Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®
Friday Toyota Blue Grass Stakes Notes
Irap galloped on the training track under exercise rider Antonio Romero.
Trained by Doug O’Neill, Irap will attempt to become the first maiden to win the Toyota Blue Grass, which will have its 93rd running Saturday.
“I’d just like to see him finish strong like he has been doing in the mornings there,” O’Neill said via text.
Julien Leparoux will be aboard Irap, who comes into Saturday’s race off a fourth-place finish in the Sunland Derby (G3) on March 26.
It's Your Nickel
It’s Your Nickel galloped about 11/4 mile with Pablo Portes aboard for trainer Ken McPeek, who won the race in 2002 with Harlan’s Holiday and 2013 with Java’s War. He has run six horses in the race.
“The first time I ran in it was with Tejano Run (in 1995), and he was (the second choice behind Thunder Gulch). It was a short field, kinda like this one, and it was a paceless race. They crawled on the front end, and Wild Syn won it at (30)-1.
“You just never know. All you can do is have your team get the horse ready, lead him up there and try.”
It’s Your Nickel was scheduled to school in the paddock Friday afternoon.
McPeek is one of six trainers who have won the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland in the same year. In a little more than a half-hour on Saturday, he could become the first trainer to repeat the feat, but Daddys Lil Darling has to win the Ashland first.
“I’d like to do that again,” he said.
J Boys Echo
Dale Romans is back for this year’s Toyota Blue Grass with another Albaugh runner, J Boys Echo. The team won the race last year with Brody's Cause.
“I am more confident than I was last year,” Romans said Friday. “He is doing so good right now and peaking at the right time. There does not appear to be much speed in there, so he may be closer tomorrow (than in previous races),” Romans said.
J Boys Echo arrived at Keeneland Thursday morning from Churchill Downs. Robby Albarado, who is seeking his first Toyota Blue Grass victory, has the mount Saturday on J Boys Echo, 4-1 on the morning line.
On Friday, the Toyota Blue Grass 7-5 morning-line favorite McCraken galloped 1 1/2 mile under Yoni Orantes before the renovation break for trainer Ian Wilkes.
Wilkes has saddled two previous Toyota Blue Grass starters, but had a role with two other runners that went on to win the Kentucky Derby. He was the exercise rider for Unbridled, who finished third in the 1990 race, and was an assistant to Carl Nafzger with Street Sense, who finished second in the 2007 race.
“The purpose then was to get better for the next race, and we are in the same boat,” Wilkes said. “I’d like to see him have a good race. He is a unique horse, and he keeps amazing me.”
Practical Joke galloped about 1 3/8 mile under Fernando Rivera soon after the renovation break. Trainer Chad Brown said he is confident in the colt, a two-time grade I winner last year and second to Gunnevera in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth on March 4. Practical Joke was scheduled to school in the paddock Friday afternoon.
“It’s a tough race,” Brown said. “He’s going to have to be at his very best, but I’m happy with the way he’s training. I’m looking for the horse to win. He needs to prove himself at this distance. What I’m hoping for is a really clean trip to give the horse a chance. If he can do it, he can do it.”
Tapwrit galloped 1 3/8 mile under Romain Techer for trainer Todd Pletcher, who is one of the five trainers with three Toyota Blue Grass victories.
Ginny DePasquale, who is overseeing the Pletcher string at Keeneland, said the trainer would be here Saturday afternoon to saddle Tapwrit.
DePasquale was asked what she would like to see from Tapwrit on Saturday.
“Besides a win?” she said with a laugh. “I hope he gets a good pace to run into and not have to be used up in a prep and have some left over.”
Wild Shot was one of the first horses on the main track, galloping a mile and a half under Jozefat Calvo shortly after 5:30 a.m. Wild Shot was scheduled for a noon schooling session in the Paddock.
Third behind Tapwrit in his most recent start in the Tampa Bay Derby, Wild Shot has compiled a record of 6-1-2-2.
“I’d just like to see him run his race and make up the ground he’s been losing by (to Tapwrit and McCraken),” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “He’s never run a bad race.”
Edited Keeneland release