Vekoma 9-5 Favorite in Field for Toyota Blue Grass Stakes
LEXINGTON, KY (Keeneland Racing) – Gatsas Stable and R.A. Hill Stable’s Vekoma has been installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 14 entered Wednesday for Saturday’s 95th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2).
The 1 1/8-mile main track test serves as a major steppingstone for the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) to be run May 4 at Churchill Downs.
The Toyota Blue Grass offers 170 points toward qualification for this year’s Derby with 100 points going to the winner, 40 to the runner-up, 20 to third place and 10 points to fourth. The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box and currently the cut line is 28 points, a figure none of Saturday’s entrants has attained.
The Toyota Blue Grass will go as the 10th race on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 6:23 p.m. ET post time. First post time Saturday is 1:05 p.m.
NBC Sports Network will have a live national broadcast of the Toyota Blue Grass, along with the Wood Memorial (G2) from Aqueduct and the Santa Anita Derby (G1), from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Trained by George Weaver, Vekoma has won two of three starts and finished third in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth (G2) in his 2019 debut. Javier Castellano has the mount for the Toyota Blue Grass and will break from post position two.
Second choice on the morning line at 7-2 is Live Oak Plantation’s Win Win Win, who picked up his 10 Derby points with a third-place finish in the March 9 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
Trained by Mike Trombetta, Win Win Win opened 2019 with a track-record performance in winning the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Irad Ortiz Jr. will have the mount Saturday and break from post position eight.
Tommie Lewis, Steve Crabtree, Dean Demaree, David Bernsen, Jim Chambers and Magdalena Racing’s Signalman is the third choice on linemaker Mike Battaglia’s morning line at 5-1.
Trained by two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Kenny McPeek, Signalman closed a consistent 2-year-old campaign with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs in which he picked up 10 of his 18 Derby qualifying points. He also picked up points with a runner-up finish in Keeneland’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and a third-place finish in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Seventh in the Fountain of Youth in his 2019 debut, Signalman will be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. and break from post position three.
Five additional trainers will be attempting to add to their victory totals in the race.
Three-time winner Todd Pletcher will send out Robert LaPenta’s So Alive. Third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay in his most recent start, So Alive is 15-1 on the morning line and will be ridden by Luis Saez out of post position 11.
Saez captured the 2016 Toyota Blue Grass on Brody’s Cause for trainer Dale Romans.
Romans, who also won the race in 2012 with Dullahan, will have two starters in the gate: Albaugh Family Stables’ Admire (15-1) and Calumet Farm’s Moonster (30-1). Robby Albarado rides Admire from post seven; John McKee rides Moonster out of post position 13.
Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who won this race with War in 1987 and High Yield in 2000, will send out graded stakes-placed Market King for Robert Baker and William Mack. Listed at 20-1 on the morning line, Market King will be ridden by Jon Court and break from post position four.
Doug O’Neill, who saddled Irap to his maiden-breaking victory in the 2017 Toyota Blue Grass for Reddam Racing, has another maiden in this year’s gate in Reddam Racing’s Parsimony. Eighth in a division of the Rebel (G2) in his most recent start, Parsimony (20-1) will break from post position 12 and be ridden by Mario Gutierrez.
Mike Maker, who sent out Stately Victor to post the biggest upset in race history with an $82.20 payoff in 2010, will send out Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) winner Somelikeithotbrown for the partnership of Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable.
Somelikeithotbrown (10-1), who with 20 points is the top Derby point earner in the field, will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione and break from post position one.
In addition to Saez, Julien Leparoux will try to add to his Toyota Blue Grass victory total.
Leparoux, who won in 2013 on Java’s War and 2017 with Irap, has the call on Sir Winston (15-1), who will break from post nine. Sir Winston is trained by Mark Casse, who also will send out Dream Maker (12-1) with Florent Geroux aboard from post six.
The field for the Toyota Blue Grass, with riders and morning-line odds, from the rail out is: Somelikeithotbrown (Gaffalione, 10-1), Vekoma (Castellano, 9-5), Signalman (Hernandez Jr., 5-1), Market King (Court, 20-1), Chess Chief (Paco Lopez, 30-1), Dream Maker (Geroux, 12-1), Admire (Albarado, 15-1), Win Win Win (Ortiz Jr., 7-2), Sir Winston (Leparoux, 15-1), Lucky Lee (Chris Landeros, 20-1), So Alive (Saez, 15-1), Parsimony (Gutierrez, 20-1), Moonster (McKee, 30-1) and Aquadini (Corey Lanerie, 30-1). All starters will carry 123 pounds.
