For the second week in a row, a Todd Pletcher-trained colt will have to overcome a disadvantageous post in order to win a major Kentucky Derby (G1) prep. Forte did so last week in the Florida Derby (G1), and on Saturday it will be Tapit Trice‘s turn in the $1 million Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland.
Tapit Trice, the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) winner, drew post 1 in the 11-horse Blue Grass, which will be run over 1 1/8 miles. Although he has won three of his first four races, Tapit Trice has left himself with much to do after several recent slow starts, and the inside post might not help in that regard in the Blue Grass.
“Not exactly the draw we wanted, but he did win the allowance race at Gulfstream Park from post 1,” said Pletcher, referring to Tapit Trice’s eight-length win over a one-turn mile on Feb. 4.
Two-time Blue Grass winner Kenny McPeek has entered three. Sun Thunder wheels back two weeks after running fifth in a paceless Louisiana Derby (G2), won by the Pletcher-trained Kingsbarns. Sun Thunder had previously run second in the Risen Star (G2) to Angel of Empire, who last week captured the Arkansas Derby (G1).
“His last race was a paceless race, and he really didn’t get to run until the last part. He seems none the worse for wear, and the partnership is keen to try him again,” McPeek said.
Also starting for McPeek are nine-start veteran Hayes Strike, who turned in a mild pari-mutuel surprise in winning the Private Terms S. at Laurel last month, and last-out maiden winner Mendelssohns March.
Two colts looking to bounce back from recent sub-par efforts are Blazing Sevens and Verifying. One-two in the Champagne (G1) at Aqueduct in October, both subsequently went unplaced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) over the Keeneland strip. Blazing Sevens will add blinkers Saturday after running a distant eighth to Forte in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in early March, while Verifying exits a fourth in the Rebel (G2), for which he was favored at 3-2.
Raise Cain, a graduate over seven furlongs at Keeneland in October, dominated the one-mile Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct by 7 1/2 lengths last out, though a fast pace and muddy surface surely aided his cause as a 23-1 outsider. Classic Car Wash placed in both the Sam F. Davis (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby in his last two, while Scoobie Quando tests his dirt prowess after running first and second in two stakes appearances at Turfway over the winter.
The Blue Grass will award Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 100-40-30-20-10 to the respective top five finishers.
Two mares last seen winning Breeders’ Cup races at Keeneland in November will kick off their respective seasons on Saturday. Champion sprinter Goodnight Olive figures to be an overwhelming favorite against four rivals in the $600,000 Madison (G1) over seven furlongs, while Caravel, who posted a 42-1 upset in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), faces the boys again in the $350,000 Shakertown (G2) over 5 1/2 furlongs.
There is plenty of depth in the Madison despite the small numbers. The speedy Society shortens up after blowout, two-turn scores last season in the Cotillion (G1) and Charles Town Oaks (G3), while the once-beaten Maryquitecontrary enters off back-to-back stakes wins in the Rampart and Inside Information (G2) at Gulfstream.
Caravel, who also landed the Franklin (G3) over the turf course last fall, will look to outrun a pair of capable Breeders’ Cup rivals, Grade 2 winner Arrest Me Red and Artemus Citylimits.
A competitive renewal of the $400,000 Appalachian (G2), a one-mile grass test for three-year-old fillies, is led by Pleasant Passage, winner of the Miss Grillo (G2) and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) last season.
Leading hopes in the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3) for older horses over seven furlongs include Nakatomi, Hoist the Gold, Get Her Number, Run Classic, and stakes newcomer Pro Oxidant.