The “Road To The Kentucky Derby” comes to Keeneland Saturday where an overflow field of 15 horses has been drawn for the 89th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1), with Divine Ambition listed as the also eligible entrant. Uncaptured, the tepid 7-2 morning-line favorite, will go the starting gate for trainer Mark Casse who also has Dynamic Sky (10-1) entered in the race.
Of the pair, I like Uncaptured the best. He showed his talent last month at Turfway Park, finishing second in his 3-year-old debut, after a four-month layoff, to Black Onyx in the Spiral Stakes (G3), boosting his record to 6-1-0 in eight career starts.
I liked Uncaptured in the Spiral. However, I didn’t like him for the win and, while I think that Uncaptured will be competitive in the Blue Grass, I don’t like him for the win in this spot either. Three other young colts I like better are Palace Malice (8-1), Java’s War (4-1) and Tesseron (50-1).
Palace Malice was running a huge race in the Louisiana Derby (G2) when he got stuck on the rail in the stretch and lost any chance of victory. Here’s the chart call:
PALACE MALICE saved ground on the first turn, made a strong middle move, moved closer while off the rail on the far turn, waited while blocked from the quarter-pole to the furlong marker, had a bunch of rivals pass him in the process, moved to the outside and lost any chance.
His 104 Brisnet E1 pace figure, and E2 figure of 114, were huge, and despite his disappointing seventh-place finish Palace Malice earned a 97 speed figure for that performance.
Palace Malice gets a jockey switch to Garrett Gomez and I’m looking for him to run a better race. His dismal finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) is not an indicator of his talent and he has the breeding to be competitive.
His sire, Curlin, was undefeated in three starts as a 3-year-old, including a win in the Rebel Stakes (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G2), en route to a third-place finish in the 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Curlin went on to win the Preakness Stakes (G1) by a head and he lost the Belmont Stakes (G1) by a head. He won numerous Eclipse awards, compiled an 11-2-2 record in 16 career starts and earned over $10.5 million dollars.
Palace Malice’s grandsire, Smart Strike, has proven to be an outstanding sire of champions and classic champions. He sired the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Curlin and Lookin at Lucky and he’s the damsire of the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
In addition, Smart Strike is the sire of numerous Canadian Sovereign Award winners: Soaring Free, Portcullis, Added Edge, Eye of the Sphynx, Gold Strike; and Smart Strike is the sire of the American Eclipse Award winner English Channel.
Royal Anthem, the damsire of Palace Malice, was an outstanding turf horse who did his best racing at 10-furlongs and further winning the Fairway Stakes, King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2) and Juddmonte International Stakes (Group 1) in England as well as the Canadian International Stakes (G1), then, Palace Malice should run better as the races get longer.
Java’s War, after a four-month layoff, looked impressive in his 3-year-old debut, finishing second to the early Kentucky Derby favorite Verrazano. Java’s War has room to improve in his second start of the season and he has the breeding to be competitive in the Blue Grass.
Java’s War is a descendant of the Cherokee Run sire line and in my July 3 blog of 2009 I noted the importance of keeping track of colts from that line when they stretch out to route racing.
Over the years, the Cherokee Run sire line has produced a lot of good middle- distance runners such as War Pass, the sire of Java’s War. Other good runners from that line include: Yonaguska, Kafwain, Sir Cherokee, During, Chelokee, Zanjero, Recapturetheglory, Musket Man and The Pamplemousse.
A recent bullet workout could have Java’s War ready to run a good race.
Despite his fourth-place finish, Tesseron looked impressive in his 3-year-old debut last February at Gulfstream Park where he finished 2¼-lengths shy of the victor, Black Onyx, who was my long shot pick in the Spiral Stakes. In the stretch run, Tesseron stalked the leaders who posted a racehorse time of 1:34.77 for the mile and a finish time of 1:40.99.
Tesseron has room to improve in his second start of the season and another move forward will make him competitive in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
Honorable mention goes to Balance The Books (15-1) who bombed in the Spiral Stakes (G3), but has the breeding to be competitive. If he looks good in the post parade, Balance The Books may be worth a small wager.
The winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) will receive 100 points while second-place will yield 40 points, the third-place finisher will receive 20 points and the fourth-place finisher will receive 10 points. Here’s a look at the current top 20 list:
Kentucky Derby 2013 Leaderboard
(Updated April 6, 2013)
Individual Leaders ranking, total points, Trainer, Non-Restricted Stakes Earnings
1 = Orb, 150, Shug McGaughey III, $840,000
2 = Verrazano, 150, Todd Pletcher, $810,000
3 = Goldencents, 129, Doug O’Neill, $1,208,000
4 = Revolutionary, 110, Todd Pletcher, $720,000
5 = Lines of Battle, 100, Aidan O’Brien, $1,261,089
6 = Vyjack, 70, Rudy Rodriguez, $405,000
7 = Will Take Charge, 60, D. Wayne Lukas, $512,971
8 = Itsmyluckyday, 50, Eddie Plesa, Jr., $593,600
9 = Govenor Charlie, 50, Bob Baffert, $400,000
10 = Black Onyx, 50, Kelly Breen, $317,130
11 = Normandy Invasion, 44, Chad Brown, $258,000
12 = Mylute, 42, Tom Amoss, $363,365
13 = Oxbow, 36, D. Wayne Lukas, $316,000
14 = Uncaptured, 30, Mark Casse, $394,674
15 = Super Ninety Nine, 30, Bob Baffert, $308,000
16 = Java’s War, 22, Ken McPeek, $201,772
17 = Merit Man, 20, Bob Hess Jr., $357,500
18 = Den’s Legacy, 20, Bob Baffert, $325,000
19 = Falling Sky, 20, John Terranova II, $157,500
20 = Departing, 20, Al Stall Jr., $130,000