POST-RACE INTERVIEWS WITH THE WINNING CONNECTIONS OF THE TOYOTA BLUE GRASS
WILL BE HELD IN THE FIRST-FLOOR JOCKEY QUARTERS IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE RACE
WISE DAN’S TRIUMPHANT RETURN MAKES LOPRESTI ONE PROUD TRAINER
Reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan successfully passed his first test of 2013 on Friday with a one-length victory over Data Link in the Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes (G1).
“I was really proud of him,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said of Wise Dan, who became the first horse in Keeneland history to record five graded stakes victories at the track. “But I am glad yesterday is over. I didn’t sleep for three nights. People think he is just going to come back and pick up right where he left off, but all of those horses yesterday had already run this year.”
Ridden by Jose Lezcano, Wise Dan rated off the pace while racing on the outside and in the clear. Wise Dan took over at the head of the stretch and held off Data Link, winner of the 2012 Maker’s 46 Mile, by a length with a 23-second final quarter of a mile.
“The race came up a little bit tougher than I would have liked, but it didn’t look like he had to run too hard,” LoPresti said. “It looked like they could have gone around again and he would not have let that other horse (Data Link) by him.”
LoPresti continues to be amazed by Wise Dan, a six-year-old gelding by Wiseman’s Ferry.
“People don’t realize what this horse can do. There’s no telling what he will do the next time he runs,” LoPresti said. “He was a couple of breezes short, but I have him where I want him now. We will take it easy with him now and I would like to see him put a little more weight on.”
Next up for Wise Dan most likely will be the $500,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs on June 15.
“I haven’t talked to (owner-breeder) Mr. (Morton) Fink yet about it, but it probably will be the Stephen Foster,” LoPresti said. “He is nominated to the Woodford (Reserve Turf Classic, G1 on May 4) but it is doubtful he would go there.
“I want to follow the same schedule as last year. Actually I am ahead of last year because he started with a Grade 1. If he wins the Stephen Foster, that gets us into the Breeders’ Cup. Then we can go to Saratoga, the Woodbine Mile (G1) and then back here for the Shadwell (Turf Mile, G1). If we want to go for the (Breeders’ Cup) Classic, we can go in another direction.”
With Wise Dan’s return in the books, next up is Wise Dan’s older half-brother, Successful Dan, by Successful Appeal.
“We will know Tuesday afternoon if he is going to go in the Ben Ali (G3, on April 21 here) or the Alysheba (G2, on May 3 at Churchill Downs),” LoPresti said of Successful Dan, who has not raced since the Cornhusker Handicap (G2) on June 30 at Prairie Meadows because of a ligament strain in his left front ankle.
“He is going to breeze one more time on Tuesday and then Dr. (Larry) Bramlage wants to look at his X-rays one more time. If the inflammation is gone, he’ll go in the Ben Ali. If not, we will wait.”
Trainer Shug McGaughey said Data Link, owned by Stuart Janney III, ran well in defeat and appeared to have come out of the race in good order.
“The Dixie at Pimlico is a good possibility,” McGaughey said of the next likely start for Data Link.
The Dixie is a Grade 2 race at 1 1/8 miles on the turf that carries a $300,000 purse.
McGaughey also trains Orb, winner of the Besilu Stables’ Florida Derby (G1) and the Besilu Stables’ Fountain of Youth (G2), and a major contender for this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) to be run May 4 at Churchill Downs.
“He is going to work in the morning at Payson (Park),” McGaughey said of Orb, who is owned by Janney and the Phipps Stable. “We will decide after that work when he will ship.”
NOTES ON TODAY’S TOYOTA BLUE GRASS STAKES
A field of 14 horses will go postward today in the 89th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1). The Toyota Blue Grass is Keeneland’s signature race, first run on on April 29, 1937, closing day of its inaugural spring meeting.
The field for this year’s Toyota Blue Grass is the largest in the race since 1974. Fourteen starters also competed in the 1954 running.
Today’s program is the second 12-race card in Keeneland history. Last year, Keeneland also ran 12 races on Toyota Blue Grass Day and drew a track-record 40,617 fans to the track.