TOYOTA BLUE GRASS POST POSITION DRAW QUOTES
Harvey Diamond, co-owner of Somelikeithotbrown, post 1, 10-1 in the morning line; Tyler Gaffalione to ride
“I think it is good that we drew inside. He has natural speed. We are going to give him a (chance) on dirt (rather than turf and all-weather surfaces) and see how he runs. If he runs good, the Kentucky Derby (G1) is a definite consideration.”
George Weaver, trainer of 9-5 morning-line favorite Vekoma, post 2; Javier Castellano to ride
“I’d rather be down on the inside than outside. He’s got enough tactical speed so the 2 post should work well for us. We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do. The horse is training real well. I’m here in my home state. I’d love to get it done for everybody.”
Kenny McPeek, trainer of Signalman, post 3, 5-1 on the morning line; Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride
“He is a horse that can lay midpack or right off speed and I’m pretty sure we’ll ask him to do that. How it all unfolds is hard to say, but from the 3 hole, it is relatively easy and we’ll let him run into the first turn.”
David Carroll, assistant to Mark Casse, trainer of Dream Maker, post 6, 12-1 on the morning line; Florent Geroux to ride
“I thought they were great draws for both horses (Casse also trains Sir Winston). Dream Maker is right there in 6. We’re just hoping to see him break cleanly and put himself in the race. If you draw 1 or 2 and break half a step slow, you’re going to be covered up and shuffled back. I think 6 gives him a good chance to get out and get position going into that first turn.”
Dale Romans, trainer of Admire, post 7; 15-1 on the morning line; Robby Albarado to ride
“The middle of the pack is perfect for this horse. He is a big, strong colt who is just getting into the rhythm (of racing).”
Michael Trombetta, trainer of Win Win Win, post 8; 7-2 second choice on the morning line; Irad Ortiz Jr. to ride
“I guess that (8 post) is OK. A lot of people don’t want to be way outside and others don’t want to be stuck inside.”
Carroll on Sir Winston, post 9; 15-1 on the morning line; Julien Leparoux to ride
“Sir Winston is a horse who comes from off the pace, so he’ll break and be able to drop on over and get to the outside and make his run. I think ideally it’s a great draw for both horses.”
Tyler Servis, assistant to his father, John Servis, trainer of Lucky Lee, post 10; 20-1 on the morning line; Chris Landeros to ride
“I think the outside will help us a little. He won’t be in there (in the starting gate) long. He broke his maiden going two turns and I think the distance will help him. The break he had in that last race (when he was seventh in the Feb. 2 Withers [G3]) really compromised his result. If he breaks well, and he’s forwardly placed as well, I think you’ll see a huge improvement.”
Nick Bush, exercise rider of So Alive at Keeneland for trainer Todd Pletcher, post 11; 15-1 on the morning line; Luis Saez to ride
“I think that (post 11) is good for him. We don’t have to worry about being down on the inside. He’s probably going to be in the back starting off. Hopefully he’ll have a clear run and come home.”
Dale Romans, trainer of Moonster, post 13; 30-1 on the morning line; John McKee to ride
“(Jockey John McKee) told me that in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) he did his best running when he got him outside and in the clear, so maybe it’s a good spot for him. He is a solid horse who keeps showing up. He has earned his right to run in the Blue Grass. I would like nothing more than to run a horse in the Kentucky Derby for (owner) Calumet Farm.”
KEENELAND CARDS 11 RACES SATURDAY
On Saturday, Keeneland will run 11 races with a 1:05 p.m. first post. Approximate post times for the day’s stakes are Commonwealth (G3) at 4 p.m., Shakertown (G2) at 4:35 p.m., Madison (G1) at 5:10 p.m., Central Bank Ashland (G1) at 5:45 p.m. and Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at 6:23 p.m.
Keeneland’s 2019 Spring Meet opens Thursday, April 4, with a 3 p.m. first post.
The Spring Meet concludes Friday, April 26, with racing on Wednesdays through Sundays. First post for the remainder of the 16-day season is 1:05 p.m. Keeneland is closed Easter Sunday, April 21.
APRIL 6 WAGERING OPPORTUNITIES
All-Stakes Pick 4 Presented by TVG. A $400,000-guaranteed Pick 4 features races 7-10: Shakertown (G2), Madison (G1), Central Bank Ashland (G1) and Toyota Blue Grass (G2).
All-Stakes Pick 5 Presented by TVG. A $300,000-guaranteed Pick 5 features races 6-10: Commonwealth, Shakertown, Madison, Central Bank Ashland and Toyota Blue Grass.
NYRA Cross Country Wager. Features the Madison, Central Bank Ashland and Toyota Blue Grass from Keeneland and the Wood Memorial (G2) and another stakes from Aqueduct.