2022 Blue Grass Stakes Cheat Sheet: Get to Know the Horses

Racing
Smile Happy (left) and Zandon headline the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 9, an important prep race for the Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Every day of the year is part of Kentucky Derby season for horse racing fans in the Bluegrass State, but anticipation for the sport’s biggest event really picks up each spring when Keeneland Race Course kicks off its April meet with an opening weekend highlighted by the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

The $1 million race, set for April 9 this year, is a key prep race for 3-year-olds in pursuit of the Triple Crown, awarding qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on a 100-40-20-10 basis to the top four finishers.

For 2022, the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass has regained Grade 1 status, further enhancing its appeal as a prestigious race in its own right. Twenty-three horses coming out of the Blue Grass have won the Derby, including such champions as Whirlaway, Chateaugay, Northern Dancer, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid, Alysheba, Unbridled, and Thunder Gulch.

Street Sense was the last horse to run in the Blue Grass Stakes and then win the Kentucky Derby, finishing second at Keeneland before wearing the garland of roses at Churchill Downs. Last year, Essential Quality won the Blue Grass Stakes, finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby (elevated to third), and then won the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets during a season that earned him an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.

The 98th edition of the Blue Grass Stakes drew a competitive 12-horse field including several highly regarded horses that will need to crack the top three in order to secure a berth in the 148th Derby four weeks later. The Blue Grass is part of a Saturday card at Keeneland that features four other graded stakes and should draw a large crowd despite a forecast that calls for temperatures in the 40s and a chance for rain.

The Blue Grass Stakes will be televised on NBC as part of NBC Sports’ “Road to the Kentucky Derby” coverage and will also be shown on TVG. Post time is set for 5:10 p.m. ET.

Read on for information about all of the Blue Grass Stakes starters.


Eclipse Sportswire

1. Commandperformance (12-1 morning-line odds)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable

Career record: 4 starts – 0 wins – 3 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $226,400

Earnings per start: $56,600

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 102

Kentucky Derby points: 6

Pedigree: Union Rags – Smitten, by Tapit

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After a promising juvenile campaign last fall, Commandperformance seeks to rebound in the Blue Grass from a second-place finish in his 3-year-old debut last month at Tampa Bay Downs. In 2021, the son of Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags had finished second in the Champagne Stakes and then fourth in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, and he had kept good company as the winners of those two races (Jack Christopher and Corniche, respectively) were among the early future-book favorites for this year’s Kentucky Derby. However, Commandperformance exited last year still winless, and was thus sent off as a massive 1-20 favorite in his comeback race March 12 at Tampa, a one-mile and 40-yard, two-turn maiden special weight. He raced off the early pace set by 21.70-1 shot Fenwick and moved up to challenge that foe on the far turn, but he had no punch late and settled for a disappointing second, 5 ¼ lengths back and with a 83 Equibase Speed Figure. Commandperformance will face Fenwick again Saturday, plus a lot of more accomplished horses. He’s got a good distance pedigree and obviously some back class (earning a 102 Equibase Speed Figure in the Champagne), and he is also eligible to improve in his second start as a 3-year-old. Commandperformance will have to do just that – by leaps and bounds – to finish first or second in the Blue Grass and secure a spot in the Kentucky Derby. Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has won three editions of the Blue Grass with Bandini (2005), Monba (2008), and Carpe Diem (2015). Irad Ortiz Jr. finished second in the 2019 Blue Grass on Win Win Win.


2. Fenwick (20-1)

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Trainer: Kevin McKathan

Owners: Villa Rosa Farm and Harlo Stable

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $41,340

Earnings per start: $8,268

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Curlin – Make the Sun Shine, by Malibu Moon

