2023 Blue Grass Stakes Contenders at Keeneland

Horse Betting Online

Edited Keeneland Press Release
Updated: April 05, 2023

Blue Grass Stakes Awards 100-40-30-20-10 Qualifying Points for Kentucky Derby

Tapit Trice (Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stables) is the 5-2 morning line choice in a field of 11 3-year-olds entered Wednesday for Saturday's 99th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) going 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Keeneland.

A major test for 3-year-olds and a steppingstone for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run May 6 at Churchill Downs, the Toyota Blue Grass offers 200 points toward qualification to this year's Derby on a 100-40-30-20-10 scale to the first- through fifth-place finishers. The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners and invitees that pass the entry box.

The Toyota Blue Grass will go as the ninth race on Saturday's 11-race program with a 5:15 p.m. ET post time. First post time for the card that features five graded stakes is 12:30 p.m.

2023 Blue Grass Stakes Field & Odds

Race 9 at Keeneland on Saturday, April 8 - Post 5:15 PM

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Tapit Trice 5-2 Luis Saez
123 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
2 Clear the Air 30-1 Ricardo Santana, Jr.
123 Lbs
William Walden
3 Verifying 3-1 Tyler Gaffalione
123 Lbs
Brad Cox
4 Classic Car Wash 12-1 Javier Castellano
123 Lbs
Mark Casse
5 Hayes Strike 15-1 James Graham
123 Lbs
Kenneth McPeek
6 Scoobie Quando 15-1 Luan Machado
123 Lbs
Ben Colebrook
7 Sun Thunder 10-1 Florent Geroux
123 Lbs
Kenneth McPeek
8 Blazing Sevens 6-1 Irad Ortiz, Jr.
123 Lbs
Chad Brown
9 Major Blue 30-1 David Cabrera
123 Lbs
D. Lukas
10 Raise Cain 9-2 Joel Rosario
123 Lbs
Ben Colebrook
11 Mendelssohns March 20-1 Brian Hernandez, Jr.
123 Lbs
Kenneth McPeek

Trained by three-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, Tapit Trice brings a three-race win streak into Saturday's race highlighted by a 2-length victory as the 1-2 favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) on March 11.

Luis Saez, a Toyota Blue Grass winner with Brody's Cause in 2016 and Essential Quality in 2021, has the mount on Tapit Trice and will break from post position one.

Pletcher's Toyota Blue Grass winners are Bandini (2005), Monba (2008) and Carpe Diem (2015).

The second choice on the morning line set by Nick Tammaro at 3-1 is Westerberg Limited, Mrs. John Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor's Verifying.

Trained by Brad Cox, who won this race in 2021 with Essential Quality, Verifying is a winner of two of five starts and finished second to Blazing Sevens in the Champagne (G1). In his most recent start, Verifying was fourth in the Rebel (G2) that was run over a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 25.

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Tyler Gaffalione has the mount on Verifying and will break from post position three.

Andrew and Rania Warren's Gotham (G3) winner Raise Cain is the third choice on the morning line at 9-2.

Trained by Ben Colebrook, Raise Cain won the Gotham by 7½ lengths in what was his graded stakes debut. Raise Cain, a maiden winner here last fall, was third in the Bowman Mill here and then runner-up in the Gun Runner at Fair Grounds to close his 2022 campaign.

Joel Rosario, who won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2011 on Brilliant Speed has the mount on Raise Cain and will break from post 10.

Colebrook will send out a second runner for the Warrens in Scoobie Quando (15-1). Scoobie Quando was runner-up in the John Battaglia Memorial (L) at Turfway Park on March 4 in his most recent start.

Luan Machado has the mount on Scoobie Quando and will exit post position six.

The fourth choice at 6-1 on the morning line is Rodeo Creek Racing's Blazing Sevens.

Trained by Chad Brown, who won the Toyota Blue Grass last year with Zandon, Blazing Sevens won the Champagne last fall and completed his 2022 campaign with a fourth-place finish in the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance here.

Blazing Sevens finished eighth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in his lone 2022 start. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount Saturday and will break from post position eight.