Here are other points of interest regarding today’s race:
Kentucky Derby points
This year marks the debut of a new way to determine which horses will compete in the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) on May 4 at Churchill Downs. The Road to the Kentucky Derby is a points-based system that replaces the previous selection method (graded stakes earnings) with a series of key races offering escalating points during the course of the Derby year.
Each race awards the top four finishers points that are tallied across all the races to determine the ranking of horses competing to make it into the Derby.
The winner of the Toyota Blue Grass earns 100 points. The second-place finisher earns 40 points, followed by 20 points to the third-place finisher and 10 points to the fourth-place finisher.
Information on 2013 Toyota Blue Grass participants
Biographical information on the connections of each entrant in this year’s race, past performances, charts dating back to the first running of the race at Keeneland in 1937 and historical statistics on the race are available in the Toyota Blue Grass Media Guide.
The Blue Grass was named for the famous Bluegrass region of Central Kentucky and held in 1911-14 and 1919-26 at the old Kentucky Association track near downtown Lexington. Second-place finishers Meridian (1911), Donerail (1913) and Behave Yourself (1921) went on to win the Kentucky Derby. The 1926 winner, Bubbling Over, became the first horse to win the Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby.
With the closure of the Kentucky Association track, a group of prominent area Thoroughbred breeders went to work to return racing to Lexington. In 1935, they founded the Keeneland Association, purchased land from horseman J.O. “Jack” Keene and set out to open a model racetrack. Keeneland opened on October 15, 1936, for nine days of racing. In April 1937, Keeneland held its inaugural spring meeting of 11 days and ran the Blue Grass for the first time.
The winner of the first Blue Grass at Keeneland was Maxwell Howard’s Fencing, who won by three-quarters of a length over Col. E.R. Bradley’s favored entry of Billionaire and Brooklyn. Nine days later at Churchill Downs, Fencing and Billionaire raced back in the Kentucky Derby, inaugurating a pattern that future Derby hopefuls would follow.
Blue Grass - Kentucky Derby Connection
A total of nine winners of the Blue Grass at Keeneland have won the Kentucky Derby. Another 10 horses who ran in the race have won the Run for the Roses.
In 1996, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (located in Georgetown), five area Toyota dealerships and Toyota Motor Sales in Cincinnati teamed up to sponsor the Blue Grass, marking Toyota’s first sponsorship of a horse race.
Here are the post positions and the number of winners each post position has produced since 1937 (the race was run in two divisions in 1951):
Post No. of Winners
13 1 (Goyamo, 1954)
Jockey Edgar Prado (Rydilluc) is bidding for his fourth win in the race, following Harlan’s Holiday (2002), Peace Rules (2003) and Monba (2008). Alan Garcia (Tesseron), Garrett Gomez (Palace Malice) and Joel Rosario (Dynamic Sky) are looking for their second wins in the race. Gomez won in 2006 with Sinister Minister. Garcia won in 2010 with Stately Victor. Rosario won in 2011 aboard Brilliant Speed.
Riding in the Toyota Blue Grass for the first time are Jose Espinoza (West Hills Giant) and Joe Rocco Jr. (Channel Isle).
Rosie Napravnik (Fear the Kitten) is one of three female jockeys to have ridden in the race. Napravnik was aboard eighth-place finisher Willcox Inn in 2011. Tammy Fox rode fourth-place finisher Big Courage in 1991 and Julie Krone rode runner-up Suave Prospect in 1995.
Trainers D. Wayne Lukas (Channel Isle) and Todd Pletcher (Charming Kitten and Palace Malice) are both bidding for a third win in the race.
Lukas won the race with War (1987) and High Yield (2000). Pletcher, a former Lukas assistant, won with Bandini (2005) and Monba (2008). Prior to 2013, Lukas and Pletcher both were represented by 16 starters in the race.
Other trainers with a previous win in the race are Mike Maker , who won the race in 2010 with Stately Victor; Ken McPeek (Java’s War), who won the race in 2002 with Harlan’s Holiday; and Bill Mott (My Name Is Michael), who won in 1984 with Taylor’s Special.
Trainers with horses in the race for the first time are Chad Brown (Balance the Books), Gary Contessa (Rydilluc), Josie Carroll (Tesseron), Eoin Harty (Footbridge) and John P. Terranova II (West Hills Giant).
