A full field of 14 three-year-olds will head to the gate for Saturday’s Grade 1 $1 million Toyota Blue Grass, with not only $600,000 up for grabs for the winner, but 170 very valuable Derby points in the new qualifying system for the Run for the Roses.
The winner will earn 100 points and the runner up 40, both enough to land a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday May 4.
The Mark Casse trained Uncaptured leads the Blue Grass field with 30 points, which is good for 13th in the Derby points standings. The colt needs to pad that total to guarantee a spot in the Derby field.
The colt is the 7-2 morning line favorite and is making his second start of his three-year-old campaign. A winner of six of his seven starts as a juvenile, the colt checked in second in the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park on March 23.
Java’s War (4-1), the Ken McPeek trainee who ran second to the undefeated Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby comes into Saturday’s race with 22 points. A top three finish will get him to Louisville, while a fourth place finish would give him a total of 32 points, which likely is going to be close to the cut off.
West Hills Giant (20-1) has 20 points, Dynamic Sky (10-1) has 13, and Palace Malice (8-1) has 10.
The Grade 1 $1 million Arkansas Derby also has 170 points up for grabs on Saturday afternoon. The 2-1 morning line favorite is the Bob Baffert trained War Academy, who comes into the race with no points.
The D. Wayne Lukas trained Oxbow (5-2) is the points leader in the field with 36 points, currently 13th in the standings. That number may be enough to get in, but a top four finish would lock him in.
The Bob Baffert trained Den’s Legacy (6-1) has 20 points, and a top three finish will get him into the Derby field. The Todd Pletcher trained Overanalyze has ten points, and needs a first or a second place finish. A third would put him at 30 points, which would put him on the bubble.
Falling Sky (10-1), the winner of the Sam F. Davis and third place finisher of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) comes into the race with 20 points.
The Blue Grass will be televised live on NBC as part of a 90-minute telecast that gets underway at 4:30 ET. The Arkansas Derby will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network during a one hour telecast that starts at 6:00 ET.
My Best Plays report for Saturday will include the Derby preps and my strongest plays from Keeneland, Oaklawn Park and Aqueduct.
Let’s head out to Keeneland for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Keeneland Race 10 The Blue Grass G1 (5:40 ET)
4 Java’s War 4-1
5 Palace Malice 8-1
1 Dynamic Sky 10-1
7 Uncaptured 7-2
Analysis: Java’s War put in a solid effort in his three-year-old debut last out in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). The colt was outrun early and made a good late rally but was no match for the undefeated Verrazano in the stretch, settling for second at 32-1, 4 1/4 lengths clear of the rest of the field. The winner came back to win the Wood Memorial (G1) in his next outing on April 6. Both of the colt’s wins have come on turf but he did run well in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) here on poly at the fall meeting, checking in third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths for the top spot. He is by war Pass out of a Rainbow Quest mare that won both of her races on turf and has dropped three other winners, top earner stakes placed Coffee Bar ($251,382). Leparoux takes the call and this colt figures to move forward second off the bench for the McPeek barn.
Palace Malice comes back off just a two week break after a troubled trip in the Louisiana Derby (G2) where he checked in seventh. The colt saved ground early, made a good middle move and came off the far turn looking like he would be a player but was blocked in traffic from the 5 1/6’s to just inside the eighth pole and by the time he got clear toward the outside it was too late. The colt was only beaten a half-length two back in a third place finish in the Risen Star (G2) in his stakes debut. Gomez picks up the call for the Pletcher barn that has won this race twice, with Bandini in 2005 and Monba in 2008.
Dynamic Sky also exits the Tampa Bay Derby. The colt stalked the early pace, came with a five wide bid and did not have enough punch left late in a fourth place finish. The colt was beaten just a neck two back in the Sam F. Davis (G3). The colt ran on poly in his first three career trips as a juvenile, winning the restricted Simcoe at Woodbine and then running second to Joha in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). This guy has a solid pedigree for the fake stuff, by Sky Mesa out of the stakes winner Murani ($156,692). The Casse trainee is worth a good look here if he goes off near his 10-1 morning line.
Uncaptured ran well in a runner up finish in the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park on poly in his three year old debut. The colt was making his first start off a four month layoff for the Casse barn. The colt won six of his seven starts as a juvenile including the Grey (G3) on poly at Woodbine. The colt is a half to multiple stakes winner Dancing Raven ($396,338). The colt is going to have to move forward off his last effort which seems likely but his price may end up on the light side.
WIN: #4 to win at 7-2 or better.
EX: 4,5 / 1,4,5,7
TRI: 4,5 / 1,4,5,7 / 1,3,4,5,7,13
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