Brown, who also won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2018 with Good Magic, is seeking to become the fourth trainer to win the race in consecutive years and the first since LeRoy Jolley in 1976-1977.

In addition to Pletcher, Brown and Cox, two other trainers will be seeking to add to their Toyota Blue Grass victory totals.

Kenny McPeek, who won the race in 2002 with Harlan's Holiday and in 2013 with Java's War, will send out three runners.

Leading the McPeek contingent is R.T. Racing Stable and Cypress Creek Equine's Sun Thunder (10-1) enters Saturday's race off a fifth-place finish in the March 25 Louisiana Derby (G2). Prior to that effort, Sun Thunder finished second in the Risen Star presented by Lamarque Lincoln and Lamarque Crescent City Ford (G2).

Florent Geroux has the mount on Sun Thunder and will break from post position seven.

McPeek also will send out Dixiana Farms' homebred Hayes Strike (15-1). Two-time graded-stakes placed, Hayes Strike enters Saturday's race off a victory in the Private Terms at Laurel on March 18. James Graham has the mount and will break from post position five.

McPeek's third entrant is Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables and Team Stallion's Mendelssohns March (20-1), who will be making his stakes debut. Undefeated in two starts, Mendelssohns March will break from post position 11 and be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., who won this race in 2020 with Art Collector.

Two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Major Blue (30-1) for his wife Laurie and Bob and Ann Ghent. A two-time winner last month at Oaklawn Park, Major Blue will be ridden by David Cabrera and break from post position nine.

One other rider will be seeking to add to his win total in the race: Javier Castellano, who won the 2019 edition of the Toyota Blue Grass on Vekoma. He has the call Saturday on Gary Barber's Classic Car Wash (12-1).

Trained by Mark Casse, Classic Car Wash was runner-up to Tapit Trice in the Tampa Bay Derby and prior to that third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Classic Car Wash will break from post four.


Todd Pletcher, trainer of Tapit Trice (post 1; Luis Saez to ride)

"Not exactly the draw we wanted, but he did win the allowance race at Gulfstream Park from post one."

Will Walden, trainer of Clear the Air (post 2; Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride)

"The two hole is fine. Clear the Air has plenty of tactical speed if prompted. Tapit Trice never seems in any hurry to leave the blocks, so essentially we drew the rail. Saving ground around the first turn of a two-turn race never seems like a bad idea."

Mark Casse, trainer of Classic Car Wash (post 4; Javier Castellano to ride)

"It's a great spot. We are going to need to save ground."

Kenny McPeek, trainer of Hayes Strike (post 5; James Graham to ride), Sun Thunder (post 7; Florent Geroux to ride) and Mendelssohns March (post 11; Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride)

On Hayes Strike - "He got back in form in his last start. It is a tough spot for him, but he is doing well and deserves a chance. He is a 1 1/8-mile-type horse, and I felt the Blue Grass is a better spot for him than the Stonestreet Lexington-G3 (on April 15) that I won with his half-brother Senior Investment in 2017."

On Sun Thunder - "His last race (when he was fifth in the Louisiana Derby-G2 on March 25) was a paceless race, and he really didn't get to run until the last part. He seems none the worse for wear, and the partnership is keen to try him again."

On Mendelssohns March - "It is a long way around there, so he ought to be fine (coming out of the far outside post.) I know we are throwing him into the deep end, but he is very talented and seems to be a horse that can handle it."

Ben Colebrook, trainer of Scoobie Quando (post 6; Luan Machado to ride) and Raise Cain (post 10; Joel Rosario to ride)

"No problem for both with the posts. Joel will take Raise Cain back and follow them around. Scoobie Quando is fine, right in the middle. Did not want to the one or two for him."

Pre-Draw News

Toyota Blue Grass Fields Taking Shape

March 31 - With a week to go until the opening of the 15-day Keeneland Spring Meet, fields are taking shape for the 99th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) to be run Saturday, April 8.

Heading the list of probable entrants for the Toyota Blue Grass as compiled by Stakes Coordinator Baley Hare are the 1-2 finishers from the Tampa Bay Derby (G3): Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable's Tapit Trice, trained by Todd Pletcher, and Gary Barber's Classic Car Wash, trained by Mark Casse.

