(Trainer Chad Brown after Sierra Leone’s victory in the G1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday / Photos by Coady Photography)

From the Keeneland Media Team / Amy Owens:

BROWN STICKING CLOSE TO TOYOTA BLUE GRASS WINNER SIERRA LEONE

Trainer Chad Brown usually is a man on the move, but for the time being he is going to be hanging around Keeneland.

“I’m not going to get too far away from this guy,” Brown said Sunday morning of Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) winner Sierra Leone, who stamped himself as one of the favorites for the 150th running of the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve with his 1½-length victory Saturday in the 100th running of Keeneland’s most famous race.

Sierra Leone, owned by the partnership of Peter Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg Limited and Brook Smith, gave Brown his third Toyota Blue Grass victory. His previous winners were Good Magic in 2018 and Zandon in 2022.

Good Magic ran second in the Kentucky Derby. Zandon was third. Brown plans to follow the same pattern with Sierra Leone of one work here before shipping to Churchill Downs and then one work over the track there prior to the Derby.

“Both of those ran well in the Derby,” Brown said. “They didn’t win, but they ran well.”

In addition to Sierra Leone, Brown figures to have a second Derby starter in Klaravich Stables’ Domestic Product. Winner of the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G3) on March 9, Domestic Product is stabled at Payson Park training center in South Florida.

Brown also picked up a Kentucky Oaks (G1) starter Saturday when Klaravich’s Regulatory Risk ran second in Gazelle (G3) at Aqueduct to pick up 50 points and be firmly ensconced in the top 14 point earners for the race.

“The one I really want to run in the Oaks is Ways and Means (for Klaravich),” Brown said. “She’s No. 15 in points now and I have been in that position before withDunbar Road (in 2019). She didn’t get in and that just killed me, and then she went on to win the Alabama (G1).”

Following his runner-up effort in the Toyota Blue Grass, Qatar Racing, Resolute Racing and Marc Detampel’s Just a Touch was scheduled to go to Churchill to continue training for the Kentucky Derby.

Scheduled to go to Churchill on Wednesday is Toyota Blue Grass fourth-place finisher Dornoch.

“I may have shipped him in here a little too close to the race,” trainer Danny Gargan said of Dornoch’s Thursday arrival for owners West Paces Racing, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing and Pine Racing Stables. “He ran good but got a little tired. He’ll run better next time.”

Gargan picked up a second Derby starter earlier Saturday when Society Man ran second in the Wood Memorial (G2) Presented by Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct. Society Man picked up 50 points to move to 17th on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard for the race that is limited to the top 20 point earners and invitees.

Gargan is part-owner of Society Man with West Paces and GMP Stables.

“We are proud and excited,” Gargan said. “I only had 15-18 2-year-olds last year and only five that were not New York-breds. To have two in the Derby is pretty incredible.”

Society Man is scheduled to ship to Churchill on Wednesday.

DERBY CITY DISTAFF POSSIBLE FOR RESOLUTE RACING MADISON WINNER ALVA STARR

Dale Ladner’s Alva Starr will remain at Keeneland for the time being as trainer Brett Brinkman plots the next course of action for his star runner following her victory in Saturday’s Resolute Racing Madison (G1).

“She is going to stay here for now,” Brinkman said. “I am working back from the Ballerina (G1 at Saratoga Aug. 24) for the best places for her.”

The next stop could be the $1 million Derby City Distaff (G1) Presented by Kendall-Jackson Winery on May 4 at Churchill Downs.

“We plan to nominate her for that, and we will see what the arrangements are for Derby Week,” Brinkman said. “She’s a filly who likes to run out of her own stall. There is also the (May 27) Winning Colors (G3) after that over there.”

In the Resolute Racing Madison, Alva Starr kicked clear at midstretch and held on for a half-length victory over Vahva to reverse the result of last fall’s Lexus Raven Run (G2) here.