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Pacesetter

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Longshot Fenwick jumps into a Grade 1 race after breaking his maiden in his fifth career start last month at Tampa Bay Downs. With Paco Lopez riding, he went to the lead immediately in the one mile and 40-yard race – a big change in running style compared with his four prior starts – and extended his advantage coming out of the far turn. Sent off at odds of 21.70-1, Fenwick rolled to a 5 ¼-length win over 1-20 favorite Commandperformance. It was an eye-catching win, no doubt, and Fenwick earned a 91 Equibase Speed Figure that is easily his career best. Now, he’ll need to run even better lined up right next to Commandperformance and against an overall far tougher field in the Blue Grass, and a top-two finish is mandatory for this late bloomer (who had shown very little before his win at Tampa) to make the Kentucky Derby field. Paco Lopez retains the mount in the Blue Grass, and it’s a good bet that he’ll hustle Fenwick out of the starting gate and try to seize control of the pace again. Emmanuel and possibly longshot Trademark could join him in an early duel, but aside from that pair there’s not a lot of speed lined up in the Blue Grass, which means this son of Hall of Famer Curlin could remain in contention for a while. Fenwick was trained by Steve Asmussen for his first four starts and by David Fisher for his win in Tampa. He'll be managed by Kevin McKathan as the official listed trainer Saturday. McKathan oversaw Fenwick‘s development in Florida after his purchase as a yearling. 


Coady Photography

3. Trademark (30-1)

Jockey: Rafael Bejarano

Trainer: Vickie Oliver

Owner: BBN Racing

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

Career earnings: $153,794

Earnings per start: $25,632

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Upstart – Creative Trick, by Creative Cause

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Trademark is one of several horses in this year’s Blue Grass who are exiting Kentucky Derby preps at Tampa Bay Downs. After a solid 2-year-old campaign in 2021 where he won his final two races by setting the pace – both in route distances at Churchill Downs – the Upstart gelding returned this year in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and fizzled, racing in midpack into the far turn before stopping abruptly and finishing last of 12, 33 lengths behind winner Classic Causeway. Returning in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, Trademark turned in a much better effort, stalking Classic Causeway’s pace again and this time finishing a respectable fifth at 72.90-1 odds, only 3 ¼ lengths behind the winner. He earned a career-top 99 Equibase Speed Figure in the Tampa Bay Derby, which is a positive. On the other hand, Classic Causeway’s two wins in Tampa’s Derby preps look very suspect following his last-place finish in the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa last week. Trademark will be one of the longest shots in the Blue Grass field, and in terms of strategy, it might be best for jockey Rafael Bejarano to put his horse in the race early and try to recover the pace-setting form that produced two victories at Churchill last fall. Bejarano was aboard Trademark for the first of those wins under the Twin Spires, and he has a Blue Grass win on his résumé with Dominican in 2007.


Eclipse Sportswire

4. Zandon (5-2)

Jockey: Flavien Prat

Trainer: Chad Brown

Owner: Jeff Drown

Career record: 3 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $139,500

Earnings per start: $46,500

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 93

Kentucky Derby points: 14

Pedigree: Upstart – Memories Prevail, by Creative Cause

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Much like Smile Happy, Zandon has continued to receive support among Derby watchers and future-book bettors in recent months despite extended time away from the track. He, too, will be making only his fourth career start in the Blue Grass, and has been rested by Chad Brown since finishing third in his 3-year-old debut behind Epicenter and Smile Happy in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford Feb. 19 at Fair Grounds. He broke in the air at the start of the Risen Star and raced a little farther back than his usual preference before moving into contention as the field entered the stretch. Zandon was never a threat to Epicenter and was outfinished by Smile Happy, but he kept on well enough to secure third by a head over Pioneer of Medina (that colt came back to finish third in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby won by Epicenter). In 2021, Zandon won his maiden at first asking in a six-furlong race at Belmont Park and then ran very well when defeated by Mo Donegal by a nose in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct in November, a race where he was bumped late by that rival and was not awarded first after a stewards’ inquiry. He's notched Equibase Speed Figures of 93 in all three of his career races, and a 8- to 10-point bump in his second start of 2022 should put him right in contention with Smile Happy and Emmanuel as a leading win candidate in the Blue Grass. Flavien Prat will get aboard Zandon for the first time Saturday, as the former leading rider in Southern California is relocating briefly to Kentucky before making New York his home base this summer. If Zandon breaks well, look for Prat to have him sitting no worse than fourth through the backstretch and in touch with the pacesetters before calling for his best on the far turn. Chad Brown won the 2018 Blue Grass with Good Magic, who subsequently finished second to Triple Crown winner Justify in the Kentucky Derby. Brown-trained Highly Motivated was runner-up to Essential Quality in last year’s race.


Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photo

5. Volcanic (20-1)

Jockey: Adam Beschizza

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Breeze Easy

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 2 thirds

Career earnings: $70,300

Earnings per start: $14,060

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 97

Kentucky Derby points: 2

Pedigree: Violence – Pulpit Angel, by Pulpit

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt is a second-tier win candidate in the Blue Grass who has the potential to improve off of solid but unspectacular form shown in his first two starts as a 3-year-old. He raced three times in 2021 and disappointed in his only stakes try when a distant seventh in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 6. He was then shelved for the rest of his juvenile season by trainer Mark Casse. Volcanic returned in a one-mile, one-turn maiden race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 8 and was very impressive, dueling with favored Charge It through the turn and homestretch and edging that foe by a neck to get his first win. He then ran an even third behind Classic Causeway in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 12, and has been rested since to prepare for one more attempt at securing Kentucky Derby points. Volcanic’s win back in January has been flattered by Charge It’s development, as that Todd Pletcher-trained colt came back to dominate his next race and then just last week finished a good second to White Abarrio in the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa. Volcanic’s effort in the Sam Davis doesn’t look as good in hindsight, however, based on Classic Causeway’s recent last-place finish in the Florida Derby. All in all, this colt has competitive Equibase Speed Figures in the mid- to upper-90s range, a good stalking running style, and a pedigree with some stamina influences, which gives him some appeal as a trifecta and/or superfecta filler aside stablemate Golden Glider. He’ll need to finish first or second to get into the Derby starting gate.


Ryan Thompson/Coglianese Photo

6. Emmanuel (5-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: WinStar Farm and Siena Farm

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $69,600

Earnings per start: $23,200

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98

Kentucky Derby points: 5

Pedigree: More Than Ready – Hard Cloth, by Hard Spun

Color: Bay

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Emmanuel figures to be one of the top three or four post-time betting choices in the Blue Grass as he attempts to bounce back from a fourth-place finish in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes March 5 at Gulfstream Park, which was his stakes debut. The highly regarded son of More Than Ready was sent off as the 2.90-1 second betting choice in the Fountain of Youth, and despite racing wide throughout he still managed a bid for the lead coming out of the far turn before tiring to finish 5 ¼ lengths behind Simplification. Prior to the Fountain of Youth, Emmanuel won his first two starts at Gulfstream and then Tampa Bay Downs by a combined 11 ¼ lengths, setting the pace in both races. All in all, his Fountain of Youth start was not bad at all considering the jump in class, and if he can learn from it and manage a better trip Saturday, Emmanuel has a solid chance to win. He’ll need to at least complete the exacta in order to make reservations at Churchill for Derby 148. Luis Saez led the Keeneland spring 2021 meet in wins and earnings but rode at Belmont Park last fall. He won the Blue Grass Stakes last year aboard Essential Quality and also won this race in 2016 on Brody’s Cause. Saez is a good pace rider and should have Emmanuel among the early leaders in the Blue Grass, and the colt has a very strong distance pedigree on his dam’s (mother’s) side as his relatives include Dubai Sheema Classic winner Hawkbill and graded stakes-winning routers Free Drop Billy and Batique. Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has won three editions of the Blue Grass with Bandini (2005), Monba (2008), and Carpe Diem (2015). Co-owner WinStar Farm also co-owned Carpe Diem.


7. Golden Glider (20-1)

Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owners: Penny and Manfred Conrad

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $72,872

Earnings per start: $18,218

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99

Kentucky Derby points: 5

Pedigree: Ghostzapper – Golden Scarf, by Orientate

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper is a longshot win candidate in the Blue Grass coming out of two Kentucky Derby preps at Tampa Bay Downs. He finished fifth in the Sam F. Davis Stakes in February and then fourth in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, making up some ground in the stretch in the latter race to check in three lengths behind Classic Causeway. Prior to those two races, Golden Glider won twice in routes, breaking his maiden last November at Woodbine and then taking a one mile and 40-yard allowance-optional claiming race at Tampa in January. His Equibase Speed Figures are competitive with most of his Blue Grass opponents, and his dam’s (mother’s) pedigree includes a couple of prime stamina influences in 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold and Canadian Horse of the Year With Approval. On the other hand, the overall quality of the Tampa Bay Downs Kentucky Derby preps has proven to be very suspect considering that Sam F. Davis and Tampa Bay Derby winner Classic Causeway just finished last, beaten by 21 ¼ lengths, in the April 2 Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa. Golden Glider should be closing in the stretch Saturday under Ricardo Santana Jr. and is worthy of consideration for trifecta and superfecta tickets. He’ll need to show more talent and competitiveness to do any better than that against this tough field.


