Carpe Diem, runaway winner of last fall’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, will probably be odds-on in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
Trained by two-time Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, Carpe Diem has won three of his four career races and in his lone start of 2015 won the Tampa Bay Derby by five lengths. His only defeat came in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when he finished second to Texas Red.
A Keeneland sales graduate, Carpe Diem will attempt to become the third horse to win the Breeders’ Futurity and come back the following spring to win the Blue Grass. The other two are Round Table (1956-1957) and Dullahan (2011-2012).
John Velazquez, who has ridden Carpe Diem in all of his starts, has the mount Saturday and will break from post 5. Velazquez rode Bandini to victory in the 2005 renewal of the race for Pletcher, whose other Toyota Blue Grass victory came in 2008 with Monba.
Co-second choices on the morning line at 6-1 are Ocho Ocho Ocho, trained by Jim Cassidy, and Classy Class, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.
A winner of his first three starts that included a score in the Delta Jackpot, Ocho Ocho Ocho finished eighth in his 2015 debut behind the undefeated Dortmund in the San Felipe Stakes. Santiago Gonzalez has the riding assignment on Ocho Ocho Ocho, who will break from post 1.
Classy Class enters off a third-place finish in the Gotham Stakes. Junior Alvarado, who was aboard in the Gotham, has the mount Saturday and will break from post 7.
In addition to Pletcher, two other trainers have posted victories in the Toyota Blue Grass, with one conditioner, Nick Zito, shooting for a record fourth victory.
Zito will saddle Frammento, who was third in the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 21 in his most recent start. Owned by Mossarosa, Frammento broke his maiden at Keeneland last fall.
In addition to Zito, trainers with three Blue Grass victories are Ben Jones, Woody Stephens and LeRoy Jolley. Zito’s Toyota Blue Grass winners are Strike the Gold (1991), Halory Hunter (1998) and The Cliff’s Edge (2004).
Frammento, who will break from post position 6, will be ridden by Gary Stevens, who won on Halory Hunter for Zito.
One other trainer trying to add to his Toyota Blue Grass victory total is Mike Maker, who won the 2010 race with Stately Victor. He'll send out Pepper Roani. Miguel Mena has the mount and will break from post 3.
The complete field for the Toyota Blue Grass with jockey and morning-line odds from the rail out is as follows: Ocho Ocho Ocho (Gonzalez, 6-1), Gorgeous Bird (Brian Hernandez Jr., 8-1), Pepper Roani (Mena, 12-1), Unrivaled (Robby Albarado, 12-1), Carpe Diem (Velazquez, 1-1), Frammento (Stevens, 8-1), Classy Class (Alvarado, 6-1) and Danzig Moon (Julien Leparoux, 8-1). All starters will carry 123 pounds.
The Toyota Blue Grass has three big changes this year. It's back on dirt, it's worth $1 million for the first time and it's been moved to four weeks before the Kentucky Derby instead of three.
Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 50s on Saturday. The Toyota Blue Grass is scheduled to go off at 6 p.m. ET as the 10th race on Saturday’s 11-race card. First post time is 12:35 p.m. for the program that features four other graded stakes, two more of which are Grade 1s: the Central Bank Ashland and the Madison.
The race offers 170 Kentucky Derby points toward qualification to this year’s Derby with 100 points going to the winne.
A total of 19 horses that ran in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland went on to win the Kentucky Derby, with the most recent being Street Sense in 2007.
Edited Keeneland release with additional content by Dick Downey