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    The Road to the Kentucky Derby has arrived in Kentucky with Saturday's $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Ky. The 1 1/8 mile race is worth 100 points to the winner in Churchill Down's Road to the Kentucky Derby points system* which determines entry in the Kentucky Derby May 2.

    Headlining a field of eight 3-year-olds is Todd Pletcher's Tampa Bay Derby winner, Carpe Diem. After earning his first grade one victory in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity last October, Carpe Diem went on to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park and finished second to Texas Red.

    Returning after a four-month layoff in last month’s Tampa Bay Derby (G2), it was unclear whether the son of Giant’s Causeway would be able to pick up from where he left off or, as is commonly the case, regress a bit and have to work back up to his former level. As his name suggests, Carpe Diem seized the day and powered over his Tampa Bay Derby rivals to a five-length win. He can be expected to only improve in his second start off the layoff and should be able to dominate this Blue Grass field as well. Jockey John Velazquez will guide the colt from post five.

    Ocho Ocho Ocho is an example of a horse regressing after a layoff. After winning the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) last November and earning a Brisnet speed figure of 101, the undefeated Ocho Ocho Ocho returned after three months in the Mar. 7 San Felipe (G2). Sent off as the second choice behind winner Dortmund, Ocho Ocho Ocho was never able to get into the mix and finished eighth in a field of 10, beaten 15 lengths. He may have needed that race and should be given a fresh chance at redemption in the Blue Grass. However, he’ll lose regular rider Mike Smith, who will stay in California to ride Bolo in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby (G1). Santiago Gonzalez inherits the mount and will guide the son of Street Sense from post one.

    Classy Class is the “always a bridesmaid” runner in this group. In four starts, the Kiaran McLaughlin trainee has never finished worse than fourth, but, aside from his maiden, has never finished better than third. In his last start, he overcame traffic troubles to finish third in Aqueduct’s Mar. 7 Gotham Stakes (G3), beaten only 2 ¾ lengths. He was also beaten 2 ¾ lengths in the Withers (G3) a month earlier. McLaughlin is 33 percent with horses third off the layoff and this will be Classy Class’s third start after a little more than a two-month layoff. Additionally, Classy Class will make his first start outside of New York Saturday, so maybe the change of scenery will be beneficial when he breaks from post seven under Junior Alvarado.

    The field for the Blue Grass from the rail out is: Ocho Ocho Ocho, Gorgeous Bird, Pepper Roani, Unrivaled, Carpe Diem, Frammento, Classy Class and Danzig Moon. The race is the 10th on Keeneland’s stakes-filled Saturday card with a scheduled post time of 6 p.m. Eastern Time. The race can be seen as part of NBC Sports Network’s two-hour “Road to the Kentucky Derby” broadcast from 5-7 p.m. Eastern Time. The broadcast also includes Santa Anita Park’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial (G1). Click here for free PPs courtesy of Brisnet: Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial.      

    * The Kentucky Derby points system replaced the graded stakes earnings system as the determiner of Kentucky Derby entrants. In the first phase, the Kentucky Derby Prep Season that concludes February 16, the top four finishers in the pre-determined races are awarded points of 10-4-2-1, respectively. In the first leg of phase two, the Championship Series, the top four finishers in 8 pre-determined races are awarded points of 50-20-10-5, respectively. In the second leg of the Championship Series, the top four finishers in the 7 pre-determined races receive points of 100-40-20-10, respectively. The Apr. 11 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland is a wildcard race and offers points of 10-4-2-1, respectively.

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    Jessie Oswald's picture

    About Jessie Oswald

    I'm a lifetime Louisville resident with a passion for horse racing. When I'm not working as a paralegal or taking care of my family, I follow Thoroughbred racing and love to share the excitement and beauty of the sport with anyone willing to learn!

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