Uncaptured (inside) winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last fall. (Photo courtesy of Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs)
Tom Pedulla of America’s Best Racing asks – and answers – five key questions surrounding the 89th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. The race will be contested on Saturday at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., as one of the last major prep races being used to qualify for the Kentucky Derby on May 4.
Q: Wes Welker is listed as the owner of Undrafted? Is that the NFL player?
A: Indeed, it is. And the gelded son of Purim looks to be a perfect fit for a diminutive player who was not heavily recruited by colleges and went undrafted out of Texas Tech before he willed himself to the top of the NFL’s receiving ranks with the New England Patriots. Welker made bold headlines by leaving the Patriots for the Denver Broncos this offseason. Undrafted was purchased as a yearling for the relatively modest sum of $50,000 at the Keeneland September sale in 2011 and, at 10-1 on the morning line in the Blue Grass, is still searching for respect.
Q: West Hills Giant, a New York-bred, was a late addition to the full 14-horse field. What happened there?
A: New York-based trainer John Terranova was looking for the April foal to tell him he could meet this stern a challenge. That happened when the son of Frost Giant covered five furlongs in 1:00.47 on the Belmont Park training track on Monday, finishing powerfully. West Hills Giant, the runner-up to Vyjack in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, had barely cooled out when he was Keeneland bound.
Q: Trainer Mark Casse, best known for his success in Canada, has two starters in Dynamic Sky and Uncaptured. How strong a hand do they provide?
A: Although Dynamic Sky lacked late punch in finishing fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby, he merits an opportunity because he responded so well in his only race on the synthetic Polytrack surface at Keeneland, finishing second to Joha in the Breeders’ Futurity. Casse would love to get Spiral Stakes runner-up Uncaptured to the Derby. The son of Lion Heart is perfect in two starts at Churchill Downs.
CASSE TALKS ABOUT UNCAPTURED THIS WINTER
Q: Which horses will handle the Polytrack surface at Keeneland?
A: This, of course, is one of the fundamental handicapping questions. Several Blue Grass starters answered the surface question as 2-year-olds. We’ve already noted that Dynamic Sky is proven at Keeneland. In addition, Java’s War demonstrated ability over the surface in taking third in the Breeders’ Futurity and Undrafted and fear the Kitten both won their career debuts at Keeneland.
Q: And the winner is…
A: After correctly predicting that Orb would win the Florida Derby, we will try for an encore by selecting Uncaptured to get it done in the Blue Grass. He should greatly benefit from his lone 3-year-old start, when he was a runner-up to Black Onyx in the Spiral on March 23 at Turfway Park. While much of his 2-year-old success occurred at Woodbine, his 6-for-7 juvenile season and $510,837 in earnings should not be overlooked as he aims for his first Grade 1 triumph.