Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Pleasant Prince, runner-up by a nose in the Florida Derby (G1) and Padua Stables’ Odysseus, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), headline a well-matched field of nine horses entered for Saturday’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland.
The 1 1/8-mile Toyota Blue Grass is the final Grade 1 prep for the May 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). A total of 19 horses that ran in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland went on to win the Kentucky Derby, with Street Sense in 2007 the most recent.
The Toyota Blue Grass is scheduled to go off at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) as the ninth race on Saturday’s 11-race card. First post time is 1:05 p.m. for the card that features three other graded stakes. The Toyota Blue Grass winner will receive $450,000.
Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-60s under sunny conditions.
Pleasant Prince, who was just nailed on the wire at 29-1 in the Florida Derby, won by Ice Box, in his most recent start on March 20, tuned up for the Toyota Blue Grass with a sizzling five-furlong work of :58.40 on Sunday at Keeneland. Trained by Wesley Ward, Pleasant Prince ran third in his second career start here last fall.
Julien Leparoux, who has been aboard Pleasant Prince in his past two starts, has the riding assignment Saturday and will break from post position six. Pleasant Prince is the lukewarm 3-1 favorite on handicapper Mike Battaglia’s morning line.
Odysseus, the 7-2 second choice on the morning line, will be making his Polytrack debut in the Toyota Blue Grass. Trained by Tom Albertrani, Odysseus has won three consecutive races highlighted by his nose victory in the Tampa Bay Derby in his most recent start on March 13.
Rajiv Maragh, who has ridden Odysseus in all four of his starts, has the mount Saturday and will break from post position one.
Also figuring to vie for favoritism are Wertheimer and Frere’s Interactif and Dogwood Stable’s Aikenite, both trained by Todd Pletcher. Both are listed at 4-1 on the morning line.
Interactif posted Grade 3 turf wins at age two in the With Anticipation at Saratoga and the Bourbon at Keeneland. In his synthetic track debut, Interactif finished second in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita on March 13.
Rafael Bejarano, who won the 2007 Toyota Blue Grass aboard Dominican, will ride Interactif, who will break from post position nine.
Pletcher, who saddled the Toyota Blue Grass winner in 2005 (Bandini) and 2008 (Monba), also sends out Aikenite. Garrett Gomez, who won the 2006 Toyota Blue Grass on Sinister Minister, has the riding assignment on Aikenite, who ran second in last fall’s Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1) here.
Third in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in his most recent start, Aikenite will break from post position eight.
Ellen and Peter Johnson’s Make Music for Me is the second of three runners from the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity to return for the Toyota Blue Grass. Fourth here last fall in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity, Make Music for Me broke his maiden in his most recent start, the Pasadena Stakes at a mile on the turf at Santa Anita on March 6.
Trained by Alexis Barba, Make Music for Me is listed at 6-1 on the morning line and will break from post position four under Hall of Famer Mike Smith. Smith is a two-time winner of the race, having taken the 1993 edition on Prairie Bayou and repeating the following year on Holy Bull.
Tom and Jack Conway’s Stately Victor ran sixth in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity after breaking from the No. 14 post position in his only start on an all-weather surface. Alan Garcia has the mount on Stately Victor, who is trained by Mike Maker. Stately Victor will break from post position three and is 30-1 on the morning line.
Another Grade 3 winner on the turf in the Toyota Blue Grass is Donegal Racing’s Paddy O’Prado, who broke his maiden in his most recent start in the Palm Beach on March 6 at Gulfstream Park. Paddy O’Prado, who will be making his Polytrack debut on Saturday, finished third behind Interactif in the With Anticipation last summer.
Trained by Dale Romans, Paddy O’Prado has put together five-furlong works of :59.80 on March 27 and :59.60 on April 3 over the Keeneland surface in preparation for the Toyota Blue Grass. Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux has the mount on Paddy O’Prado, who will break from post position seven and is 10-1 on the morning line.
Romans also will be represented in the Toyota Blue Grass by Double Diamond Farm’s First Dude. A troubled fifth in his stakes debut in the Florida Derby in his most recent start, First Dude is listed at 8-1 on the morning line and will break from post position two under Ramon Dominguez.
Rounding out the field is Bred to Win Partners’ Codoy, trained by Mark Hubley. Runner-up to Interactif in the Bourbon last fall, Codoy comes into the Toyota Blue Grass after being disqualified from victory in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park on February 27.
John Velazquez, who won the 2005 Toyota Blue Grass aboard Bandini, has the mount on Codoy. Listed at 30-1 on the morning line, Codoy will break from post position five.
The complete field for the Toyota Blue Grass from the rail out, is as follows: Odysseus (Rajiv Maragh), First Dude (Ramon Dominguez), Stately Victor (Alan Garcia), Make Music for Me (Mike Smith), Codoy (John Velazquez), Pleasant Prince (Julien Leparoux), Paddy O’Prado (Kent Desormeaux), Aikenite (Garrett Gomez) and Interactif (Rafael Bejarano). All starters will carry 123 pounds.
Toyota Blue Grass (G1) Post Position Draw
April 7, 2010 at Keeneland
Quotes from Connections of Entrants
Ken Ramsey (owner, Pleasant Prince, 3-1 morning-line favorite, post position 6)
“(After the Grade 1 Florida Derby) I thought we had won, and I went down outside the winner’s circle, and was excited. Gary Stevens from NBC told me that we had it, but I didn’t go in (the winner’s circle). We lost by a thumbnail.