Coady Photography

8. Ethereal Road (15-1)

Jockey: Luis Contreras

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Owners: Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones

Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $263,545

Earnings per start: $52,709

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 90

Kentucky Derby points: 20

Pedigree: Quality Road – Sustained, by War Front

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This come-from-behind runner nearly secured a spot in the Kentucky Derby on Feb. 26 in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park, as he rallied in the stretch to take a momentary lead, only to drift in right before the finish and settle for second behind rail-running 75.40-1 winner Un Ojo. Ethereal Road accumulated 20 Kentucky Derby points in the Rebel, which makes his task Saturday less difficult than most of his foes as a third-place spot and 20 more points should punch his ticket to Louisville. That goal is definitely achievable, although he’ll need a fast pace to set up his closing kick and some racing luck as he navigates a path from the back of the pack. Overall, he’s a longshot as a win candidate, but he has shown improvement this year with a forceful four-length win in a 1 1/16-mile Oaklawn allowance preceding his run in the Rebel. Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas will target the Longines Kentucky Oaks on May 6 with the best 3-year-old in his barn instead of the Kentucky Derby after the filly Secret Oath finished third in the Arkansas Derby last Saturday. That makes Ethereal Road Lukas’ last-ditch Derby horse, and it would be unwise to bet against “The Coach.” Lukas won the 1987 Blue Grass with War and the 2000 renewal with High Yield.


Eclipse Sportswire

9. Rattle N Roll (8-1)

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owner: Lucky Seven Stable

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $423,460

Earnings per start: $70,577

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 20

Pedigree: Connect – Jazz Tune, by Johannesburg

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Stalker/closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Rattle N Roll returns to the scene of his greatest achievement in a last-ditch attempt to regain his spot among top Kentucky Derby contenders and, of course, accrue some more qualifying points – 20 of them at least. He picked up 10 points last October at Keeneland with one of the best races from a juvenile colt all year, executing a perfect stalking trip in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity under Brian Hernandez Jr. and powering clear to a 4 ¼-length victory that earned him a 100 Equibase Speed Figure. Unfortunately, he missed the Breeders’ Cup with a minor injury and did not return to the track until March 5 in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Rattle N Roll was a nonfactor in that Derby prep, finishing sixth by 7 ¼ lengths, and the general consensus among his connections and some followers was that he “needed a race.” Much improvement was expected in Rattle N Roll’s second 2022 start, the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby March 26 at Fair Grounds, and while he did boost his Equibase Speed Figure from 82 to a still modest 86 and made up some late ground in the stretch, he still finished fourth, eight lengths behind Epicenter. All in all, Rattle N Roll doesn’t appear to be the same horse who turned heads last autumn, and he projects as a trifecta or superfecta filler against this competitive Blue Grass field headlined by stablemate Smile Happy. On the positive side, he is returning to a track he’s had success on (albeit off three weeks’ rest), regular rider Hernandez keeps the mount, and he only needs to finish third to punch a ticket to Churchill Downs. Trainer Ken McPeek told the Keeneland press office that he made a last-minute decision to run Rattle N Roll in the Blue Grass and that he views the possibility of an off track due to forecasted rain as a plus for the colt. McPeek has two Blue Grass wins with Harlan’s Holiday in 2002 and Java’s War in 2013. Hernandez won the 2020 Blue Grass held in July aboard Art Collector, and he’s also finished third twice, on McPeek-trained Signalman in 2019 and on McCraken in 2017.


