A full field of 14 horses plus one also-eligible passed the entry box Wednesday morning for Saturday’s 89th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.
The 1 1/8-mile Toyota Blue Grass serves as a major steppingstone for the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). The race offers 170 points toward qualification to this year’s race with 100 points going to the winner, a total that would ensure a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate.
A total of 19 horses that ran in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland went on to win the Kentucky Derby, with the most recent being Street Sense in 2007.
The Toyota Blue Grass is scheduled to go off at 5:40 p.m. (ET) as the 10th race on Saturday’s 12-race program. First post time is 1:05 p.m. for the card that features four other graded stakes. Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 50s on Saturday.
Holding a strong hand in this year’s renewal that attracted a 14-horse field for the first time since 1974 is trainer Mark Casse, who will send out Uncaptured, the 7-2 morning-line favorite, and Dynamic Sky for owner John Oxley.
A three-time stakes winner on Polytrack last summer at Woodbine and a two-time graded stakes winner at Churchill Downs to close 2012, Uncaptured enters the Toyota Blue Grass off a second-place finish in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) on March 23.
Miguel Mena, who has ridden Uncaptured in his past three starts, has the mount Saturday and will break from post position seven.
Dynamic Sky, who will be ridden by Joel Rosario and break from post position one, finished second here last fall in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1). In three starts this year, all at Tampa Bay Downs, Dynamic Sky won the Pasco Stakes, finished second in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and was fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2). Dynamic Sky is 10-1 on the morning line.
Rosario will be seeking his second Toyota Blue Grass Stakes victory. He rode Brilliant Speed to a narrow victory in the 2011 race.
Co-second choices on the morning line at 4-1 are Java’s War, trained by Ken McPeek, and Rydilluc, trained by Gary Contessa.
Third in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity last fall, Charles Fipke’s Java’s War made his 2013 debut in the Tampa Bay Derby in which he finished second to the undefeated Verrazano, one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby. Julien Leparoux has the assignment on Java’s War, who will attempt to give McPeek a second Toyota Blue Grass victory. Harlan’s Holiday won the 2002 renewal for McPeek. Java’s War will break from post position four.
Third choice is Palm Beach Stakes (G3) victor Rydilluc, winner of his past three starts. Owned by a partnership headed by Leonard C. Green, Rydilluc is trained by Gary Contessa and will break from post position 13 under Edgar Prado.
Prado is a three-time winner of the Toyota Blue Grass, having scored in 2002 with Harlan’s Holiday, Peace Rules in 2003 and Monba in 2008.
Fourth choice on the morning line is Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice, who is 8-1.
Palace Malice, seeking to join 1990 winner Summer Squall as a Toyota Blue Grass victor for Dogwood, finished a troubled seventh in the Louisiana Derby (G2) in his most recent start on March 30 at Fair Grounds. Garrett Gomez, who won the 2006 Toyota Blue Grass aboard Sinister Minister, has the call on Palace Malice and will exit post position five.
Two-time winner Todd Pletcher (Bandini in 2005 and Monba in 2008) trains Palace Malice and also will send out Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Charming Kitten.
Winner of the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park in January, Charming Kitten was second to Rydilluc in the Palm Beach in his most recent start. Charming Kitten will break from post position eight and be ridden by Joe Bravo.
In addition to McPeek and Pletcher, two other trainers will be trying to secure multiple victories in the race.
Two-time winner D. Wayne Lukas will send out Channel Isle for Calumet Farm. Seventh in the Spiral in his most recent start, Channel Isle will be ridden by Joe Rocco Jr., and break from post position six. Lukas won the Toyota Blue Grass in 1987 with War and in 2000 with High Yield.
Mike Maker, who sent out Stately Victor to post the biggest upset in race history with an $82.20 payoff in 2010, will saddle Fear the Kitten for Frank Irvin in this year’s race. Rosie Napravnik has the call on Fear the Kitten, who finished fifth in the Spiral in his most recent start. Fear the Kitten drew post position 14.
In addition to Prado, Gomez and Rosario, Alan Garcia will be seeking another victory in the race. Pilot of Stately Victor in 2010, Garcia has the call on Donver Stable’s Tesseron. Trained by Josie Carroll, Tesseron is listed at 50-1 on the morning line and will break from post position nine.
The complete field for the Toyota Blue Grass with jockey and morning-line odds from the rail out are as follows: Dynamic Sky (Rosario, 10-1), My Name Is Michael (Shaun Bridgmohan, 15-1),Undrafted (Corey Nakatani, 10-1), Java’s War (Leparoux, 4-1), Palace Malice (Gomez, 8-1), Channel Isle (Rocco Jr., 30-1), Uncaptured (Mena, 7-2), Charming Kitten (Bravo, 10-1), Tesseron (Garcia, 50-1), Footbridge (Corey Lanerie, 20-1), Balance the Books (Javier Castellano, 15-1),West Hills Giant (Jose Espinoza, 20-1), Rydilluc (Prado, 4-1) and Fear the Kitten (Rosie Napravnik, 30-1). Also-eligible: Divine Ambition (James Graham, 50-1). All starters will carry 123 pounds.Seven horses in the Toyota Blue Grass field – Balance the Books, My Name Is Michael, Palace Malice, Rydilluc, Uncaptured, Undrafted and West Hills Giant – are graduates of the Keeneland sales. Divine Ambition also is a Keeneland sales grad.