July 18, 2019

Vekoma, Win Win Win top contenders in 14-horse Blue Grass

Vekoma wins the Nashua Stakes (G3) under jockey Manny Franco at Aqueduct on November 4, 2018 (c) Adam Coglianese Photography/NYRA

Saturday’s $1 million Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland will shake up the Kentucky Derby standings. Vekoma has been installed as the 9-5 choice following a third in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2) third-placer Win Win Win comes next on the morning line at 7-2, but every member of the 14-horse field currently resides outside the top 20 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and need points to secure a berth on the first Saturday in May.

As one of seven major qualifiers in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass will offer a combined 170 points to the top four finishers (100-40-20-10).

Winner of the Nashua (G3) at Aqueduct, Vekoma was perfect from a pair of juvenile starts and offered a decent rally for a share when opening 2019 in the March 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. George Weavers trains the chestnut son of Candy Ride and Javier Castellano will pick up the mount. Vekoma currently sits 29th on the with 10 points.

Win Win Win established a new track record when capturing the seven-furlong Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs on January 19 and was bet down to 7-5 favoritism in the Tampa Bay Derby, his first attempt in a qualifier. The Michael Trombetta trainee offered an eye-catching move into contention before coming up a little short in the latter stages, winding up 2 ½ lengths back in third, and Irad Ortiz Jr. will retain the mount on the Florida-bred son of Hat Trick.

Somelikeithotbrown tops the Blue Grass field with 20 points, good for 21st on the leaderboard. Third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), the New York-bred Big Brown colt captured the March 9 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) over Turfway Park’s Polytrack, the same race that catapulted Animal Kingdom to Kentucky Derby glory in 2011. Somelikeithotbrown will make his first dirt start in the Blue Grass for Mike Maker and Tyler Gaffalione rides the early 10-1 shot.

Signalman must be considered a candidate to rebound for Kenny McPeek after a seventh in the Fountain of Youth. Runner-up in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland last fall, the son of General Quarters finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) before concluding his two-year-old season with a win the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. Ranked 23rd with 18 points, Signalman has been pegged at 5-1 by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia and Brian Hernandez Jr. has the call.

A sharp allowance scorer two starts back, Dream Maker has experienced rough starts in his last two stakes attempts, including the Tampa Bay Derby in which he finished seventh as the 7-2 second choice. The gray son of Tapit remains a promising prospect for Mark Casse and will try to turn things around at the stakes level Saturday with Florent Geroux. Casse also has Woodbine stakes winner Sir Winston, fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby, entered.

Two-time Kentucky Derby winner Todd Pletcher will be represented by So Alive, who was seen recording a non-threatening third in the February 9 Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa. Luis Saez, who was up on Florida Derby (G1) winner Maximum Security last weekend, will take over the reins. Conditioner Dallas Stewart, a two-time Kentucky Derby runner-up, will send postward the duo of Chess Chief and Aquadini. The former is a last-out maiden scorer while the latter exits a close second in a Fair Grounds allowance.

Market King, third in the second division of the Rebel (G2), has been entered by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. Completing the field are Admire, Lucky Lee, Moonster and Parsimony.