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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

Dick's Picks: Blue Grass Is A Real Bear


By Dick Downey

It's the end of the Polytrack era at Keeneland, so let’s take a look at the what we have in the last Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on synthetic.

In its glorious past, the Blue Grass has seen such winners as Bull Lea, Coaltown, Round Table, Chateaugay, Northern Dancer, Lucky Debonair, Dust Commander, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid, Chief's Crown, Summer Squall, Strike the Gold, Skip Away and Pulpit.

While we saw Street Sense come close to winning the inaugural Polytrack Blue Grass, there is no question but that the race has become a venue far more suited to turf runners than any other grade I Kentucky Derby prep. To that end, it hasn't been a good fit.

Excluding the lone also-eligible, the 14 horses entered in the 2014 Blue Grass have 40 turf or synthetic starts and 39 dirt starts. From these starts, they have 11 combined wins on dirt and 18 combined wins on turf or synthetic. Their combined success rate on non-dirt surfaces is therefore 64 percent greater that of their dirt efforts even though the division of starts is almost exactly 50-50.

So we look to horses that have excelled on artificial or turf surfaces, and the one that looks best from this vantage point is Coastline, a winner on both synthetic and dirt. His best Brisnet figure, and the highest one in the field, came on the main track at Keeneland. Coastline likes Churchill Downs, too, so he could be an interesting play going forward to the Kentucky Derby with a move comparable to his win at this track and his close third in the Spiral last month. He has the services of Stewart Elliott, who has shown a knack for Keeneland in his first meet at the track.

Bobby's Kitten looks like a no-brainer must-use in exotics because he's excelled on turf, he was favored in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, and he has the Ramsey/Kitten's Joy connection that does so well in Lexington. But you have to wonder if he'll be able to take back while others go to the front, which is the stated plan, when he's led at the first call in all his prior efforts.

Gala Award is farthest outside in the gate, but he's the Todd Pletcher horse I like best because, first, Pletcher is willing to give him this chance after he became a maiden winner-to-grade III winner; and, second, because of that $1,550,000 price tag from which he exited the Keeneland sales pavilion down the slope from the track in September 2012.

Among horses with Brisnet speed figs on synthetic or turf ranging from 91 to 93 are Asserting Bear, Harry's Holiday, Coltimus Prime, Dance With Fate, Big Bazinga and Gala Award.

From these, I'll take a stab with Asserting Bear in post 1. He broke from post 2 in the Spiral and managed to work out a trip that led to a respectable finish. Emma-Jayne Wilson, who's won over $55 million in purses, gets on board for the first time.

There's reason to believe Rosie Napravnik could again hit the board with Harry's Holiday, second in the Spiral. Or perhaps trainer Katerina Vassillieva's Big Bazinga will again find his best stride his third race in a row off the dirt after finishing 11th, beaten 33 lengths in the Holy Bull Stakes.

It's also hard to discount Medal Count after his handy win in the Transylvania on Keeneland's main track after he finished fifth, beaten 9 1/4 lengths on dirt, in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He's run two good races on the synthetic at Keeneland.

Dance With Fate is graded stakes placed but hasn’t raced in eight weeks. He ran his best Brisnet fig on synthetic, but it was last September. Some of this, some of that.

Vinceremos was beaten by Ring Weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby, and Ring Weekend came back to run a relatively poor race in the Calder Derby. Vinceremos was in 19th place with 20 Kentucky Derby points before the defection of Albano from the Derby Trail. He’s another one with low-90’s Brisnet speed figs, Who knows how he’ll like his first trip on synthetic?

Extrasexyhippzster is a complete question mark. He’s only had one bad race, but that happened the only time he ventured beyond a mile, and the Blue Grass is also his first Polytrack adventure.

Pablo Del Monte has shown distance limitations. Coltimus Prime almost won the Display Stakes on synthetic, then was beaten 25 lengths in the Tampa Bay Derby on dirt. Casiguapo, a $4,700 purchase, has never run on synthetic. So Lonesome was beaten over seven lengths in the Palm Beach.



Saturday, R11
Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes
1 1/8 Mile
Post Time 5:45 ET

Post   Horse  ML  Jockey Sx  Wt Trainer
1 Asserting Bear (ON)  15-1 E. Wilson  C 123 R. Baker
2 Extrasexyhippzster (PA)  15-1 J. Pimentel  C 123 M. Trombetta
3 Pablo Del Monte (FL)  12-1 V. Espinoza  C 123 W. Ward
4 Harry's Holiday (KY)  10-1 R. Napravnik  C 123 M. Maker
5 Bobby's Kitten (KY)  3-1 J. Castellano  C 123 T. Pletcher
6 Coltimus Prime (ON)  20-1 A. Garcia  C 123 J. Nixon
7 Casiguapo (KY)  30-1 R. Maragh  C 123 M. Morales
8 Dance with Fate (FL)  12-1 C. Nakatani  C 123 P. Eurton
9 Big Bazinga (KY)  20-1 B. Hernandez Jr.  G 123 K. Vassilieva
10 So Lonesome (NY)  50-1 J. Rocco Jr.  C 123 T. Bush
11 Coastline (KY)  8-1 S. Elliott  C 123 M. Casse
12 Vinceremos (KY)  8-1 E. Prado  C 123 T. Pletcher
13 Medal Count (KY)  9-2 R. Albarado  C 123 D. Romans
14 Gala Award (KY)  5-1 J. Valezquez  C 123 T. Pletcher
  Also Eligible          
15 Divine Oath (KY)  12-1 J. Leparoux  C 123 T. Pletcher

All will run with Lasix

Equipment Changes: 10 - So Lonesome - Blinkers On

Owners: 1 - Bear Stables, Ltd. (Danny Dion) ; 2 - Michael G. Kirwan and Edward Hipps ; 3 - Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, Michael B. Tabor and Wesley Ward ; 4 - Skychai Racing LLC, Sand Dollar Stable LLC, Raymond, T. and Wagner, J. ; 5 - Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey ; 6 - Cabernet Racing Stables (Jayson Horner and Michael Weingarten) ; 7 - All American Horses, LLC (Ana Focil and Juan Manuel Naseef) ; 8 - Alesia, Sharon, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing LLC ; 9 - Derby Dreamers Racing Stable (Robert S. Bates) ; 10 - Patricia Schuler ; 11 - John C. Oxley ; 12 - WinStar Farm LLC and Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC ; 13 - Spendthrift Farm, LLC (B. Wayne Hughes) ; 14 - Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith and Susan Magnier ; 15 - Let's Go Stable (Kevin Scatuorchio and Bryan Sullivan)

Breeders: 1 - John Carey; 2 - Toni M. Kirwan & Edward Hipps; 3 - Wesley A. Ward; 4 - Brereton C. Jones and B. Ned Jones; 5 - Kenneth L. Ramsey & Sarah K. Ramsey; 6 - J. Horner; 7 - University of Kentucky; 8 - Best A Luck Farm LLC; 9 - Sheltowee Farm, Alfonso Mazzetti, Dr.Robert J Hunt & Rodney Winkle; 10 - Waterville Lake Stables Ltd LLC; 11 - DATTT Farm, LLC; 12 - Machmer Hall; 13 - Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC; 14 - William L. Currin; 15 - Sanford R. Robertson


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