Uncaptured heads an overflow field of 14 runners in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky. This is one of two Kentucky Derby preps on Saturday (the other being the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park) that will conclude the Championship Series on Road to the Kentucky Derby points system.
The new Kentucky Derby points system replaces the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner of Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season that concluded in February, the top four finishers in 19 pre-determined races were awarded points of 10-4-2-1, respectively. In the first leg of phase two, the Championship Series, the top four finishers in the eight pre-determined races were awarded points of 50-20-10-5, respectively. The second leg of the Championship Series concludes Saturday. The top four finishers in the seven pre-determined races receive points of 100-40-20-10, respectively. The points system concludes with two wild card races in which the top four finishers will be awarded 20-8-4-2 points, respectively.
Uncaptured, the Mark Casse-trained runner, won six of seven starts as a two-year-old, including the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. In his only start as a three-year-old, Uncaptured finished second, 1 ½ lengths behind Black Onyx in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park Mar. 23. He should improve in his second start off the layoff and retains jockey Miguel Mena. This son of Lion Heart has been installed as the morning-line favorite at odds of 7-2.
Second choice on the morning line at odds of 4-1 is Kenny McPeek’s Java’s War. This War Pass colt finished sixth to Uncaptured in the Kentucky Jockey Club last year, but started his sophomore season with a place finish behind likely Kentucky Derby favorite, Verrazano, in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Java’s War earned a 97 Brisnet speed figure in that performance which ties Palace Malice for the best speed in the last start among the Blue Grass Stakes contenders. Julien Leparoux has the mount and will ride Java’s War for the first time.
Trainer Gary Contessa enters Palm Beach (G3) winner Rydilluc, the co-second choice in the field at odds of 4-1. Since trying the grass, this Medaglia d’Oro colt is undefeated in three consecutive turf starts. As Keeneland’s Polytrack tends to equate best to turf, Rydilluc should perform well over the surface. A first or second place finish in Saturday’s Blue Grass would take Contessa to the Kentucky Derby starting gate for the first time.
“We wouldn’t be at the Blue Grass if we weren’t thinking (Kentucky) Derby,” said Contessa. “So, if he runs one-two, we are going to the Derby. You know, God willing, he’s healthy and sound, we are going to the Derby and I would be very confident in him in going into the Derby. I think he trains as well on dirt as he does on ‘Poly,’ and he’s training unbelievable on the Polytrack and he trains that well on turf.”
Always ones to watch at Keeneland are the progeny of sire Kitten’s Joy. Ken and Sarah Ramsey, leading owners at Keeneland, will send out 10-1 Charming Kitten who won the race named for his sire, the Kitten’s Joy Stakes, at Gulfstream Park Jan. 20. This Todd Pletcher runner finished 3 ½ lengths behind Rydilluc in the Palm Beach in his last start.
The other Kitten’s Joy son in the Blue Grass is 30-1 Fear the Kitten. Although he’s yet to try the turf, this Mike Maker trainee has an excellent turf pedigree as a son of Kitten’s Joy out of a Dynaformer mare. With jockey Rosie Napravnik aboard, this is one to include in the exotics with a good probability of showing up at a huge price.
The field from the rail out is Dynamic Sky, My Name Is Michael, Undrafted, Java’s War, Palace Malice, Channel Isle, Uncaptured, Charming Kitten, Tesseron, Footbridge, Balance the Books, West Hills Giant, Rydilluc, Fear the Kitten, and also eligible, Divine Ambition.
The Blue Grass Stakes is the 10th race on Keeneland’s Saturday card and is one of five stakes races on the day. It has a scheduled post time of 5:40 p.m. and can be seen as part of NBC’s Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com beginning at 4:30 p.m. EDT. Free PPs provided by Brisnet .
Photo: Keeneland Photo