“Every single Beyer (speed figure) this horse has run has been better. I have to give (trainer) Wesley Ward a lot of credit. He picked this horse out, and we approved the selection. (Jockey Julien) Leparoux has improved this horse.”
Ramsey also owns Dean’s Kitten, winner of the Grade 2 Lane’s End Stakes:
“I don’t think anyone other than Calumet has run 1-2 in the Kentucky Derby, and that would be something to do that. Dean’s Kitten is at the (Trackside Training Center in Louisville) and that’s where he’ll stay to train up to the Derby.
“We’ve got to run at least fourth here. If he had won the Florida Derby, I’ll be honest, we wouldn’t be here, but we need the earnings. I looked at all the charts from past years and $162,500 would have gotten us in every year but 2008.
After the race, Wesley Ward said, ‘What do you think?’ and I said, ‘I think we’ll be all right.’ If I had my druthers, I would have waited for the Preakness. He’s already had four races this year, but three weeks and three weeks is not a killer. And, it’s also on my Bucket List to win the Blue Grass Stakes, so I would like to win. The money is a factor, but I want to win.
“There was no thought of going to the Arkansas Derby (on Saturday) to go on dirt. It looks like it’s a tougher race, and I didn’t want to ship him out there and then back. Here, it’s $750,000, and I want to win the Blue Grass.
“He’s had two exceptional workouts, a bullet at Gulfstream and then here he worked :58 and galloped out in 1:11, so he does well on both surfaces.
“He ran here at Keeneland last fall, and E.T. Baird rode him out on the lead, and he did well. He finished third, but that’s not how he wants to run. We won’t be on the lead on Saturday. Julien fits him really well. He has those soft hands, and he’ll get a good position, and we’ll let him take it from there. I love the post position. We didn’t want the bookends – we didn’t want the one, or the nine.”
Sasha Sanan (son of Padua Stables’ Satish Sanan, owner, Odysseus, second choice at 7-2, post position 1)
“We would have preferred to be outside a little more if we had had the choice. He has enough tactical speed where he should be able to work out a good trip.”
Ginny DiPasquale (assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, Aikenite, co-third choice at 4-1, post position 8)
“I don’t think the post position makes a difference. Aikenite likes to be on the outside anyway. He does his best running from the outside.
“He’s always right there, and it’s just a matter of getting that race, that race where he finally says, ‘OK, this is it.’ It’s not a really tough race but a Grade 1 is a Grade 1, so it’s a step up.
“He’s been here a few days and training well. We have high hopes for him.”
Ginny DiPasquale (assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, Interactif, co-third choice at 4-1, post position 9)
“I think with Interactif, he’s a closer anyway, and he’ll probably be in less traffic being on the outside, too, and it’s not like it’s a huge field. We’re hoping he’ll get tucked in nicely. We really don’t want to be hung nine-wide on the first turn either, but he’s not going to be rushing for the lead anyway. He’ll be tucked in, even if he’s tucked in last.”
On Interactif’s heavy traveling schedule:
“Interactif handles traveling very well. He’s good at Churchill Downs right now and will ship over on Saturday.”
On why the Toyota Blue Grass was chosen:
“I guess Todd is hoping for a Monba-Cowboy Cal repeat. To get them a race, too, and we know Interactif likes the Polytrack and turf. We hope they both get a good trip.”
Andy Durnin (assistant to trainer Alexis Barba, Make Music for Me, fourth choice at 6-1, post position 4)
“That’s (post position) fine. He won’t be on the lead. He traveled great here from California and this morning I took him to the track for the first time and he acted like he owned the place.”
Dale Romans (trainer, First Dude, post position 2, fifth choice at 8-1, and Paddy O’Prado, sixth-choice at 10-1, post position 7)
“He (First Dude) was in trouble all the way around in the Florida Derby. He was completely shut off at the sixteenth pole, but galloped out strong. (Jockey) Ramon (Dominguez) said he thought he deserved another shot in a big race. Both our horses will have to run 1-2 to make the Derby, but we think we have a shot of doing that. They’re both nice horses.”
On selecting the Toyota Blue Grass for First Dude:
“After the Kentucky Derby, this is the most prestigious race for 3-year-olds in the state. We’re Kentucky people and would love to win this race. First Dude has been training really well.”
Jerry Crawford (managing partner of Donegal Racing, owner, Paddy O’Prado)
“This is a homecoming for the horse. He was bought here, he’s trained here and we hope he’ll become eligible for the Kentucky Derby with a win here.”
On what gives him confidence that the horse will run well at Keeneland: “The two breezes in :59. I really want to thank Dale and (exercise rider) Mary Doser for the great job they’ve done with this horse.”
Jim Doyle (partner with Larry Doyle and Frank and Kitty Costa in Bred to Win Partners LLC, owner of Codoy, co-seventh choice at 30-1, post position 5)
“We’re fine with that (post position). It’s certainly up to Mark Hubley, the trainer, of course, and what he tells (jockey) John Velazquez to do, but I imagine he’s going to allow him to settle in and come in, so I don’t think the post position is all that important to us as it is to some of the other horses.”
What he learned from the trip in the Battaglia Memorial:
“I think he got his conditioning. He certainly has to improve from that. Mark did a heck of a job getting ready for that. I mean, he was taken down but for all intents and purposes he was first, so to get him in that position after such a long layoff, was great. He’s had six weeks now (between races), and he’s only fitter, he’s only better. There are some good horses here, but we’re cautiously optimistic. I think he’ll give a good account of himself, but right now I think we’re a little bit of an overlay.”