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Swiss Skydiver Chases History in Today's Toyota Blue Grass

July 11, 2020

Trainer Kenny McPeek is bidding for a place in the history books today on the fourth of five days of Keeneland’s historic Summer Meet, which features the 96th running of the $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2) and 83rd running of the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1) among six graded stakes worth $1.9 million.

With Walking L Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Envoutante in the Central Bank Ashland (post time: 4:24 p.m.) and Peter Callahan’s graded stakes-winning filly Swiss Skydiver in the Toyota Blue Grass (post time: 5:30 p.m.), McPeek will try to pull off a rare sweep of the two races and also repeat a feat he accomplished in 2002 with Ashland winner Take Charge Lady and Blue Grass winner Harlan’s Holiday.

Swiss Skydiver is set to become the second filly to start in Keeneland’s most famous race and the first filly to win the race. The first female competitor was Harriet Sue, who was fifth in the Blue Grass in 1944 when Keeneland’s Spring Meet was held at Churchill Downs because of World War II.

McPeek also won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2013 with Java’s War. Additionally, he has two wins in the Central Bank Ashland with Take Charge Lady (2002) and Rosalind (2014 in a dead heat with Room Service).

Trainers who have swept the Blue Grass and Ashland in the same year are:

  • Ben Jones in 1948 (Bewitch and Coaltown)
  • Woody Stephens in 1949 (Tall Weeds and Halt
  • LeRoy Jolley in 1976 (Optimistic Gal and Honest Pleasure)
  • McPeek in 2002 (Take Charge Lady and Harlan’s Holiday

Here is additional information about the Toyota Blue Grass to aid in your coverage:

TV and online coverageWatch Keeneland races live on TVG. The entire card is streamed live and at no charge on Keeneland.comKeenelandSelect.com and Keeneland’s Race Day mobile app along with Keeneland’s Facebook Live and YouTube.

Radio coverage: “A Day at Keeneland Presented by Toyota” from 2-6 p.m. on the UK Sports Radio Network is hosted by Tom Leach, “The Voice of the Wildcats” and an Eclipse Award winner who serves as a Keeneland racing analyst. Hear Keeneland announcer Kurt Becker’s call of each stakes and enjoy a variety of pre- and post-race coverage that will combine UK athletics and Keeneland. Available on 630 WLAP in Central Kentucky, WLAP.com/listen, WLAP via the iHeartRadio app. Also streamed live on ukathletics.com and the UK Athletics app.

Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN): The official radio home of the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup World Championships, HRRN will provide live coverage from 5-6 p.m. 

HRRN’s coverage, presented by Red Brand Fence, can be heard throughout North America on Sirius 219 and XM 201 and in Lexington on HANK 96.1 FM. Live streaming is available on computers and mobile devices on the HRRN website, www.horseracingradio.net. 

The one-hour broadcast will include an interview with McPeek and review the day’s earlier stakes, including the Central Bank Ashland and Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1). Bobby Neuman will anchor the coverage along with analyst Anthony Stabile. Becker will provide the live race call.

 

Programs and Equibase past performances: Click here.

Kentucky Derby points: The winner of the Toyota Blue Grass earns 100 points as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, a points-based system with a series of key races offering escalating points to determine which horses will compete in the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).

The second-place finisher in the Toyota Blue Grass earns 40 points, followed by 20 points to the third-place finisher and 10 points to the fourth-place finisher.

History: The Blue Grass was named for the famous Bluegrass region of Central Kentucky and held in 1911-1914 and 1919-1926 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 race track. Keeneland opened on Oct. 15, 1936, for nine days of racing. In April 1937, Keeneland held its inaugural Spring Meet 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 pair of Billionaire and Brooklyn, who finished noses apart for second. 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 connectionTen winners of the Blue Grass at Keeneland have won the Kentucky Derby. Nineteen horses who ran in the race at Keeneland returned to win the Derby.

Post positionsHere are the post positions and the number of Toyota Blue Grass winners each post position has produced since 1937 (the race was run in two divisions in 1951):

Post     No. of Winners
1          13
2          12 (Vekoma, 2019)
3          10
4          14
5          11 
6          7

7          3

8          6
9          2
10        3 

11        2
12        0
13        1 (Goyamo, 1954)
14        0

Wagering: All-sources wagering was a record $25,809,200 on the 11-race 2019 Toyota Blue Grass card. (Today’s card has 10 races.) Keeneland’s record for single-day on-track handle was $2,968,451 on April 14, 2012.

Odds
The shortest-priced favorite to win was Spectacular Bid (1979), who went off at .05-1 (1-20). He paid $2.10.

