The 2014 Blue Grass Stakes was run for the final time over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland Race Course. Keeneland recently announced that following
the 2014 spring meet they will be replacing Polytrack with a state of the
art dirt surface. Synthetic surfaces seemed to be the wave of the future for
race tracks in the early 2000’s . Premier race tracks like Del Mar, Santa
Anita, and Arlington Park, among others, all installed some form of an artificial track.
Keeneland was at the forefront of this trend when they switched to Polytrack
back in 2006.
For the past eight years, Keeneland’s premier race, the
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) has been run on Polytrack. The Blue Grass is no longer regarded as one of
the more important preps for the Kentucky Derby.
Although, Street Sense did win the Kentucky Derby in 2007 after
running 2nd to Dominican in the Blue Grass, the past winners of the
Blue Grass have made little impact in the Kentucky Derby.
2008 Blue Grass Winner – Monba – Derby Finish 20th, Odds – 31/1
2009 Blue Grass Winner – General Quarters – Derby Finish 10th, Odds - 10/1
2010 Blue Grass Winner – Stately Victor – Derby Finish 8th,
Odds – 20/1
2011 Blue Grass Winner – Brilliant Speed – Derby Finish 7th,
Odds – 27/1
2012 Blue Grass Winner – Dullahan – Derby Finish 3rd,
Odds – 12/1
2013 Blue Grass Winner – Java’s War – Derby Finish 13th,
Odds – 21/1
2014 Blue Grass victor, Dance with Fate might try to buck the
trend for trainer Peter Eurton and jockey Corey Nakatani. The son of Two Step
Salsa came into the Blue Grass looking for his first graded stakes win having
been the bridesmaid in his other three attempts, (G1 Del Mar Futurity – 2nd)
(G1 Front Runner Stakes – 2nd) (G3 El Camino Real Derby – 2nd.)
He didn’t disappoint his connections. Sent off at odds of 6/1, Dance with Fate
made a bold move at the top of the stretch under Nakatani to sweep past pace
setter, Pablo Del Monte and hold off the charge of Medal Count to score his
first graded stakes victory in the $750,000 Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Dance
with Fate stamped his ticket to Louisville and insured his position in the
starting gate (if his connections see fit) for the 2014 Kentucky Derby. He will
look to channel Street Sense who is the last horse that participated in the
Blue Grass to go on to win the Kentucky Derby.
Though Dance with Fate was impressive in the Blue Grass, his
time for the 9.5 furlongs was relatively slow 1:50.06. The Peter Eurton charge seems to fit the
polytrack/turf mold. He likes to make one run and lacks early gate speed. He’s
yet to win on a conventional dirt surface like the one he’ll see in Louisville.
Dance with Fate holds the fate of the legacy of the Blue Grass Stakes under the Polytrack era at Keeneland. Like the
previous Blue Grass winners, Dance with Fate will be a long shot in the run for
the roses. I expect history will repeat itself with this Polytrack runner.
Will 2015 be the year the Blue Grass Stakes reemerges as an important Derby Prep race? Will the switch
to the new and improved dirt surface improve the quality of racing? Only time will tell.