Saturday’s 85th running of the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland may not have the star appeal of the other Grade 1 preps along the Derby trail, but it might be one of the more appealing betting races of the season. Value, particularly underneath in the exotics, will likely abound as the race has drawn 10 relatively evenely matched competitors.
- Patena (R. Albarado Jr./ R. Dutrow Jr.) 10/1
- Join in the Dance (J. Velazquez / T. Pletcher) 10/1
- Theregoesjojo (C. Borel/ K. McPeek) 7/2
- Cliffy’s Future (J. L. Castanon/ D. Miller) 20/1
- Mafaaz (R. Hills/ J. Gosden) 12/1
- Terrain (J. Leparoux/ A. Stall Jr.) 6/1
- Loch Dubh (H. J. Thierot II/ J. Talley) 50/1
- General Quarters (E. Coa/ T. McCarthy) 15/1
- Charitable Man (A. Garcia/ K. McLaughlin) 4/1
- Hold Me Back (K. Desormeaux/ W. Mott) 3/1*
- Massone (G. Gomez/ R. McAnally) 12/1
Morning line favoritism has been awarded to Hold Me Back, largely based on his most recent victory in the Grade 2 Lane’s End on March 21 at Turfway Park. The son of Giant’s Causeway perked up that day and displayed an apparent affinity for a synthetic surface. Importantly, he also has shown he can win here at Keeneland, having done so against conditional allowance runners last October (including today’s rival Cliffy’s Future). He also prevailed in a move I seldom play; dirt to synthetic. If you toss his 5th place finish on the dirt against Old Fashioned in the Remsen, he’s 3 for his remaining 3. It’s interesting to note in his workout lines that he gest credit for a bullet over the dirt at Payson Park going 5 furlongs in 1:02.2, yet only ranks 15th out of 35 for his workout going the same two full seconds faster at Keeneland on Sunday. He’s got the looks of a worthy favorite, but he doesn’t tower over the field.
Theregoesjojo is the second choice on the morning line at 7/2. This guy looks like one of the best horses in this race, but once again I’m hesitant to support a dirt runner trying the artificial footing for the first time. To his credit, he has defeated Quality Road, and ran respectably against both he and Dunkirk in the Florida Derby. HIs trainer, Ken McPeek, is hitting at an even 20% clip over synthetic surfaces. I’ve got mixed feelings about this guy in this spot. I suspect he’ll run a good race, but I don’t think I can support him for the win.
Charitable Man is the horse that offers the most intrigue. For starters, he’s a Lemon Drop, which I always enjoy playing. You know he’ll be able to handle the distance, and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has been giving this guy some solid works in preparation for his 2009 debut. While he is going from dirt to synthetics like Theregoesjojo, I like his turf pedigree a bit more and would expect him to handle the surfact switch more confidently. While he has yet to race this year, somebody in his camp has decided this colt hast the goods for the Kentucky Derby, as he’s among those who paid the early nomination fee for the first Saturday in May. It’s worth noting that he beat two talented horses in the Futurity last year, both Friesan Fire and Flying Pegasus. As Handride pointed out to me on Facebook earlier today, he evidently has his own blog. You get the feeling this is the class of the field right here, and if he’s cranked up and ready to go – watch out!
European invader Mafaaz has already earned a birth in the Kentucky Derby. In that way, much like Street Sense in 2007, he’s really here as a final tune up while his connections make the final determination about their chances next month. He looks to be in great form, and the only loss of his career was to Donativum, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last fall at Santa Anita. He’s accomplished on both turf and synthetics, and will likely offer solid value on the board since many players will shy away from him due to unfamiliarity. My advice? Don’t ignore this guy. I don’t think they would have shipped here if they didn’t truly believe they might have something. Of course, as with most of the horses here, you really need to get a look at them in the post parade before you can make a final assessment. That goes doubly true for Mafaaz since he doesn’t have a posted workout over the local service to give us any other indication on how he’s shipped.
Terrain is a runner who looks capable of moving forward by virtue of essentially dropping in class. He ran into Friesan Fire and Papa Clem in the Louisiana Derby, and prior to that was favored against Big Drama and West Side Bernie in the Delta Jackpot. That was really his worst effort after rather uncharectersitically flashing early speed. He’s actually finished ahead of Pioneer of the Nile, who is currently 4th in the public voting on our Kentucky Derby poll, in both the Breeder’s Futurity and the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile. That’s really one of the most powerful angles you can find from a handicapping perspective in this entire race.
I’m going to play the Lemon Drop like I usually do and go with Charitable Man for the win. I’ll use Mafaaz, Terrain, and Hold Me Back underneath in place. Add in General Quarters and Theregoesjojo for show, with Patena and Join in the Dance on the bottom of the Superfecta.
- $20 Win #9 Charitable Man
- $.10 Superfecta: 9/5,6,10/ 3,5,6,8,10/ 1,2,3,5,6,8,10 ($6.00)
The Toyota Blue Grass will be featured on TVG and again on tape delay on ESPN2 on Saturday.