Key Takeaways from Blue Grass Stakes Weekend

Art Collector was all alone nearing the finish line at Keeneland, posting an impressive 3 1/2-length win in the Blue Grass Stakes on July 11.

Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from the $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course and other developments this past weekend.

WORTH THE WAIT: For trainer Tom Drury, Jr., 46, it must have seemed as if it took forever for him to register his first graded stakes victory. His timing could not have been better once it came. Art Collector put him on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve with an authoritative victory in the Blue Grass. The win was worth 100 Derby qualifying points to Art Collector, putting him fourth on the Churchill Downs leaderboard. The feeling of elation was overwhelming for Drury. “It took me my whole life just to get to this one win,” he said. He was quick to acknowledge the handiwork of others. “There are a lot of people who have done their part. I’m just honored to be able to share this with my staff.”

Ken McPeek (Coady Photography)

OAKS-BOUND?: Swiss Skydiver gave it everything she had in her bid to make history as the first filly to win the Blue Grass only to be worn down by Art Collector, a decisive winner. As valiant as the second-place finish was – it gave the former $35,000 purchase 40 Derby qualifying points – trainer Ken McPeek sounds inclined to return his star filly to competition within her own division. “We might lean against going to the Derby,” McPeek said. “We might consider going to the Alabama (Stakes) and waiting for the Kentucky Oaks.” The Alabama is set for Aug. 15 at Saratoga Race Course. The $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks will be Sept. 4 at Churchill Downs.

Rushing Fall (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

COOL COMPANY: Rushing Fall joined Lady Eli and Beholder as the only horses since 1976 to win Grade 1 stakes at ages 2, 3, 4 and 5 when she set a course record of 1:39.02 in successfully defending her title in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland. “It’s a dream come true,”’ said owner Bob Edwards. “Everyone wishes for a horse like this. I hope to get another one in my racing career like her.” Rushing Fall registered her fifth stakes victory at Keeneland to trail only Wise Dan for the all-time lead. Although the pandemic forced Keeneland to conduct its special summer meet without fans, Edwards accepted that in stride. “The adrenaline spike is still there, even when you’re watching from your couch,” he said.

Speech (Keeneland/Coady Photography)

AIMING HIGH: Soon after Keeneland announced the schedule of races for its summer meet, trainer Michael McCarthy decided that the best fit for Speech, his promising 3-year-old filly, would be the seven-furlong Beaumont Stakes Presented by Keeneland Select. As time went on, her training and her demeanor suggested she was ready for much more, leading him to enter her in the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes. Wow, was he rewarded! Speech rang up 100 qualifying points for the Oaks – she ranks second on the leaderboard with 160 points overall – while setting a stakes record of 1:41.26 for the 1 1/16-mile Ashland. “We kind of called an audible and sometimes these things work out,” McCarthy said. “To come back (Saturday) and think we would set a record in a race we weren’t especially pointing to says a lot about Speech.”

COMEBACK TRAIL: Monomoy Girl, the champion 3-year-old filly in 2018, continued her encouraging comeback with a two-length victory in the $150,000 Ruffian Stakes on Saturday at Belmont Park. She completed the one-turn mile in 1:34.13 in her second start since she returned from an 18-month layoff. “She’s a very special filly,” said Dustin Dugas, assistant to trainer Brad Cox. “She showed up and ran well. She did everything we asked of her.” Monomoy Girl, a winner of 11 of 13 starts with a pair of runner-up finishes, hit the comeback trail with a May 16 allowance score at Churchill Downs.

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