2020 Blue Grass Stakes Cheat Sheet

Racing
Enforceable, Man in the Can, and Art Collector (left to right) are three contenders in a well-matched field for Saturday’s Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, an important prep race for the 2020 Kentucky Derby. (Lou Hodges Photography/Coady Photography/Coady Photography)

The 2020 Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve continues its unprecedented summer tour with a stop this Saturday at a historic, picturesque locale that’s usually reserved for early spring – Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.

Postponed from April 4, the $600,000, Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes offers 170 qualifying points for the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, distributed on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers.

The 96th Toyota Blue Grass Stakes drew a competitive field highlighted by several 3-year-olds, including three-time stakes winning filly Swiss Skydiver, looking to separate from a crowded group and join the top rank of Kentucky Derby contenders led by Tiz the Law and Honor A. P. The Blue Grass will be broadcast live on TVG.

Read on for information on the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes contenders, and check back after the race is drawn on June 8 for an updated Cheat Sheet with horses listed in post- position order and with morning-line odds and jockey assignments added.


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

1. Shivaree (8-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Ralph Nicks

Owner: Jacks or Better Farm

Career record: 11 starts – 3 wins – 3 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $344,005

Earnings per start: $31,273

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Kentucky Derby points: 40

Pedigree: Awesome of Course – Garter Belt, by Anasheed

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Florida-bred Shivaree outran his high 80.90-1 odds to finish second behind subsequent Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets winner Tiz the Law in the March 28 Curlin Florida Derby, joining the Kentucky Derby trail with 40 qualifying points. He’ll remain a Derby longshot should he make the 20-horse field on Sept. 5, but actually shapes up as a major factor in Saturday’s Blue Grass in a field that’s largely devoid of early speed. Shivaree could find himself with little company on the front end aside from Swiss Skydiver as the field passes through Keeneland’s backstretch, and this colt has shown enough fight to carry his speed a mile at least. He tired late in the Florida Derby after dueling with Ete Indien and then being passed by Tiz the Law. In his next (and most recent) start, he also tired in deep stretch of a one-mile allowance-optional claimer at Gulfstream Park to finish third behind Sole Volante (he put away Ete Indien in that race as well after dueling through the first six furlongs). Look for Shivaree to be hustled to the front at the start of Saturday's race by Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez from the inside post in an attempt to clear the field and lead them all the way to the finish line. Velazquez has won the Blue Grass twice, on Bandini in 2005 and Carpe Diem in 2015; he also finished second in 2000 and 2008.


Coady Photography

2. Finnick the Fierce (12-1)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: Rey Hernandez

Owners: Arnaldo Monge and Rey Hernandez

Career record: 8 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $189,790

Earnings per start: $23,724

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby points: 25

Pedigree: Dialed In – Southern Classic, by Southern Image

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Since finishing a very good second behind Silver Prospector and ahead of Tiz the Law and Enforceable in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall at Churchill Downs at 87.90-1 odds, one-eyed Finnick the Fierce has continued to race well in his five starts as a 3-year-old while remaining on the fringes of the Kentucky Derby standings. Like several other Blue Grass contenders, he’s a late-running closer who needs a fast early pace and good racing luck to have any chance at winning. His last three races have all been solid, but he hasn’t crossed the finish line first in any of them — he was elevated to first via disqualification in an allowance-optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park in April, checked in third behind Nadal in the second division of the Arkansas Derby in May, and then was beaten by 7 ¼ lengths by Art Collector at Churchill on June 13 in a 1 1/16-mile allowance. Look for this gelding to be making up some ground in the stretch on Saturday, but a minor award such as filling out the trifecta or superfecta would appear to be his ceiling. Jose Ortiz won the 2018 Blue Grass on subsequent Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic.


Coady Photography

3. Art Collector (6-1)

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Tom Drury Jr.

