(Restless Rider winning the 2018 G1 Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
|11/16-Mile / Dirt||Horse||Trainer||Rider||Last Race||Comment||Interesting Note|
|Bizwhacks||Doug O’Neill||Mario Gutierrez||3rd in G3 Honeybee||3rd to Chocolate Kisses Last Out||3rd to Summering in ’18 DM Fillies Turf|
|Chocolate Kisses||Mark Casse||Orlando Mojica||1st in G3 Honeybee||2 Wins in Row / Closed From Last||4th in G1 Alcibiades Here in Oct|
|Feedback||Chad Brown||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||1st in G3 Forward Gal||2-for-2 / Stalker / Odds-On in ‘Gal||Sold for $85K at KEE Nov 2016|
|Jaywalk||John Servis||Joel Rosario||4th in G2 Davona Dale||Won BC Juv Fillies / 2019 Debut a ?||Won 4 in Row in ’18 / But Beaten 6 in Last|
|Restless Rider||Ken McPeek||Brian Hernandez||2nd in G2 Golden Rod||Been Off Since Nov / 6 Works Since 2-16||Won 2018 Alcibiades Here / 2nd in BC|
|Blue Grass Prospects||4/6/19|
|11/8-Mile / Dirt||Horse||Trainer||Rider||Last Race||Comment||Interesting Note|
|Admire||Dale Romans||Robby Albarado||7th in Tampa Bay Derby||Beaten 5 lengths byh Tacitus||Only MSW Win To Date|
|Chess Chief||Dallas Stewart||Corey Lanerie||1st in MSW @ FG||Broke Maiden Last Out, Closing||RNA’d for $145,000 as Yearling|
|Current||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||3rd in Dania Beach||Could Go In Transylvania Instead||Won G3 Dixiana Bourbon Here in Oct.|
|Dream Maker||Mark Casse||Florent Geroux||10th in Tampa Bay Derby||Bumped, Steadied, No Factor in Last||Was Impressive in 2019 Debut at FG|
|Durkin’s Call||Bill Mott||Junior Alvarado||1st in Gander Stakes||Might Opt for Lexington Stakes||Ran on 3-17 for 2nd Straight Win at AQU|
|Galilean||Jerry Hollendorfer||Flavien Prat||3rd in Rebel Stakes (1)||Ran Well Against Open Company||Great Work at Los Alamitos on 3-24|
|Hoffa’s Union||Gary Capuano||Jorge Ruiz||1st in MSW @ Laurel||Will Have To Step It Up Seriously||Union Rags Gelding Sold for $11,000|
|Joevia||Gregory Sacco||Nik Juarez||2nd in Private Terms||Ran 2nd to Highly Rated Haikal 2 Back||Was Beaten Only a Neck by Haikal|
|Market King||D. Wayne Lukas||John Velazquez||3rd in Rebel Stakes (1A)||Beaten 81/2 Lengths In Rebel||Speedy Type Cost $550,000 at KEE Sept.|
|Mr. Ankeny||Dale Romans||Robby Albarado||6th in GP Allowance||No Factor in Breeders’ Futurity in Oct||Cost $350,000 as KEE Sept. / Ellis Winner|
|Our Braintrust||Mark Casse||David Cohen||10th in Rebel Stakes (1A)||Last in Rebel After Early Speed||Was 3rd in G3 Withers to Tax|
|Signalman||Ken McPeek||Brian Hernandez||7th in Fountain of Youth||Disappointing in ’19 Debut / Rebound?||Ran 2nd to Knicks Go in ’18 Breeders’ Futurity|
|Sir Winston||Mark Casse||Julien Leparoux||5th in Tampa Bay Derby||Only 4 Lengths Behind Winner Tacitus||4th in Withers Stakes / Won a Stake at WO|
|So Alive||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||3rd in G3 Sam F. Davis||Well Beaten in Davis||Broke MSW at Keeneland Last October|
|Somelikeithotbrown||Mike Maker||Tyler Gaffalione||1st Jeff Ruby Steaks||Solid on Grass & Poly / In the Money Last 6||Speedy Type Is Proven / Can He Convert to Dirt?|
|Tacitus||Bill Mott||Jose Ortiz||1st in Tampa Bay Derby||Still Considering the Wood Memorial||Should Be Favored If He Comes to KEE|
|Vekoma||George Weaver||Manny Franco||3rd in Fountain of Youth||Ran Very Well in 2019 Debut||Whipped Network Effect in Nashua / Live!|
|Win Win Win||Michael Trombetta||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||3rd in Tampa Bay Derby||Will Either Go Here or Wood Memorial||Has a 3-1-1 Record in 5 Starts / Closer Type|
We are still a week away from Keeneland kick-starting the 2019 April Spring Meet, but it is never too early to get excited. Is it? Never too early to get a little Spring Fever. Is it? Never too early to start dreaming of a beautiful warm day watching the Day Lillies spring up; the starting gate spring open; and the most beautiful horses in all of the free world spring into action. Never.
And, while there is still a lot of juggling going on and final plans still yet to be made, the first two major Stakes races of this year’s race meet — the G1 Ashland Stakes and the G2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes — could both turn out to be major racing events and hugely important as we start to figure out just who may make it both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby in that first week of May and just down the road at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
According to our sources, we have been able to dig up a few of the top horses being “considered” for both the Ashland Stakes and the Blue Grass — which are scheduled to be run at Keeneland on the first Saturday of this meeting — April 6. And, both of the Stakes figure to be major attractions for trainers and owners who are trying to find points towards the Oaks and Derby like Easter Eggs on a certain Sunday morn.
