Blue Grass Draws Tough Field and That is No Joke

Seven line up in Saturday’s $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2). (Photo credit: Keeneland .com)

The $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland may have been downgraded from a Grade 1 race, but this year’s field is as strong as we have seen in any Derby prep this season.

The highly regarded McCraken, the co-favorite in early Kentucky Derby wagering at US Racing at 4-1 is the 7-5 morning line favorite for the Blue Grass. The Ian Wilkes trainee makes his first start since winning the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 11.

With just 20 points, McCraken is going to need to pick up more points to guarantee a starting spot in the gate on the first Saturday of May. He is currently 17th in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings.

Standing in his way is the Todd Pletcher trained Tapwrit, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line. The colt is 15-2 in early Derby wagering at US Racing.

He won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), a race McCraken had to skip with a minor ankle injury. Three of the last four Blue Grass winners came out of the Tampa Bay Derby.

J Boys Echo (4-1) earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct in his last outing and will take some betting action.

Practical Joke (7-2) may have as much upside as any in the field as he makes just his second start this year. He ran second in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 4 in his first start off a four-month layoff.

Completing the field are longshots It’s Your Nickel (20-1), Wild Shot (15-1) and Irap (20-1).

The Blue Grass is one of three Road to the Kentucky Derby points races on Saturday. A field of 13 will line up in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) and eight will go to the post in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct.

I will have selections for all of the Derby points race in Saturday’s Best Plays Report.

Let’s head out to Keeneland for Saturday’s featured race of the day:

Keeneland Race 10 The Toyota Blue Grass G1 (6:17 ET)

#7 Practical Joke   7-2

#2 McCraken   7-5

#3 J Boys Echo   4-1

#4 Tapwrit   5-2

Analysis: Practical Joke figures to move forward off his runner up finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) where he was beaten 5 3/4 lengths by Gunnevera, who came back to finish third in the Florida Derby (G1) in his next outing. The Chad Brown trainee is battle tested, winning photos in the Hopeful (G1) and Champagne (G1) as a juvenile. His third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) was his first career trip around two turns. Ans his last outing, which was his second came off a four-month layoff.

Not sure he can get 1 1/4 miles but 1 1/8 miles is within his scope and he figures to be a fair pierce in this spot. The $240,000 Keeneland purchase is by Into Mischief out of a stakes placed Distorted Humor mare.

McCraken became the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby after his victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs but he missed the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) with a minor ankle issue. The colt has been working sharply since. Four of the last eight winners of the Blue Grass prepped at Tampa, but all came out of the Tampa Bay Derby.

He has had three good drills over the surface here and in good hands with Ian Wilkes. His main knock is his likely light price. Even if he gets beat here he still is going to be a major player on Derby Day.

J Boys Echo earned a solid number winning the Gotham (G3) with a 102 Beyer. The only higher Beyer on the Derby Trail this year was Mastery’s 105 in the San Felipe (G2) and he is off the trail with an injury. The concern is his speed fig is 18 points higher than his previous best. He makes his third start of the year here and can still be in the mix here with a slight regression.


WIN: #7 to win at 3-1 or better.

EX: 2,7 / 2,3,4,7

TRI: 2,7 / 2,3,4,7 / 2,3,4,5,7


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