Kentucky is nicknamed the “Bluegrass State” after the Kentucky bluegrass that grows in pastures throughout the state’s fabled Thoroughbred farms. So it will only be fitting if the improving Kentucky-bred filly The Grass Is Blue winds up winning the 2021 Kentucky Oaks (G1), uniting the story of Kentucky, Kentucky bluegrass, and Kentucky-bred Thoroughbreds with one clever name.
Certainly The Grass Is Blue took a solid step toward the Oaks when posting a comfortable victory in the $97,000 Busanda S. on Sunday at Aqueduct. Winning the 1 1/8-mile race secured the daughter of Broken Vow 10 qualification points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, sufficient to rank 10th on the current leaderboard.
Trained by Chad Brown, The Grass Is Blue initially rose to prominence when rallying boldly to dominate her first two starts against maiden claiming and allowance company. But The Grass Is Blue seemed to hit a form ceiling when tackling stakes rivals in the Songbird S. and Anne Arundel County S., charging only belatedly to finish sixth and third.
These efforts prompted Brown to equip The Grass Is Blue with blinkers for the Busanda, a change that seemingly made all the difference. Showing improved tactical speed under jockey Manny Franco, The Grass Is Blue was always eager to run, fighting restraint while reserved in third place behind slow fractions of :24.44, :49.73, and 1:15.32. Longshot Traffic Lane was the early leader, with Coffee Bar in close pursuit. Wonderwall and Diamond Ore trailed the small field.
“I knew I had a lot of horse under me the whole way around,” Franco told the New York Racing Association. “The blinkers helped a lot. I was just waiting for the right moment to make my move…”
Traffic Lane began to weaken in the homestretch, but Coffee Bar proved more resilient, forging to a narrow lead at the eighth pole. The Grass Is Blue briefly lacked room behind them, but after taking up and shifting outside, she rallied gamely to defeat Coffee Bar by a length in 1:54.90.
“I just wanted to give her a breather at some point during the race and that’s why I stayed inside,” said Franco. “When the time came, I tipped out and she just accelerated. She got the distance really well.”
Coffee Bar, in turn, pulled five lengths clear of the stretch-running Diamond Ore, while Traffic Lane and Wonderwall completed the order of finish.
Bred by Phillips Racing Partnership and owned by Louis Lazzinnaro, The Grass Is Blue now boasts a 5-3-0-1 record with earnings $121,978. Produced by the Aldebaran mare Shine Softly, The Grass Is Blue sold for just $20,000 as a yearling, so it’s safe to say she’s exceeded expectations so far.
Lazzinnaro indicated to the New York Racing Association that The Grass Is Blue is likely to remain at Aqueduct for the time being.
“It looked like she liked the track a lot so we’ll probably keep her here during the winter and let Chad figure out what to do and how to go about winning another race with her,” Lazzinnaro said. “Chad took his time with her and got her going good. The distance was good for her today.”
Another run at Aqueduct may be the immediate goal, but come spring, a return to the bluegrass of Kentucky looms large.