McPeek 'leaning' to taking on the boys in Blue Grass Stakes

McPeek 'leaning' to taking on the boys in Blue Grass Stakes
Photo: Coady Photography

Thanks to the makeshift scheduling of the rest of the road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby, and with a little help from the condition book, there might be a battle of the sexes brewing in next week’s Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.

“Yeah, we’re leaning to it,” said trainer Ken McPeek, who has Swiss Skydiver nominated to take on the boys over the 1 1/8 miles Saturday, July 11.

It might even lead her into the Kentucky Derby.

It is not just the fact that since the end of winter Swiss Skydiver has won all three of her races – all graded stakes – including last month’s Santa Anita Oaks (G2). Owner Peter Callahan and McPeek see preps that might not be as challenging this summer as they were in the spring.

“Everything is diluted so much this year,” McPeek said in a Tuesday phone call from Churchill Downs. “You’ve got the Indiana Derby, the Haskell, the Belmont just ran, the Ohio Derby just ran. All those races came right on top of each other. All these 3-year-old colts can’t run in all of them. I don’t think there’s another graded-stakes winner in the (Blue Grass) much less a three-time graded-stakes winner.”

McPeek amended that comment after seeing that Enforceable won the Grade 3 Lecomte and that Basin was a Grade 1 winner as a 2-year-old. But after that, Art Collector is the one other horse that might bring some steam from bettors. He has won three in a row but will be making a class jump, albeit from an overloaded Churchill Downs allowance race last month.

The other big factor that McPeek cited was the assignment of weights. The colts will carry 123 pounds each in the Blue Grass. Swiss Skydiver would carry 118.

“There’s about an 11-pound weight shift,” he said. “Art Collector carried 118 in his last start, and we carried 124. So he adds five, and we would lose six. If we run in the Blue Grass, I’ll take it.”

The Ashland (G1) for 3-year-old fillies is the same day, but it is worth $400,000. The Blue Grass has a purse of $600,000.

“The knock on the Blue Grass if we do it is that it’s a Grade 2 and not a Grade 1,” McPeek said. “But it’s significant that there is the possibility that she could beat the colts.”

Furthermore, the winner gets 100 points toward entry into the Kentucky Derby, making the race a win-and-you’re-in. Since Swiss Skydiver has more than enough points to get into the Kentucky Oaks (G1), McPeek said this would provide him another option come September.

“We did the Derby nomination,” he said. “If we were even going to think about that and have a choice between the Derby and the Preakness, then we need points.”

McPeek said he will not choose between the Blue Grass and the Ashland until entries are taken next week. The final factor might be the size of the field.

“If the Blue Grass has 14 or 15 horses, that’s one thing,” he said. “If the Ashland has seven, we could move back over to there. Like I said, we’ll see.”

McPeek said another filly in his stable – Envoutante – is definitely expected to race in the Ashland. By Uncle Mo out of a Bluegrass Cat mare, she is 2-for-3 this year as a favorite in dirt races and will be making her graded-stakes debut.

2020 Blue Grass Stakes (G2)

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