The longest shot to win was Stately Victor (2010), who went off at 40.10-1. He paid $82.20.

The most recent post-time favorite to win was Vekoma, who won in 2019 at 7-5. Vekoma joined Coaltown in 1948 as Blue Grass winners with just three previous career starts.

Largest 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).

Fastest timesThe stakes record is 1:47 1/5, set by Skip Away in 1996. The track record for 
1 1/8 miles is 1:47.75 set by 5-year-old Noble Bird when he won the Hagyard Fayette (G2) on Oct. 29, 2016.

Geldings to win: Finnick the Fierce is bidding to become the seventh gelding to win, joining Fencing (1937), Ruhe (1951, 2nd div.), Rockhill Native (1980), Bachelor Boy (1986), Prairie Bayou(1993) and Dominican (2007).

Maiden winner: In 2017, Irap became the first maiden to win. He paid $64.60 to win. 

Largest fields: Fourteen horses ran in the race in 1954, 1974, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019.

Keeneland sales representatives: Six 2020 entrants are graduates of Keeneland sales. They are:

  • Attachment Rate: $100,000 purchase a weanling at the 2017 November Breeding Stock Sale. Buyer: Rexy Bloodstock. Consignor: Eaton Sales, agent. $200,000 purchase at the 2018 September Yearling Sale. Buyer: Dale Romans, agent. Consignor: Paramount Sales, agent.
  • Basin: $150,000 purchase at the September Sale. Buyer: Jackpot Farm. Consignor: Brookdale Sales, agent for Cottonwood Stables.
  • Enforceable: $800,000 private sale at the September Sale. Buyer: Justin Casse, agent. Consignor: Clearsky Farms, agent.
  • Hard Lighting: $55,000 purchase at the September Sale. Buyer: Partner Stable. Consignor: Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent.
  • Hunt the Front: $80,000 purchase at the September Sale. Buyer: BLB. Pope McLean (Crestwood), agent for Bottom Line Stables.
  • Swiss Skydiver: $35,000 purchase at the September Sale. Buyer: Kenny McPeek, agent. Consignor: Select Sales, agent.
  • Tiesto: Denali Stud, offered him at the September Sale.

Jockeys
Rafael Bejarano (Hard Lighting) won the race on Dominican (2007).

Javier Castellano (Rushie) won the race on Vekoma (2019).

Jose Ortiz (Finnick the Fierce) won the race on Good Magic (2018).

Joel Rosario (Enforceable) won the race on Brilliant Speed (2011).

Mike Smith (Swiss Skydiver) has two wins: Prairie Bayou (1993) and Holy Bull (1994).

John Velazquez (Shivaree) has two wins: Bandini (2005) and Carpe Diem (2015).

Riding in the race for the first time are Ricardo Santana Jr. (Basin), Flavien Prat (Tiesto) and Joe Talamo (Attachment Rate).

Trainers
Kenny McPeek (Swiss Skydiver) has two wins: Harlan’s Holiday (2002) and Java’s War (2013).

Bill Mott (Tiesto) won the race in 1984 with Taylor’s Special.

Dale Romans (Attachment Rate) has two wins: Dullahan (2012) and Brody’s Cause (2016).

Nick Zito (Hunt the Front) has three wins: Strike the Gold (1991), Halory Hunter (1998) and The Cliff’s Edge (2004).

Sending out their first starters are trainers Bret Calhoun (Mr. Big News), Alexis Delgado (Hard Lighting), Tom Drury Jr. (Art Collector), Rey Hernandez (Finnick the Fierce), Michael McCarthy (Rushie), Ron Moquett (Man in the Can) and Ralph Nicks (Shivaree).

Sires
Mr. Big News is by Giant’s Causeway, who sired Carpe Diem (2015) and Brody’s Cause (2016).

Tiesto is by Tiznow, who sired Irap (2017).

Pedigree notes
Attachment Rate is from the family of 2012 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) winner Data Link.

Enforceable is a full brother to multiple Grade 2 winner Mohaymen and a half-brother to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner New Year’s Day.

Hard Lighting’s dam, The Magic Stone, is a half-sister to Irish highweight Spirit of Valor.

Mr. Big News’ second dam, Angelic Song, is a full sister to Canadian Horse of the Year Glorious Song and champion Devil’s Bag

Rushie’s dam, Conquest Angel, is a half-sister to Peace and War, who won Keeneland’s Darley Alcibiades (G1) in 2014. His family also includes last year’s Darley Alcibiades winner, champion British Idiom.

Shivaree is from the family of multiple Grade 1 winner Jackson Bend.

Tiesto is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Promises Fulfilled and stakes winner Marquee Miss.