Josie Carroll (Tesseron) is bidding to become the first female trainer to win the race. Other female trainers with starters in the race are Alexis Barba (Make Music for Me, 6th in 2010), Jennifer Pedersen (Mr Sword, 7th in 2005) and Jamie Sanders (Teuflesberg, 4th in 2007).
Keeneland Sales Grads
Graduates of the 2011 Keeneland September Yearling Sale are Balance the Books, My Name Is Michael, Palace Malice, Rydilluc, Uncaptured and Undrafted. Balance the Books and Palace Malice also are graduates of the 2012 Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale.
The shortest-priced favorite to win the race was Spectacular Bid (1979), who went off at .05-1 (1-20). He paid $2.10.
The longest shot to win the race was Stately Victor (2010), who went off at 40.10-1 in 2010. He paid $82.20.
The last time the post-time favorite won the Blue Grass was Peace Rules in 2003 at odds of 3-5.
Margin of Victory
The largest margin of victory was turned in by Arts and Letters, who won the 1969 race by 15 lengths. He was followed by Alydar (13-length winner in 1978) and Sinister Minister (12¾-length winner in 2006).
This is the seventh year that the Toyota Blue Grass has been run on Keeneland’s Polytrack main track. (Polytrack debuted during the 2006 fall meeting.) The Polytrack record for 1 1/8 miles, the distance of the Toyota Blue Grass, is 1:46.63, set by Wise Dan in the 2012 Ben Ali Stakes (G3). The stakes record is 1:47 1/5, set by Skip Away in 1996.
Keeneland drew an all-time record 40,617 fans for last year’s Toyota Blue Grass Day.
All-sources wagering on last year’s 12-race Toyota Blue Grass card reached a record $21,647,378. On-track handle last year was $3,338,853, third-highest in Keeneland history. The record single-day mutual handle was recorded on the 2005 Toyota Blue Grass day, when $3,599,647 was wagered on the card.
McPEEK WORKS PURE FUN, TAKEN BY THE STORM
Magdalena Racing’s Grade 1 winner Pure Fun worked five furlongs in company with Chasing Dreams Racing 2011 LLC Taken by the Storm in 1:01.40 on Saturday morning. Pure Fun, who was ridden by Rosie Napravnick, could face males in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (G3) on April 20, while Taken By the Storm, with Alan Garcia aboard this morning, could be cross-entered in the Coolmore Lexington and the Illinois Derby (G3), which will be run the same day at Hawthorne.
“It was a good work,” said trainer Ken McPeek, who will send out Java’s War in today’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1). “Both of them work well together. It was a good match. Leaning toward Illinois with him and the Lexington with her, although there’s a good chance I may enter him here as well.”
Pure Fun, a daughter of Pure Prize who won the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (G1) in December, finished third in the Fathead Bourbonette Oaks (G3) on March 23 in her most recent race. She has 20 points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Points earned against males would count toward the Oaks. The Coolmore Lexington awards 20 points to the winner and eight points to the runner-up. Presently, the estimated number of points to determine the 14 starters in the Oaks is 40 points.
Taken by the Storm, has a win on the turf at Keeneland and Gulfstream and was fourth in his most recent race, the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) on March 23. McPeek has yet to rule out the Stormy Atlantic colt’s future on dirt.
“His two dirt races – one of them was first time out at a mile and an eighth,” he said. “Second one was coming off a long layoff in the mud. I think he deserves another chance on dirt, and he’s as good as he’s ever been right now.”
Also working Saturday toward a possible start in the Coolmore Lexington was the Heider Family Stables LLC’s Examen, a Giant’s Causeway gelding who covered five furlongs in company in 1:01.40 for trainer Tom Proctor.
WORLD RECORD-HOLDER TWILIGHT ECLIPSE TOPS ELKHORN NOMINATIONS
West Point Thoroughbreds’ Twilight Eclipse, who set a world record for 1½ miles on the grass with a 2:22.63 clocking in the Pan American Stakes (G2) in his most recent start, tops a list of 24 turf marathoners nominated to the 28th running of the $150,000 Elkhorn Stakes (G2). Slated for 1½ miles on the turf, the Elkhorn serves as the closing-day feature of the spring meet on Friday, April 26.
