(Trainer Joe Orseno will saddle Hades in Saturday’s G3 Lexington Stakes / Photo Courtesy of Gulfstream Park)

From the Keeneland Media Team / Amy Owens:

DIDIA (ARG) GOES FOR GRADE 1 GLORY IN SATURDAY’S JENNY WILEY

With a steady rain coming down Wednesday morning and more of the same in the forecast for the next two days, the question posed to trainer Ignacio Correas IV was a pretty easy one.

How does Didia (ARG) handle a soft turf course?

“Beats me. She’s never run on a soft course,” Correas said of the 6-year-old daughter of Orpen who figures to be one of the main players in Saturday’s $600,000 Jenny Wiley (G1) to be run at 1 1/16 over the Keeneland turf course. “But the Orpens tend to like it.”

Owned by Merriebelle Stable and Resolute Racing, Didia arrived in Correas’ barn in the spring of 2022 following two open-length victories in Group 1 company in Argentina. In those two years, Didia has had all of her timed works at Keeneland save for two last fall at Santa Anita before the Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) and one at Gulfstream Park before the TAA Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational (G2).

Didia has compiled an 8-6-1-0 mark in North America with the lone defeats coming in Grade 1 tests with her only off-the-board finish coming in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in November in which she was 10th.

“That was a big race for her (despite the finish),” Correas said. “A very good race to only get beat 4½ lengths by some of the best horses in the world.”

Didia opened her 2024 campaign with a narrow victory as the favorite in a field of 11 in the Pegasus on Jan. 27. Jose Ortiz was aboard that day for the first time and he will have the mount Saturday.

NAMED FOR REVERED HORSEMAN, DILGER (IRE) WILL STIR EMOTIONS IN SATURDAY’S STONESTREET LEXINGTON

Mike Ryan’s Dilger (IRE) will kindle plenty of emotion when he goes to the post for the 42nd running of the $400,000 Stonestreet Lexington (G3) on Saturday. The 3-year-old colt is named for Gerry Dilger, a cherished Central Kentucky breeder, owner and bloodstock agent who died at age 61 in 2020.

“Gerry is in my mind every day,” said Ryan, who bred Dilger under his Demers Bloodstock banner and named him for his close friend. “He was a terrific human being, wonderful friend and great family man. He was respected and admired by everyone. We were friends and business partners for 40 years, and he left a void in my life. I asked the Dilger (family) if I could name him in Gerry’s honor, and they were delighted. I thought it would be appropriate to name a horse that I really liked who would run in our own colors in Gerry’s memory.”

Starting from post 3 under Tyler Gaffalione for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., Dilger enters the Stonestreet Lexington off a nose victory at Gulfstream Park on March 16 in a maiden race. Gaffalione was aboard.

“He has a lot of talent,” Ryan said about Dilger. “We are trying to figure out if he wants to go two turns; he is bred to go two turns. He likes to have a horse (in front) to run at. That is when he is at his best.”

By leading European-based sire Lope de Vega, Dilger is from the family of 2022 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) winner Zandon. Ryan, as agent, purchased Zandon at Keeneland’s 2020 September Yearling Sale.

Gerry Dilger, a native of County Clare, Ireland, came to the U.S. at 19. In 1994, he established Dromoland Farm in Lexington, which soon evolved into a leading breeder and consignor. In the name of Santa Rosa Partners, he and Ryan bred 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming, sold by Dromoland at Keeneland September.

The following year, Dilger was honored with the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association’s annual Wild Geese Award, presented to an individual who has excelled outside of his or her native Ireland while “flying the Irish flag with pride on a global stage.”

Now he also is remembered through the Gerry Dilger Equine Scholarship, which was established soon after his death for young people interested in careers in the Thoroughbred industry.

On Saturday, Dilger’s widow, Erin, and two of their three children, Claire and Joseph, are expected to be at Keeneland. Ryan and the Dilgers’ other child, Grace, will be unable to attend.

“The Stonestreet is in our hometown,” Ryan said. “My family will be there, and the Dilgers will be there. There will be lots of sentiment and emotion like the day (the colt) won at Gulfstream.”


STONESTREET LEXINGTON WILL DETERMINE  KENTUCKY DERBY CHANCES FOR HADES

Saturday’s Stonestreet Lexington (G3), the final race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, offers a path to Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May for D. J. Stable and Robert Cotran’s Hades.

The $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve is limited to the top 20 point earners and invitees from the series of races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby that began in September.

Trained by Joe Orseno, Hades sits in 24th place on the leaderboard with 30 points. The Stonestreet Lexington offers 42 points on a 20-10-6-4-2 scale for the first- through fifth-place finishers.

With a victory, Hades would be in the top 20; a runner-up finish would put him just out of the top 20.

“We need the points. I’m not going to go there to be No. 21 (on the also-eligible list),” Orseno said of the decision to run in the Stonestreet Lexington.

Hades won his first three races highlighted by a victory in the Holy Bull (G3) over reigning 2-year-old champion Fierceness. In his most recent start, he finished fifth in the Curlin Florida Derby (G1) Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa.

“He didn’t get a chance to run in the Florida Derby,” Orseno said of Hades, who was bumped at the start and finished far behind Fierceness, who won by 13½ lengths.

Orseno will be making an equipment change for Saturday.

“I always thought he would be better with blinkers, but he kept winning and I couldn’t make the change,” Orseno said. “He’ll have blinkers here; little ones.”

Two other entrants Saturday could move onto the Derby bubble with a victory: Encino and Liberal Arts.

Godolphin’s Encino has 20 points, and a victory would boost him to 40 points, good for 21st on the leaderboard. Trained by Brad Cox, Encino has won two of three races, including the John Battaglia Memorial (L) at Turfway Park on March 2.