Owner: Bruce Lunsford

Career record: 7 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $188,475

Earnings per start: $26,925

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Bernardini – Distorted Legacy, by Distorted Humor

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Art Collector comes into Saturday’s Blue Grass as one of the top win contenders based on his two recent races at Churchill Downs. He returned for his first start in nearly sixth months for new trainer Tom Drury Jr. in a May 17 seven-furlong allowance-optional claiming race under the Twin Spires and swept past the field to win by 2 ¼ lengths. Next, he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and two turns and was even more impressive, setting the pace and pulling away to a 6 ½-length score over Shared Sense, who subsequently won the Indiana Derby on July 8. His recent Equibase Speed Figures are among the best in the Blue Grass field, and overall this son of Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini has been somewhat overlooked on the Kentucky Derby trail due to his time off and switching trainers (that came after he romped in a six-furlong race at Churchill last fall but was disqualified for a drug positive). Saturday could be his coming-out party. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. finished third in last year’s Blue Grass aboard Signalman.


Coady Photography

4. Mr. Big News (10-1)

Jockey: Mitchell Murrill

Trainer: Bret Calhoun

Owner: Allied Racing Stable

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $167,053

Earnings per start: $27,842

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Giant’s Causeway – Unappeased, by Galileo

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of the late great Giant’s Causeway hasn’t been seen since posting a 46.80-1 upset win in the Oaklawn Stakes on April 11. He rolled through Oaklawn Park’s sloppy stretch that day, coming from 11th of 13 early on, to edge Farmington Road by a half-length in a the 1 1/8-mile race in which the early fractions were quite fast. It’s unlikely that Mr. Big News will get such an ideal setup on Saturday, but on the other hand, the overall quality of the 2020 Blue Grass field is not world-beating, and this colt has been away from the track for so long that there’s a possibility that he’s improved. He’s been training well at Churchill Downs for Bret Calhoun and is bred to run all day. Mr. Big News will need to win or finish second in the Blue Grass to move on to the first Saturday in September, and owner Chester Thomas has been very active over the past two years in pursuing Derby dreams with talented young horses such as By My Standards and Mr. Money, so expect a big effort from this one.


Coady Photography

5. Man in the Can (12-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Ron Moquett

Owner: JRita Young Thoroughbreds

Career record: 5 starts – 4 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $212,325

Earnings per start: $42,465

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Can the Man – Smeauxkininthelane, by Smoke Glacken

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Arkansas-bred Man in the Can is an intriguing Blue Grass contender coming in off of three consecutive victories. After winning his career debut last December at Remington Park and finishing sixth in a state-bred Oaklawn Park allowance in February, he won back-to-back stakes restricted to Arkansas-breds in April and May and then stepped out of restricted company to win a 1 1/8-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Churchill Downs by 1 ½ lengths on June 12 (Blue Grass foe Hunt the Front finished seventh). That race was flattered when runner-up Dean Martini handily won the June 27 Ohio Derby. Man in the Can may be modestly bred compared with most of the other Blue Grass starters, but he’s already won at a mile and an eighth and arguably has the best current form in the field, aside from Swiss Skydiver. Look for Tyler Gaffalione, who rode Man in the Can in his Churchill win, to have him sit a bit closer to the early pace than he did in that race and try to secure a good position coming out of the far turn for a stretch rally.


6. Hard Lighting (50-1)

Jockey: Rafael Bejarano

Trainer: Alexis Delgado

Owner: Partner Stable

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $31,660

Earnings per start: $7,915

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Hard Spun – The Magic Stone, by Malibu Moon

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Hard Lighting will be one of the longest shots on the board when the Blue Grass starting gate opens Saturday, as he’s only made four career starts – all this year, none in stakes – and has not raced outside of his south Florida base at Gulfstream Park. He has competed against some accomplished horses so far, finishing fifth to Dr Post in his debut and sixth in his most recent start, a June 10 one-mile allowance at Gulfstream won by Sole Volante in which Shivaree finished third. The problem is, he was not a threat in either of those races and his only win came on May 24 in a one-turn mile at Gulfstream on a sloppy track against only five opponents. Overall, this son of 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun will be hard pressed to hit the board in a well-matched Blue Grass Stakes field. Jockey Rafael Bejarano won the 2007 Blue Grass in a thriller aboard Dominican.


