First Look: Blue Grass, Ashland, Grade 1 probables line up

First Look: Blue Grass, Ashland, Grade 1 probables line up
Photo: Candice Chavez/Eclipse Sportswire

The “boutique” Keeneland spring meet, which was canceled because of Covid-19, is set to be reborn as a jam-packed five-day summer meet beginning July 8.

On the slate are 10 graded stakes -- which includes four Grade 1s and four Grade 2s --  worth a combined $2,575,000.

Here’s an early look at the potential fields of the four Grade 1s on tap, including the Ashland for 3-year-old fillies, as well as the $600,000 Blue Grass (G2) for Kentucky Derby aspirants.

Friday, July 10

$300,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1)

An accomplished cast of six is listed as probable for this one-mile turf event, including recent Shoemaker Mile (G1) winner Raging Bull.

A French-bred son of Dark Angel, 5-year-old Raging Bull returned from more than eight months on the sidelines to dominate the Shoemaker Mile by 2 1/4 lengths under Joel Rosario. Among those left in his wake were possible Maker’s Mark contenders Next Shares (second), Without Parole (third) and War of Will, who crossed the wire fifth but was disqualified and place sixth for interference at the start.

2020 Maker's Mark Mile (G1)

Saturday, July 11

$600,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G1)
Keeneland listed six 3-year-olds as probable for this 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Derby prep, which offers qualifying points on a scale of 100-40-20-10 for the top four finishers.

Among the six-pack of probables is Enforceable, who won the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds this winter and ranks 14th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 33 points; Mr. Big News, who’ll be making his first start since winning the April 11 Oaklawn Stakes at Oaklawn Park; and the up-and-coming Art Collector, who has won two straight, including a June 13 allowance at Churchill Downs. 

Adding to the intrigue of this year's Blue Grass, trainer Ken McPeek said he is leaning toward taking on the colts with star filly Swiss Skydiver rather than staying with her gender in the Ashland (G1) earlier on the program.

2020 Blue Grass Stakes (G2)

$400,000 Ashland Stakes (G1)

Swiss Skydiver or not, a tough group of fillies is lining up for the 1 1/16-mile Ashland, a prep for the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks. 

Tonalist’s Shape dominated in South Florida this winter with five straight wins to start her career, including the Forward Gal (G3) and Davona Dale (G2), prior to a disappointing seventh in the March 28 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), which was won by Swiss Skydiver. Tonalist's Shape got back on the beam after that effort with a win in the May 15 Hollywood Wildcat at Gulfstream Park.

Venetian Harbor flashed star potential in Southern California this winter when romping in the Las Virgenes (G2) at Santa Anita Park. She next shipped to Oaklawn for the May 1 Fantasy (G3), where she finished 2 1/2 lengths back in second to Swiss Skydiver. It was another 10 3/4 lengths back of Venetian Harbor to the third-place finisher.

The Ashland may also feature the talented Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Bonny South, who has won three of four starts, including the March 21 Fair Grounds Oaks (G3) most recently when making her stakes debut.

2020 Ashland (G1)

$350,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes (G1)Keeneland listed seven fillies and mares as probable for this 1 1/16-mile turf event with two other high-class distaffers, Starship Jubilee and Juliet Foxtrot, listed as possible.

Secret Message and La Signare were most recently separated by just a head when running one-two in the May 30 Mint Julep Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs.

Rushing Fall returned with a flourish from a nearly eighth-month layoff to win the June 3 Beaugay Stakes (G3) at Belmont, which upped her sparkling record to 12: 9-2-0 with more than $2 million in earnings.

The Jenny Wiley is also likely to feature a pair of Southern California invaders in Toinette and Jolie Olimpica. Toinette, who sports a heady 12: 8-0-1 record of her own, won the Goldikova (G2) last year and most recently won the June 20 Wilshire Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita in her 5-year-old bow.

Jolie Olimpica, a South American import, set a Santa Anita course record when winning the 5 1/2-furlong Las Cienegas (G3) in her North American bow in January. After running second when stretched out around two turns for the Feb. 22 Buena Vista (G2), she came back sprinting after the COVID-19 suspension of racing and won the Monrovia (G2).

2020 Jenny Wiley (G1)

$250,000 Madison Stakes (G2)

This seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares has six probables, headlined by Grade 1 winners Guarana and Mia Mischief.

Guarana won at debut at Keeneland last April and came right back to win both the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont Park and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) at Saratoga. Put away for the year following a second in the Sept. 21 Cotillion (G2), the daughter of Ghostzapper returned and aired by 5 1/4 lengths in a Churchill Downs allowance on June 4.

Mia Mischief most recently disappointed as the odds-on favorite when third behind winner and Madison probable Bell’s the One in the May 30 Winning Colors (G3) at Churchill Downs. Prior to that, the daughter of Into Mischief reeled off three straight wins, including the Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn in April.

Sally's Curlin, who won last year's Chilukki at Churchill Downs as a 3-year-old, made her seasonal bow in the March 14 Hurricane Bertie (G3) at Gulfstream, where she rallied from dead last to win going away.

2020 Madison (G1)

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