Stephen and Evan Ferraro’s Liberal Arts has 19 points, and a victory would boost him to 39 points. Trained by Robbie Medina, Liberal Arts was rank going into the first turn of the Arkansas Derby (G1) on March 30 and interfered with two horses. He was subsequently disqualified from sixth and placed eighth.

PROSPECTIVE FIELDS FOR UPCOMING STAKES

Friday, April 19 race. Entries taken Friday, April 12.

$300,000 Baird Doubledogdare (G3) – Loved (trainer Brendan Walsh). Possible: Curl Girl (Phil D’Amato), Heavenly Sunday (Brad Cox).

Saturday, April 20 races. Entries taken Saturday, April 13.

$350,000 VisitLEX Elkhorn (G2) – Bold Act (IRE) (Charlie Appleby), Highland Chief (IRE) (Graham Motion), Silver Knott (GB) (Appleby).

$300,000 Ben Ali (G3) – Dynamic One (Todd Pletcher), Happy American (Neil Pessin), Kingsbarns (Pletcher), War Campaign (Phil Sims).

GALLOPING OUT

Sierra Leone, stylish winner of last Saturday’s 100th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1), returned to the track Wednesday to jog over a sloppy track for trainer Chad Brown.

SPRING MEET LEADERS

 

Through April 7 (3 days of 16-day season)

Jockey Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Tyler Gaffalione 24 6 3 3 $1,368,753
Irad Ortiz Jr. 22 5 5 3 $1,059,951
Jose Ortiz 19 5 3 3 $608,494
Luis Saez 22 3 0 3 $523,556

Trainer Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Chad Brown 8 3 0 0 $758,455
Wesley Ward 11 3 2 1 $278,329

Trainers Phil Bauer, Brad Cox, Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher have two wins each.

Owner Wins
Red, White and Blue Racing (Randy Gullat) 2
Rigney Racing (Richard Rigney) 2

SECOND WEEK SPECIAL EVENTS

Year-round

Official Keeneland Tours. Click here for availability and to purchase.

Through Aug. 16

Keeneland Library is recognizing this year’s historic running of the Toyota Blue Grass at its free exhibit, A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes. The exhibit features photographs that capture race highlights curated from Keeneland Library collections and public submissions from professional and amateur photographers along with memorabilia from noted jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Mike Manganello and Chris Antley and celebrated runners Whirlaway, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid and Strike the Gold.

Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Library is located on the Keeneland campus. Enter Keeneland at Gate 1 on Keeneland Blvd. and take the first right on Entertainment Ct. The Library is to the left of the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center.

Click here for the virtual companion to the exhibit.

Wednesday, April 10

WINS-Day Challenge Presented by Malone’s. Enter for $10 at Wagering Central on the first floor of the Grandstand and place a mythical $2 win and place wager – no actual money required – on Keeneland’s final six races of the day. This is an inexpensive way for beginner handicappers to give contests a try.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday

The Hill. Keeneland’s popular tailgating area is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the Spring Meet, weather permitting. No ticket or reservation is required for The Hill, located adjacent to the Keene Barn & Entertainment Center and accessible via Gate 1 (at Man o’ War Blvd.) or Gate 4 (off Van Meter Road on the east side of Keeneland).

Fans on The Hill can watch the racing action via a jumbo TV and place their bets in a wagering tent while they enjoy live music presented by The Burl, food trucks and handicapping assistance from BETologists. Complimentary shuttles to the track are offered.

For fans who want to elevate their experience, Keeneland again is partnering with RevelXP to offer tailgate packages for groups of any size. RevelXP will organize tailgates by furnishing a designated tent, catering, amenities and more. Visit Keeneland.com/tailgating for full details.

The Hill is open from 8 a.m. to 60 minutes after the last race. Amenities are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Keeneland Shop is open from 9 a.m. to 30 minutes following the final race. Milliners Corner,  Wagering Central and Finish Line locations also are open on race days.

Friday, April 12

Spring Handicapping Challenge. Available only at the track, the Spring Handicapping Challenge offers one berth to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC) in November at Del Mar and as many as four spots to the 2025 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) in Las Vegas. Players will wager a live bankroll of $250 on Keeneland races. Click here for more information.

 

Saturday, April 13

 

Grade 1 Gamble. The signature handicapping contest of the Spring Meet is the Grade 1 Gamble, which Keeneland is hosting in cooperation with XpressBet, NYRABets, 4NJ Bets, HPI and TVG on the day of the Jenny Wiley (G1), Stonestreet Lexington (G3) and Giant’s Causeway (G3). Entry fee is $3,500 with $2,500 going to a live bankroll and $1,000 to the prize fund. Contestants may play at Keeneland or on one of the aforementioned ADW platforms. Prizes include an estimated $75,000 for first place (based on 300 entries), as many as six berths in the BCBC and 10 spots in the NHC. Click here to register and for more information.

Sunday, April 14

Heroes Day. Event honors members of the military (active duty and veterans), first responders, health care workers and their families. Heroes and their families will receive free general admission, reserved Grandstand seating and a complimentary meal at the North Terrace provided by Marriott Griffin Gate. The day will have special programming on the track, including a flag rollout by the Henry Clay High School Junior ROTC and the singing of “God Bless America” by Dr. Everett McCorvey, and honoree recognitions in the Winner’s Circle.

A POW-MIA Chair of Honor will be displayed near the Paddock to bring awareness to past and current POW-MIA military members through a partnership with The Rolling Thunder Kentucky Chapter 5.

Each hero is eligible to receive up to six complimentary tickets. Visit https://keeneland.com/racing/heroes-day for more information and to reserve complimentary tickets.