Other runners considered likely to be in the entry box Wednesday are Blazing Sevens (trainer Chad Brown), HayesStrike (Kenny McPeek), Major Blue (D. Wayne Lukas), Mendelssohns March (McPeek) and Verifying (BradCox). Considered as possible entrants are Raise Cain and Scoobie Quando, both trained by Ben Colebrook, and Sun Thunder (McPeek).

The Toyota Blue Grass, run at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, offers 200 points on a 100-40-30-20-10 scale to the first- through fifth-place finishers on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

2023 Blue Grass Stakes Draws 141 Nominees

Keeneland's 99th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) on April 8, the first Saturday of the Spring Meet, has attracted 141 nominees led by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable's champion Forte; recent Risen Star (G2) winner Angel of Empire; and every 3-year-old on the list of the 20 leading point earners to the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

The winner of the Toyota Blue Grass will earn 100 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, while the second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers receive 40 points, 30 points, 20 points and 10 points, respectively.

The Toyota Blue Grass is the ninth race with a 5:15 p.m. post.

The 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass Stakes is one of five graded stakes worth a combined $2.65 million to be run April 8 on Keeneland Racecourse's 11-race card, which has a first post time of 12:30 p.m. ET. Other stakes that day are the 22nd running of the $600,000 Madison (G1) for fillies and mares going 7 furlongs on the dirt; the 35th running of the $400,000 Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association for 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the turf; the 27th running of the $350,000 Shakertown (G2) for 3-year-olds and up going 5½ furlongs on the turf; and the 36th running of the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3) for 4-year-olds and up going 7 furlongs on the dirt.

Forte concluded his Eclipse Award-winning 2022 campaign at Keeneland by sweeping the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) and the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). Trained by three-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, the colt by Violence has won four races in five starts, including the Hopeful (G1). Forte is a 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale graduate.

Brad Cox leads trainers by Toyota Blue Grass nominees with 16, followed by Pletcher with 15.

Albaugh Family Stables' Angel of Empire is one of six Cox trainees in the Derby top 20 that are nominated to the Toyota Blue Grass. The others are Gary and Mary West's Hit Show, winner of the Withers (G3); Gold Square's InstantCoffee, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) and the Lecomte (G3); West Point Thoroughbreds and Albaugh Family Stables' Jace's Road, winner of the Gun Runner; Robert LaPenta, e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Madaket Stables' Tapit's Conquest, fourth in the Risen Star; and Spendthrift Farm and Frank Fletcher Racing Operations' Victory Formation, winner of the Smarty Jones (L).

Other prominent Toyota Blue Grass nominees include Mary and Chester Broman Sr.'s two-time graded stakes-placed Arctic Arrogance; Rodeo Creek Racing's Blazing Sevens, winner of the Champagne (G1); Michael McLoughlin's Curly Jack, winner of the Iroquois (G3); West Paces Racing and Stonestreet Stables' Dubyuhnell, winner of the Remsen (G2); Seacoast Thoroughbreds of N. E.'s General Banker, third in the Withers; Centennial Farms' Litigate, winner of the Sam F. Davis (G3); BG Stables' Lugan Knight, winner of the Jerome; Pierre Jean Amestoy Jr., Leslie Amestoy and Roger Beasley's Practical Move, winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2); Winchell Thoroughbreds' RedRoute One, runner-up in the Southwest (G3); Frank Fletcher Racing Operations' Rocket Can, winner of the Holy Bull (G3); Peachtree Stable's Shadow Dragon, runner-up in the Holy Bull; R.T. Racing Stable and Cypress Creek Equine's Risen Star runner-up Sun Thunder; and Patricia's Hope and Phillip Sagan's Two Phil's, winner of the Street Sense (G3).

"As Keeneland's signature race, the Toyota Blue Grass is the crown jewel in our Spring Meet stakes program," Keeneland Vice President of Racing Gatewood Bell said. "It's exciting to see so many of the nation's top sophomores and stables represented among the nominees, and we look forward to the outstanding competition on opening weekend. As always, we want to thank our horsemen for their strong support of Keeneland and the Toyota Blue Grass."

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