With the Grade 1 Florida Derby in the rearview mirror it is time to start looking ahead to the trio of Triple Crown prep races next weekend.
The Santa Anita Derby should be great, but took a potential hit with McKinzie opting to skip the race due to an issue with one of his hind legs. The Wood Memorial in New York has not been the most productive event of late, but should be a solid race this year with the likes of Enticed and Solomini scheduled to put in their last prep at Aqueduct.
Last and of course not least is the Blue Grass Stakes, which headlines opening weekend at beautiful Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. The short 16-day meeting commences on Friday and offers racing fans a few weeks of high quality Kentucky racing heading into the first week of May at Churchill Downs.
Two-year-old champion Good Magic leads the probable field for the 2018 Blue Grass. The e Five Racing Thoroughbreds colt made his first start of the year in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and quite honestly failed to impress. I can be somewhat forgiving of the son of Curlin’s non-threatening third place finish since he likely was not fully cranked by trainer Chad Brown, but it will be hard to swallow another short price on the one-time winner next Saturday. He still looms the clear one to beat though.
If Good Magic were to lose as the betting favorite for the second consecutive race to kickoff his three-year-old campaign the top two finishers from last month’s Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby are the likeliest to spring the upset.
Quip took advantage of a perfect stalking trip and made his first start of 2018 a winning one for trainer Rodolphe Brisset. Flameaway came from off the pace to earn second after a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis on February 10th, but could not get by Quip in the lane. Both should get the jump on Good Magic, but will struggle to hold him off late if the pace is an honest one.
Sporting Chance makes his third start of the form cycle after a disappointing fifth place effort. The son of Tiznow was wide throughout and made a minor move, but tired badly late. The 2017 Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes winner will need a big move forward off of just three weeks rest if he hopes to be a factor in the Blue Grass.
Free Drop Billy went off the second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November and ran a solid second off the bench to Audible in the Grade 2 Holy Bull, but his third place effort in the Grade 3 Gotham left a lot to be desired. With 24 qualifying points headed into next weekend it is imperative for the Dale Romans trainee to run well in the Blue Grass if he wants to make the gates for this year’s “Run for the Roses.”
Romans also is likely to send out Tiz Mischief. The Frank L. Jones, Jr. owned colt has just one win, but has been fairly competitive in his first two starts of 2018. Like his stable mate he will need a career best effort on Saturday to compete with the likes of Good Magic.
The Blue Grass will be easier to dissect after the post-position draw in a couple of days, but this is a good starting point.
Have a great Easter!