BENOIT photo

7. Swiss Skydiver (3-1)

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owner: Peter Callahan

Career record: 7 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $557,980

Earnings per start: $79,711

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Daredevil – Expo Gold, by Johannesburg

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This filly was also being considered for Saturday’s Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland, but her connections decided to test her against males in the Blue Grass, trainer Ken McPeek telling the Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee on July 8, "If she can jump through this hoop, maybe she's a Kentucky Derby horse." Swiss Skydiver is among the top tier of win contenders in the Blue Grass based on a) her excellent form and b) the relative lack of early speed entered. She arrives at Keeneland on a three-race winning streak, all in graded stakes. The first two were upsets – a 9.10-1 score by 3 ½ lengths in the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Park Oaks and a 16.10-1 victory in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The most recent one was not – a four-length romp in the June 6 Santa Anita Oaks as the 3-5 favorite. Look for this filly to take it to her male opponents with an aggressive early bid for the lead, possibly joined by Shivaree. Swiss Skydiver has a sprinter’s pedigree and has yet to race at a mile and an eighth, but she’s also posted two consecutive triple-digit Equibase Speed Figures going 1 1/16 miles and her workouts at Churchill Downs leading up to Saturday’s Blue Grass have been solid. Ken McPeek has won two editions of the Blue Grass: with Harlan’s Holiday in 2002 and Java’s War in 2012. He finished third in last year’s race with Signalman. Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith won the 1993 Blue Grass on Prairie Bayou and the 1994 edition on Holy Bull. He also finished second in 1999 and 2004.


Adam Coglianese/NYRA

8. Basin (8-1)

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Owner: Jackpot Farm

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $471,000

Earnings per start: $78,500

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 96

Kentucky Derby points: 50

Pedigree: Liam’s Map – Appenzell, by Johannesburg

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map has never turned in an outright bad performance through six career starts. However, he’s winless as a 3-year-old, and looking at his overall body of work, Basin appears to be most suited to one-turn races. Both of his wins, including the Grade 1 Runhappy Hopeful Stakes, came last fall in sprints at Saratoga. Since finishing second to runaway winner Charlatan in the first division of the May 2 Arkansas Derby, he’s has been training steadily in Kentucky for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who’s yet to win the Blue Grass. Look for Basin to make his usual honest effort on Saturday, which could be enough to put him in the exacta or trifecta. Either one of those spots could give him enough total points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5.


9. Attachment Rate (20-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Dale Romans

Owners: Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister

Career record: 6 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $93,182

Earnings per start: $15,530

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby points: 15

Pedigree: Hard Spun – Aristra, by Afleet Alex

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Attachment Rate has raced competitively against some of the best horses in his class since last fall but has yet to summon a breakthrough effort. Since breaking his maiden in February going a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park, he’s finished third in the Gotham Stakes behind Mischevious Alex, a decent second to eventual Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets runner-up Dr Post in the Unbridled Stakes, and then fourth to Maxfield in the Matt Winn Stakes on May 23. He’s had less-than desirable trips in both of his last starts, and as a son of Hard Spun he should have no trouble handling the 1 1/8-mile distance on Saturday, but he’ll need to summon a career-best performance to have a shot at pulling the upset. Dale Romans won the 2012 Blue Grass with Dullahan and the 2016 renewal with Brody’s Cause. Saez rode the latter horse to the winner's circle for Romans.


Coady Photography

10. Rushie (5-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Mike McCarthy

Owners: Jim and Donna Daniell

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $129,351

Earnings per start: $25,870

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Kentucky Derby points: 20

Pedigree: Liam’s Map – Conquest Angel, by Colonel John

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Rushie should be among the top two or three Blue Grass win choices when the starting gate opens Saturday based on the excellent company he’s kept in 2020. After making one start as a juvenile, he won his 3-year-old debut on Feb. 1 in a two-turn mile at Santa Anita Park and then finished second, albeit 10 ¼ lengths back, to Charlatan in an allowance-optional claiming race at the same track and distance on March 14. He then shipped to Oaklawn Park and took a competitive 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race on May 2 by 1 ¼ lengths over Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes runner-up Candy Tycoon, before returning to California and checking in third behind leading Kentucky Derby contenders Honor A. P. and Authentic in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on June 6. He’s trained well in California since the Santa Anita Derby, posting a bullet four-furlong workout in 47 seconds flat on June 20 and a more recent sharp five-furlong workout in 1:00.40 on July 5. Rushie has a stalking style that should help him secure a good spot behind the early leaders on Saturday in a race that does not project to have a particularly fast pace. This talented runner looms as a major threat to rack up a bunch of Kentucky Derby points in the Blue Grass that will add to his existing 20-point total. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano won his first Blue Grass last year aboard Vekoma.