Trained by Tom Albertrani, Twilight Eclipse closed his 2012 campaign with a victory in the W.L. McKnight Handicap (G2) at Calder.
Among the other horses of note among the nominations are Team Block’s Ioya Bigtime and Chiefswood Stables’ Heathcote.
Trained by Chris Block, Ioya Bigtime finished second to Twilight Eclipse in the Pan American in his most recent start. In 2012, Ioya Bigtime posted Grade 3 victories in the Stars and Stripes Stakes at Arlington Park and the Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes at Kentucky Downs as well as finished second in the Sycamore Stakes (G3) here.
Trained by Paul Attard, Heathcote made his stakes debut in grand style in his most recent start, a 12¼-length victory in the Valedictory Stakes (G3) over Polytrack in December at Woodbine. Heathcote never has started on grass in his seven-race career.
Entries for the Elkhorn will be taken on Tuesday, April 23.
TURF MARATHON BEWITCH ATTRACTS 32 NOMINATIONS
Cheyenne Stables’ Mystical Star, winner of the New York Stakes (G2) last summer and runner-up in the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (G1) here last fall, headlines a roster of 32 fillies and mares nominated to the 52nd running of the $150,000 Bewitch Stakes (G3) to be run at 1 ½ miles on Thursday, April 25.
Trained by Christophe Clement, Mystical Star finished third in the Hillsborough Stakes (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on March 9 in her 2013 debut.
Also among the nominees are two of the leading distaff grass marathoners this year in South Florida, Juddmonte Farms’ Starformer and Steven Ciccarone’s Regalo Mia.
Trained by Bill Mott, Starformer won her 2013 debut that came in The Very One Stakes (G3) on February 16 going 1 3/8 miles at Gulfstream Park.
Regalo Mia, trained by Michelle Nihei, won the Orchid Stakes (G3) at 1 ½ miles in her most recent start in which she defeated Starformer and also won the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf in January in her 2013 debut.
Entries for the Bewitch will be taken on Sunday, April 21.
UPCOMING SPRING MEET SPECIAL EVENTS
Sunday, April 14
Horses and Hope Pink Day. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to raise breast cancer awareness. Keeneland co-hosts Pink Day with Horses and Hope, First Lady Jane Beshear’s initiative to reach women working in Kentucky’s horse industry with education and mammography screening. Join survivors and supporters in the North Terrace for live music, a ladies-only handicapping contest, prize drawings and unique Pink Day activities. Prior to the races, a special luncheon sponsored by the First Lady, Kentucky Cancer Program, embry’s and WKYT-TV will be held in the Keeneland Sales Pavilion.
KEENELAND 2013 SPRING MEET LEADERS
(Stats Through Friday, April 12)
Current Meet Leading Jockeys
Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Purses
Joel Rosario 30 10 1 4 $241,761
Alan Garcia 17 6 3 1 $343,042
Julien Leparoux 29 5 4 4 $288,145
Rosie Napravnik 31 4 6 5 $223,067
Corey Lanerie 38 3 7 7 $186,012
Edgar Prado 14 3 2 2 $157,234
Jesus Castanon 17 3 2 1 $ 81,437
Javier Castellano 9 3 2 1 $191,881
Shaun Bridgmohan 26 2 3 2 $124,172
Roberto Morales 14 2 2 0 $ 60,595
Gary Stevens 6 2 0 1 $ 54,505
John Velazquez 4 2 0 0 $ 93,248
11 jockeys tied with 1 win each.
Current Meet Leading Trainers
Name Sts 1st 2nd 3rd Purses
Michael Maker 26 9 3 2 $234,850
Wesley Ward 19 5 1 3 $166,491
H. Graham Motion 13 4 3 3 $296,754
Ken McPeek 13 3 2 1 $128,141
Shug McGaughey 8 3 2 1 $199,356
Mark Casse 19 3 1 0 $123,070
Charlie LoPresti 8 2 1 0 $238,187
Todd Pletcher 4 2 0 1 $102,448
Jonathan Sheppard 3 2 0 0 $ 66,323
23 trainers tied with 1 win each.