3) — 7 furlongs, Dirt, four-year-olds and upward.Post Time 4:24 PM ET.
After winning at first asking for new trainer Brad Cox, HIDDEN SCROLL (5-2) will make his second start in this event, breaking from post two. He'll stay sprinting and is primed for the task; he delivered a sharp 4F workout in :48 flat, the second fastest of 26 at that distance at Oaklawn Park. He meets testy group of six others, which include the speedy FLAGSTAFF (8-5) for trainer John Sadler. FLAGSTAFF makes his third start off a layoff and has run faster with each start. This gelding is tough as nails; he's earned triple digit Equibase Speed Figures in 15 of 17 career starts. He recently worked a 4F bullet in :47.40, the fastest of 40 works at that distance at Oaklawn Park. Also in the running is HOG CREEK HUSTLE (9-2), ATTACHMENT RATE (5-1), and SPECIAL RESERVE (12-1), all who are entering off of wins.
The $200K Appalachian Stakes (G2) — 1 mile, Turf, Fillies, three-year-olds only. Post Time 3:51 PM ET.
Six fillies will clash for this one mile event over the turf. SPANISH LOVEAFFAIR (2-1) for trainer Mark Casse seeks redemption after being disqualified from first place in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (G3). She'll have to tangle with PLUM ALI (5-2) for trainer Christophe Clement, who will be making her comeback race since her fifth place finish in the Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), where she was the second betting favorite that day. JOUSTER (5-2) for trainer Todd Pletcher is also in the mix — she was last seen in the Florida Oaks (G3) where she led every step of the way but was tagged at the wire and had to finish second. She shortens for this affair and is fit as a fiddle. She worked a 4F bullet in :48.46 at Palm Beach Downs on March 27th, the fastest of 15 works at that distance.