“No doubt having that race helped a lot,” Brinkman said of Alva Starr, who had one previous start this year while Vahva was making her 2024 debut. “She carries a lot of flesh and it was good to have that one under our belt.”

BUCHU OPENS 2024 IN STYLE WITH APPALACHIAN
PRESENTED BY JAPAN RACING ASSOCIATION VICTORY

Rigney Racing’s Buchu returned to her home base at Churchill Downs the evening following her half-length victory in Saturday’s Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association.

“Everything is pretty good this morning,” trainer Phil Bauer said. “We were very happy with her. She bobbled a little bit in the stretch but galloped out well, and that was nice to see.”

Saturday’s victory was the second at Keeneland for Buchu, winner of the Jessamine (G2) Presented by Keeneland November last fall. Martin Garcia was aboard for both victories.

Following the Jessamine, Buchu went to Santa Anita and finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) to complete her 2-year-old campaign.

“In a perfect world, I probably would have liked her to fill out more,” Bauer said of Buchu’s transformation from age 2 to 3. “She is a long, light filly and probably spacing her races would be to her benefit. I am not looking too far ahead; just the one next month.”

Next for Buchu figures to be the $600,000 Edgewood (G2) on May 3 at Churchill. Bauer said the original plan was to have her make her 2024 debut in that race.

“Everything came together real quick, and her work two weeks ago gave us a good feeling,” he said. “It makes our job easier.”

ARZAK HEADING BACK TO MARYLAND MONDAY
FOLLOWING SHAKERTOWN VICTORY

Sonata Stable’s Arzak is scheduled to return to trainer Michael Trombetta’s home base at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland on Monday following his 1-length victory in Saturday’s Shakertown (G2) going 5½ furlongs on the turf.

Trombetta flew out of Lexington early Sunday morning after enjoying the victory in person.

“I wasn’t here last fall when he won the Woodford (G2),” Trombetta said. “We celebrated last night at Malone’s (restaurant).”

Part of the celebration was deciding what is next for Arzak. The next possibility is the $600,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G2) at Churchill Downs on May 4.

“We will look at it,” Trombetta said. “I talked with the owner (Marc Tacher), and he thinks that would be bringing him back a little quick and I am inclined to agree. There is also the ($500,000) Jaipur (G1) at Saratoga June 8.”

Arzak held off Mischief Magic (IRE) in the Shakertown with Eamonn and Our Shot a close third and fourth. While plans are TBA for Mischief Magic, trainer Joe Orseno said Eamonn would point to the Twin Spires Turf Sprint and trainer John Terranova II voiced the same option for Our Shot.

GALLOPING OUT

Roger Cettina, Brian Pagano, Patrick Grippo, Peter Martine and Bruno De Julio’s Bo Cruz returned to Churchill Downs on Saturday following his 2½-length victory in the Commonwealth (G3). “So far, so good this morning,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said via text. “We will nominate for sure (to the $1 million Churchill Downs-G1 presented by Ford) and take a look at it.” …

Harry Veruchi’s West Saratoga arrived at Keeneland Saturday afternoon from trainer Larry Demeritte’s base at The Thoroughbred Center in northeast Lexington to continue his preparations for an expected start in the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve. West Saratoga finished second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) in his most recent race on March 23 at Turfway Park. On Saturday, April 6 at The Thoroughbred Center, he worked 3 furlongs in :36.40 …

Foster Family Racing, William Wargel, R.K. Eckrich Racing and Maxis Stable’s Everland is scheduled to have one work at Keeneland in preparation for the $1.5 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 3. “She gets a lot of long gallops and will have one work here,” trainer Eric Foster said of the winner of the Bourbonette Oaks on March 23 at Turfway. “She will go to Churchill as late as possible.” Oaks fillies have to be at Churchill Downs by 11 a.m. April 27.


OPENING 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.

 

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, featuring Christine A. Moore, Wagering Central and Finish Line locations are open today.