The Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve and the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes share much more than the same home state. With 23 runners from the Blue Grass moving on to capture the Kentucky Derby, there’s been a deep bond between the two stakes. Only the Florida Derby, with 24, has produced more winners of the run for the roses, though it has been a while since a Blue Grass winner prevailed in the Kentucky Derby (other Blue Grass runners have won the Derby more recently). Strike the Gold in 1991 was last 3-year-old to win both races and serves as the poster boy for Saturday’s field of 14 Triple Crown hopefuls.
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes
Racetrack: Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.
Date: April 6
Purse: $1 million
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
Post Time: 6:23 p.m. ET
Notable winners: Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic (2018), Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense (2007), Skip Away (1996), Holy Bull (1994), Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold (1991), Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner Spectacular Bid (1979), Alydar (1978).
First held: 1911; moved to Keeneland in 1937
Kentucky Derby points: 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers, respectively
1. Somelikeithotbrown (10-1): He would have been a heavy favorite from 2007-14 when Keeneland had an all-weather surface. This son of 2008 Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner Big Brown has just one race on a dirt surface, and it was a poor performance in his career debut over a sloppy 5 ½ furlongs, making him a bit of a mystery horse. He definitely has enough talent on turf and synthetic to be a major factor but is picking a tough place to try dirt again.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione TRAINER: Michael Maker
2. Vekoma (9-5): He made his 3-year-old debut in the Fountain of Youth and turned in a good effort to finish third, 2 ¾ lengths behind the winner. He should move forward off that effort and figures to be battling to end here. You can also bet his performance will be used as a barometer to judge the quality of the Florida-based horses.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano TRAINER: George Weaver
3. Signalman (5-1): He didn’t show much life in the Fountain of Youth, his lone start of 2019. He broke slowly and never entered contention in a weak showing, though returning to the Bluegrass region may rejuvenate him. He was second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last fall over this surface, and at Churchill Downs he won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club and was third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Hard to ignore him given the surroundings.
JOCKEY: Brian J. Hernandez Jr. TRAINER: Kenny McPeek
4. Market King (20-1): Hung on for third in the Rebel at 48-1 for the living legend, trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and with “The Coach” calling the shots, it would not be surprising to see him sneak into the picture again.
JOCKEY: Jon Court TRAINER: D. Wayne Lukas
5. Chess Chief (30-1): Comes off a modest maiden win at Fair Grounds and faces a stiff test. That maiden win was also his first try at two turns so perhaps the added distance will continue to bring out the best in him.
JOCKEY: Paco Lopez TRAINER: Dallas Stewart
6. Dream Maker (12-1): Was 7-2 in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby but was bumped at the start and never recovered. Given the level of respect for him at the betting windows in the Tampa Bay Derby, it seems best to be forgiving and focus on some quick recent works as opposed to his troubled and troubling last start.
JOCKEY: Florent Geroux TRAINER: Mark Casse
7. Admire (15-1): He didn’t really fire in the Tampa Bay Derby or the Withers and cannot be recommended unless the odds are astronomical.
JOCKEY: Robby Albarado TRAINER: Dale Romans
8. Win Win Win (7-2): Rallied belatedly in the Tampa Bay Derby and only lost by 2 ½ lengths. Would think Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will get him into gear quicker this time around the oval.
JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr. TRAINER: Michael Trombetta
9. Sir Winston (15-1): Hasn’t disgraced himself to date against stakes rivals in the Tampa Bay Derby and Withers. If the pace gets out of hand, he could surprise some people.
JOCKEY: Julien Leparoux TRAINER: Mark Casse
10. Lucky Lee (20-1): Won twice by lopsided margins at Parx and then traveled to New York to finish a well-beaten seventh in the Withers. Might have bounced off those huge wins at Parx but will need plenty of improvement and help to have a big say in the outcome.
JOCKEY: Chris Landeros TRAINER: John Servis
11. So Alive (15-1): Had miserable trip in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, which was his stakes debut. Hard to gauge where he fits in with these, but having Pletcher as the trainer can only brighten the situation.
JOCKEY: Luis Saez TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
12. Parsimony (20-1): Still a maiden, he flopped in the Rebel, finishing eighth, and seems overmatched here.
JOCKEY: Mario Gutierrez TRAINER: Doug O’Neill
13. Moonster (30-1): Seems up against it after rallying belatedly for third on a synthetic surface in the Jeff Ruby Steaks. Not much to like from post 13 after losing by 10 ¼ lengths or more in his last five tries on dirt.
JOCKEY: John McKee TRAINER: Dale Romans
14. Aquadini (30-1): Some things to like, such as his last two starts where broke his maiden by nearly six lengths and was a solid second in an allowance race. Yet there are some things to loathe, including two losses by a combined 19 lengths in his first two starts in the maiden ranks and the outside post in a crowded field.
JOCKEY: Corey Lanerie TRAINER: Dallas Stewart
THE PICK: Vekoma
LIVE LONGSHOT: Dream Maker