Eclipse Sportswire

10. Smile Happy (9-5)

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Trainer: Ken McPeek

Owner: Lucky Seven Stable

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $364,810

Earnings per start: $121,603

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 30

Pedigree: Runhappy – Pleasant Smile, by Pleasant Tap

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Smile Happy has hovered around the top echelon of Kentucky Derby future-book favorites ever since he won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last November at Churchill Downs, and he’s kept that status despite racing only once after that victory. He’s currently got 30 qualifying points for the May 7 Derby and ranks 17th on the leaderboard, a precarious position to say the least as two other 170-point races are scheduled for Saturday aside from the Blue Grass. Having said that, if this talented, lightly raced colt maintains his form he should finish no worse than third, giving him 20 additional qualifying points and cinching his spot in the run for the roses. He ran well in his 3-year-old debut Feb. 19 when second to current points leader Epicenter in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds. Smile Happy had to navigate through some traffic coming out of the far turn but got into gear in the late going and finished strong. Trainer Ken McPeek has given him seven weeks rest with regular workouts at Gulfstream Park, and he should be fresh and ready to improve off of his Risen Star effort Saturday. He has already shown an affinity for Keeneland’s dirt track as he won his career debut on it going 1 1/16 miles last fall. This colt’s pedigree does not scream “Derby winner” as he’s by champion sprinter Runhappy and from a female family light on accomplished horses through the first couple of generations, but the “eye test” tells a different story. Smile Happy is one of the best of his age group until a horse besides Epicenter defeats him, and he’s a deserving Blue Grass favorite for McPeek, who won this race in 2002 with Harlan’s Holiday and again in 2013 with Java’s War. Jockey Corey Lanerie finished third in the 2016 Blue Grass on Cherry Wine.


Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography

11. Blackadder (20-1)

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset

Owners: SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable, and Siena Farm

Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $108,920

Earnings per start: $27,230

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 85

Kentucky Derby points: 0

Pedigree: Quality Road – Chapel, by Pulpit

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Blackadder makes his first start for Rodolphe Brisset in the Blue Grass after being transferred from Bob Baffert’s barn while Baffert serves a suspension ordered by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and appeals a 2-year ban by Churchill Downs for medication violations. He was originally entered in the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park last week, but Brisset scratched him after he drew the far outside post and will start him in this race instead – unfortunately in post 11 of 12. The colt won the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 12 with a late rally, but did not get 10 Kentucky Derby points awarded to the winner due to Churchill’s ban, which prohibits any horses trained by Baffert from earning qualifying points. As such, Saturday’s race is a make-or-break situation for Blackadder; he’ll need to finish first or second to gain enough points for a berth in the Derby. Doing so will be a challenge, as his best Equibase Speed Figures are about 15-20 points below those of the main Blue Grass contenders. He is coming in on a two-race winning streak, having scored in a one-mile, two-turn maiden race on the main dirt track at Santa Anita Park before winning the El Camino Real on Golden Gate’s synthetic Tapeta Footings surface. His pedigree is also solid for two turns, as he’s by very good sire Quality Road and has some turf routers in his female family. Overall, though, Blackadder will have to step up his game in order to fill out the exacta in the Blue Grass. He has been training at Keeneland in recent weeks for Brisset, giving him familiarity with the track. Jockey Florent Geroux finished third in last year’s Blue Grass aboard Rombauer, who subsequently won the Preakness Stakes. Jack and Laurie Wolf’s Starlight Racing, part-owner of Blackadder, won the 2002 Blue Grass with Harlan’s Holiday and also co-owned 2008 winner Monba. Another one of Blackadder’s co-owners, Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables, co-owned 2015 Blue Grass winner Carpe Diem.


Coady Photography

12. Grantham (15-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Mike Maker

Owner: Three Diamonds Farm

Career record: 4 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $146,200

Earnings per start: $36,550

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Kentucky Derby points: 21

Pedigree: Declaration of War – Darby Blush, by Arch

Color: Bay

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Grantham improved his position on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with a second-place finish behind Classic Causeway on March 12 in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, earning 20 qualifying points. He had previously finished a distant fourth in the Withers Stakes Feb. 5 at Aqueduct to earn one Derby point and showed much improvement at Tampa Bay Downs, saving ground on the rail throughout and continuing on well in the stretch to hold off Shipsational by a neck for runner-up honors. He was never a threat to Classic Causeway, however, and that colt came back last week to finish a distant last in the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa after taking the lead and then stopping halfway through the race. Grantham has a good stalking running style for the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass and gets the services of Tyler Gaffalione in the saddle. Gaffalione rode Grantham in his career debut last fall (second at Churchill Downs) and he easily led the fall 2021 Keeneland meet in both wins and earnings. This colt has a turf-oriented pedigree and his lone win came last December on Turfway Park’s synthetic track, which makes him a longshot to reach the winner’s circle Saturday at Keeneland. He’s definitely got a shot at hitting the board, though, and a third-place finish should be good enough to send him 75 miles west to Louisville for Derby 148. Trainer Mike Maker won the 2010 Blue Grass with Stately Victor.

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