Coady Photography

11. Hunt the Front (20-1)

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Trainer: Nick Zito

Owner: Dream Walkin Farms

Career record: 7 starts – 1 win – 3 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $94,992

Earnings per start: $13,570

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Revolutionary – Best of Times, by Mineshaft

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Longshot Hunt the Front raced four times at Oaklawn Park this spring, finishing second three times before earning his first career win May 2 in a 1 1/8-mile race. He then traveled to Churchill Downs for a competitive 1 1/8-mile allowance-optional claiming race on June 12, his most recent start, but was no threat Blue Grass foe Man in the Can, checking in 11 ¼ lengths behind in seventh. This Revolutionary colt is a one-dimensional closer in a field with several other come-from-behind types that boast more impressive résumés and much better speed figures – and as such, his win chances on Saturday are remote. Hall of Famer Nick Zito is tied with four other trainers with three Blue Grass Stakes victories, the most in the race’s history. His came with Strike the Gold in 1991, who won the Kentucky Derby; Halory Hunter in 1998; and The Cliff’s Edge in 2004. Corey Lanerie finished third in the 2016 Blue Grass on Cherry Wine.


Eclipse Sportswire

12. Enforceable (8-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: John Oxley

Career record: 9 starts – 2 firsts – 2 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $367,150

Earnings per start: $40,794

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby points: 33

Pedigree: Tapit – Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Starting last summer with his maiden win at Saratoga and then continuing through five consecutive graded stakes appearances, Enforceable built up a profile as an intriguing second-tier Kentucky Derby contender – one dependent on a fast early pace to set up his run but also a horse that had the potential to hit the board on Derby day at high odds. Now, like all other Derby hopefuls, this son of leading sire Tapit has been given more time to burnish his credentials, and he’ll need to finish first or second Saturday to accumulate enough points to secure a spot in the Sept. 5 run for the roses. His first two races at 3 – a win in the Lecomte Stakes and a runner-up finish in a division of the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford – were solid. And his most recent start back on March 21, when he was fifth in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, can be excused somewhat since the top two horses (Wells Bayou and Ny Traffic) controlled the pace throughout. He’s bred to go long and has been training sharply for Mark Casse in recent weeks, although the projected modest pace scenario in Saturday’s Blue Grass doesn’t help his chances. Casse, slated to enter Racing’s Hall of Fame this summer, finished second in the 2018 Blue Grass with Flameaway. Jockey Joel Rosario picks up the mount on Enforceable and is a good finishing rider; he won the 2011 Blue Grass aboard Brilliant Speed and finished second in 2017 on Practical Joke.


Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo

13. Tiesto (15-1)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Bill Mott

Owners: LNJ Foxwoods and NK Racing

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $78,150

Earnings per start: $19,538

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 89

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Tiznow – Marquee Delivery, by Marquetry

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Tiesto dives into the deep end Saturday, making his first career start on dirt in the Blue Grass and drawing the outside post to boot. He won his debut on turf last fall at Belmont Park and ran second in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on grass at Gulfstream Park to Vitalogy to kick off his sophomore campaign, but he disappointed somewhat in his most recent start when third as the even-money favorite in a 1 1/8-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on May 30. He’s worked three times since then on dirt at Churchill for Hall of Famer Bill Mott and has a good pedigree for the surface, as a son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow and out of a mare (mother) who also produced millionaire and multiple dirt graded stakes winner Promises Fulfilled. Still, Tiesto’s Equibase Speed Figures are well below the top contenders lined up for Saturday’s race, and there are several other deep closers with far better credentials as win candidates. Mott won the 1984 Blue Grass with Taylor’s Special early in his legendary career.

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