Here’s a closer look at both of the Stakes and whom just may show up for a guest appearance, according to our sources:
(Restless Rider training at Keeneland last October / Photo Courtesy of Keeneland)
(Trainer Ken McPeek checked out his prized filly before training at Keeneland last October / Photo By Gene McLean)
G1 Ashland Stakes:
As of right now, it certainly appears that all the horses that we have slotted — alphabetically — in our grid above are being pointed to the 11/16, Grade 1 Ashland Stakes. And, although the field may and probably will grow by an addition or two before we get to entry date, the field is shaping up as one of the best and most talented event for the 3YO fillies so far this year.
Expected to run and highlight the Ashland field is Jaywalk, the 2018 Champion 2YO filly. A year ago, she ran off an impressive 4-race win streak that included Stakes win in the White Clay Creek Stakes at Delaware; a win in the G1 Frizette Stakes at Belmont; and culminate with an impressive victory in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2.
Jaywalk stubbed her hoof a bit in her 2019 debut, running 4th in the G2 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 2. It was her first defeat since she ran second in her career debut at Monmouth Park last June. And, it was the first time ever that she had not finished in the top 3 spots on the board.
But the filly has returned to post two published works since that race at the Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida, and she now appears to be ready to redeem herself in the Ashland for trainer Jason Servis.
Important race, to be sure.
Yet, the Ashland will be no push over, either. Also expected to load in the starting gate is Restless Rider, a 3YO Distorted Humor filly trained by local boy Ken McPeek. Restless Rider, who ran second to Jaywalk in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, has the benefit of racing and winning over the Keeneland main track before. Last October, she won the G1 Darley Alcibiades Stakes here, and in 6 career starts to date, she has posted 3 wins and 3 seconds.
Yet, the Ashland will be her first start of the year and her first start since running second in the G2 Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs last November.
Important race, to be sure.
Both Feedback and Chocolate Kisses figure to be tough outs in the Ashland, as well.
Feedback, who won the G3 Forward Gal in her last outing, is now a perfect 2-for-2 for trainer Chad Brown, who conditions this Violence filly for the Klaravich Stables. This filly was purchased as a weanling at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale in 2016 for a modest $85,000. She has already won $136,000 in purses and could stamp herself Oaks-ready with a win in the Ashland.
Chocolate Kisses, a 3YO daughter of the great stallion Candy Ride, is coming off the biggest win and most impressive race of her young career. She won the G3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 9 for trainer Mark Casse, who conditions this beautiful gal for owner Debby Oxley. She came storming from nearly last in the early going to storm right on past all the leaders to win the 11/16-mile dirt event by a going-away length.
Shaping up as a Grade 1 Stakes race should.
(Signalman training before the Breeders’ Cup last November at Churchill Downs / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
G2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes:
The top contenders for this year’s Blue Grass Stakes appear to be Signalman, Galilean, Vekoma, Somelikeithotbrown, and possibly both Tacitus and Win Win Win.
According to our sources, the first four names in that group are scheduled to be in Lexington for the Blue Grass, which is a 11/8-mile event over the main dirt track and is fast becoming one of the most intriguing and exciting final preps for this year’s wide-open Kentucky Derby.
But our sources also tell us that the connections for both Tacitus and Win Win Win are still considering a ship to Lexington, as well.
If all of them and some of the others on our list of prime contenders show up?
Signalman, a 3YO son of General Quarters, will be getting his second start of the 2019 campaign for trainer Ken McPeek. After a disappointing 7th in the G2 Fountain of Youth, Signalman appears to have tuned up his game. In the two published works since that race, he has worked 5 furlongs in :59.46 and 5 furlongs in 1:00.76. Both of those were impressive, and seemed to sharpen the edge in preparation for the Blue Grass.
And, a big performance is certainly not out of the question whatsoever. The Fountain of Youth is the only time in his 6-race career that Signalman has not finished in the top 3. And, he ran a huge second behind Knicks Go in the G1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity here last October.
Galilean, a Cal-bred super star son of Uncle Mo, just ran third in the G2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 16. Although the turn around may be a little quick by today’s standards, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer may be hunting the necessary points to assure his spot in this year’s KY Derby. If so, the Blue Grass could be a perfect spot. Before running behind both Long Range Toddy and Improbable in the Rebel, Galilean had two wins in a row and 3 wins and a second in the first 4 career starts. All of those were against Cal-bred, though, and the Rebel was an impressive first attempt against “open company.”
Important race, to be sure.
Vekoma, a well-bred son of Candy Ride and trained by George Weaver, just may be the horse to beat in the Blue Grass. This one is coming off a third place finish to both Code of Honor and Bourbon War in the Fountain of Youth. He ran well to lose by less than 3 lengths in that one against two of the prime contenders for this week’s Florida Derby and two horses now mentioned prominently for this year’s Run for the Roses.
Before the Fountain of Youth, Vekoma was undefeated in two starts — including a win in the G3 Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 4. He defeated the likes of Network Effect and Call Paul in that one, and was super impressive after bobbling at the start.
Importnat race, without a question.
But, like the Ashland, this will be no easy mark to gain, either. Somelikeithotbrown galloped on the front end to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks in impressive fashion. His resume is full of check marks on both the synthetic and turf. Can he duplicate those efforts on the dirt? Tacitus was super impressive in winning the Tampa Bay Derby in the last out for trainer Bill Mott. This son of Tapit is definitely on the rise. The connections are trying to decide whether his next start will be either the Blue Grass or the Wood. Decision time is coming soon. Win Win Win is another being pointed to either the Wood or the Blue Grass. This son of Hat Trick ran third in the Tampa Bay Derby, but has never missed the board in 5 career starts.
Contenders, all. All contenders.
Figures to make for an exciting opening weekend at Keeneland.
Spring fever. Racing fever. Catch them both.