Those cheers you heard when Swiss Skydiver’s name popped up in the entries for the Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes no doubt came from the connections of the six 3-year-old fillies entered in the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland Stakes. With Swiss Skydiver electing to skip the Ashland in order to take on the boys in the Blue Grass later on the July 11 Keeneland card, it surely made the path to the winner’s circle significantly easier for everyone in the Ashland.
Though the race lost its major star and attracted just six starters, there are still a few quality 3-year-olds who could ultimately emerge as main contenders for the Longines Kentucky Oaks in September.
1. Alta’s Award (20-1): Has gone backward since a good second in the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Was fourth in the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes and then fourth in an allowance race, losing by a combined margin of 26 ¼ lengths. Will need to make a major turnaround to be a factor here.
JOCKEY: Rafael Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
2. Venetian Harbor (6-5): Was a monster winner by 9 ¼ lengths in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita but then settled for second behind Swiss Skydiver in the Fantasy. With trainer Ken McPeek deciding to let “Skydiver” parachute into the Blue Grass and a small field, she should be tough to catch on the front end.
JOCKEY: Joel Rosario; TRAINER: Richard Baltas
3. Bonny South (5-1): She has been making steady progress for trainer Brad Cox, culminating in a victory in the Grade 2 Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks. She has not raced since March 21, but has been training sharply since then and seem ready for a big effort.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Brad Cox
4. Envoutante (5-1): When Ken McPeek decided to run Swiss Skydiver in the Blue Grass, it opened the door for stablemate Envoutante to run in the Ashland. She’s a pretty good safety net off a win at today’s distance in a Churchill Downs allowance race and a decisive maiden score in her last two starts on dirt. We’ll see if she can handle the bump in class.
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Ken McPeek
5. Tonalist’s Shape (6-1): Reverted to her winning ways in the Hollywood Wildcat Stakes after a dismal try in the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks. She only has one loss in seven starts, but her speed figures don’t grab you. Adding blinkers may help her cause and bring her to the next level as a Grade 1 winner.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Saffie Joseph Jr.
6. Speech (2-1): The company she has been keeping says a lot about her. She was only a neck behind Bob Baffert’s latest star, Gamine, in an allowance race and then was second to Swiss Skywalker in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. She’s also entered in the Beaumont Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select, but if he runs here she’ll be a handful.
JOCKEY: Javier Castellano; TRAINER: Michael McCarthy
THE PICK: Bonny South
LIVE LONGSHOT: Bonny South/Tonalist’s Shape