The George Weaver trained Vekoma is the 9-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland in a race that drew a full field of 14 three-year-olds.
The Blue Grass is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points races with 100-40-20-10 points up for grabs, the winner stamping a ticket to Louisville with the runner up virtually assured a spot in the gate for the Run for the Roses as well.
Vekoma, coming off a third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G3) is the likely betting favorite and needs points. The colt is currently sitting with 10 points, good for 30th place in the point standings.
The colt will break from the two post and will get the services of jockey Javier Castellano for the first time.
“I’d rather be down on the inside than outside,” Weaver said. “He’s got enough tactical speed so the two post should work well for us. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do. The horse is training real well. I’m here in my home state. I’d love to get it done for everybody.”
Three Derby Preps on Tap
The race is one of three Road to the Kentucky Derby points races this afternoon. At Aqueduct a field of 11 will head to the gate in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) and six line up in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1).
The three Derby preps will be televised on the NBC Sports Network from 5:30 to 7:30 ET.
Game Winner, the current 3-1 early betting favorite for the Kentucky Derby at USRacing is the 4-5 favorite for the Santa Anita Derby.
The racing world will be holding it’s collected breath after a spate of equine injuries that have marred the meeting. Racing was halted for several weeks while the track was inspected. New rules have gone into place including a reduction of Lasix.
Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Tacitus leads the field in the Wood Memorial. The Bill Mott trainee won his stakes debut after breaking his maiden in his second career start over the Aqueduct surface.
Among his main foes will be Withers (G3) winner Tax (9-2) and Gotham (G3) winner Haikal (7-2).
Let’s head out to Keeneland for Saturday’s featured race of the day:
Keeneland Race 10 The Toyota Blue Grass (G2) Post time 6:23 ET
2 Vekoma 9-5
3 Signalman 5-1
1 Somelikeithotbrown 10-1
8 Win Win Win 7-2
I am never thrilled about backing the favorite in a 14-horse field but here we are. The colt stalked the early pace and finished evenly in good effort in a third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park off a four-month break. The top pair in the race came back to run third and fourth in the Florida Derby (G1).
The colt broke his maiden in his debut last September at six furlongs and then won the Nashua (G3) going a one-turn mile in fast time in his first start against winners. The runner up in that race was Network Effect, who came back to run second in the Remsen (G2) with a 94 Beyer Speed Figure while the third-place finisher Call Paul came back to win the Pennsylvania Nursery and the Swale (G3) in his next two starts. The colt should get a good stalking trip behind what appears likely to be a sharp early pace. He has enough pedigree to handle nine furlongs, by Candy Ride out of the stakes winner Mona de Momma ($384,399), who won the 2010 Humana Distaff (G1) at seven furlongs.
The Ken McPeek trainee looked like he needed a race when running seventh in the Fountain of Youth off a 3 ½ month break. The colt won the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in the slop at Churchill Downs in his final start as a juvenile. He ran second in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) in his first start against winners and then was third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The late running colt is going to get a solid early pace to close into and figures to move forward second off the shelf. McPeek has won this race twice, with Java’s war in 2013 and Harlan’s Holiday in 2002.
This will be the colt’s first trip over a fast dirt surface. Her made his debut in the slop and then has raced four-time son turf and twice on the fake stuff. He won the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) last out at Turrfway Park over the polytrack. He won the prep for that race, the John Battaglia two back off a 3 ½ month break. The colt has not yet run fast enough to win at this level but looks headed in the right direction form wise and if he takes to dirt, he can be in the mix here at a decent enough price.
WIN: Vekoma to win at 2-1 or better.
EXACTA: 23 / 1,2,3,8
TRIFECTA: 2,3 / 1,2,3,8 / 1,2,3,8,9