The Grade 1 $750,000 Toyota Bluegrass Stakes brings the Derby trail to the picturesque Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. The field of twelve is full of accomplished winners and every horse but one needs to win in order to have any chance of garnering enough graded stakes money to enter the Kentucky Derby field.
The only horse that has not finished first, second, or third in a stakes race is 15-1 Praetero. He is coming off of his first win, a maiden race, after six attempts. Although some fresh maiden winners have surprised us this year, I don't think he'll be one of them. That otherwise leaves the race fairly open.
Santiva, who's been made the 3-1 morning line favorite, finished second in his last start behind Mucho Macho Man in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes. He finished second in the 1 1/16 mile Breeders' Futurity that was run on the Keeneland course last October. Julien Leparoux will be aboard for the Eddie Kenneally trained colt.
King Congie (pronounced CONN-jee) is the second choice on the morning line at 5-1. This horse, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, is named after Congie DeVito, who was the first employee for West Point. He worked as their communications director for nearly 12 years before his death at the age of 35 from Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease). King Congie has won his last three races which were run on the grass. Since the Keeneland Polytrack tends to be more equated to turf than virtually any other synthetic track, I think King Congie's turf experience will fare him well here. He's also won at the Bluegrass's 1 1/8 mile distance.
Two other horses that I find intriguing at higher odds are Wilcox Inn and Joes Blazing Aaron. Wilcox Inn, trained by Mike Stidham, finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf behind Pluck and Soldat; he finished second in his last start by a length after going wide into the first turn; and he will have jockey Rosie Napravnik aboard who won the Louisiana Derby on Pants On Fire.
Joes Blazing Aaron has been rated 12-1 on the morning line. He's won his last two starts which have come over the turf at Gulfstream Park in Florida where he beat Bluegrass competitors, Queen'splatekitten and Newsdad. He's raced three times this year and won two of them, but raced six times last year and only won once. It would appear that he's come back a better colt at three years old. Garrett Gomez, who pulled an upset win in Keeneland's Vinery Madison yesterday with Shotgun Gulch, will be aboard.
The others in the field include 20-1 Newsdad, 6-1 Brilliant Speed, 10-1 Sensational Slam, 12-1 Twinspired, 6-1 Wilkinson, 10-1 Crimson China, and 12-1 Queen'splatekitten.
The race is the 9th on the Keeneland card and is scheduled to run at 5:45 PM Saturday. It can be seen live on TVG and NTRA.com and on tape delay on HRTV. I'll be covering the Bluegrass Stakes and the other stakes races on Saturday's Keeneland card as it unfolds, so follow me through the Louisville.com website, the Louisville.com Facebook page, or on Twitter @JBOswald68.
Photo: Courtesy Kentucky Derby