An Early Look at the Blue Grass Stakes

Brody's Cause winning the Grade I Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 3, 2015 (photo via www.keeneland.com).

Brody’s Cause winning the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 3, 2015.

The Blue Grass Stakes is set to run on opening weekend of the 2016 spring meet at Keeneland, the official date being April 9, 2016. The field is full of horses hoping to break through and gain valuable Kentucky Derby points. Currently, no horse in the field has enough points to make the Derby field, but the Blue Grass is worth 100-40-20-10 to the top four horses, so a good finish can virtually assure a horse a spot in the gate on the first Saturday in May.

Historically, the Blue Grass Stakes has not been the best prep race for horses to move on and win the Kentucky Derby. Actually, the last horse to win the Blue Grass-Kentucky Derby double was Strike the Gold in 1991. Before him, there was Spectacular Bid in 1979. However, several horses that raced in the Blue Grass have gone on to wear the roses — the last being Street Sense in 2007.

This year, the Blue Grass Stakes has a full field of 14 horses plus two also-eligible horses.

A few horses stand out.

Zulu comes into the Blue Grass Stakes off a second in the Fountain of Youth to the previously undefeated Mohaymen. If Zulu were to win the Blue Grass Stakes, it would flatter Mohaymen immensely after his loss to Nyquist this past weekend. Zulu has been working well at Palm Beach Downs for his trainer Todd Pletcher. His last three works since the Fountain of Youth have been plain and uneventful, but he is a beautiful mover who seems to move with ease. His latest work was April 2, covering four furlongs in 49 seconds flat, which was the eighth fastest of 17 for the day at that distance.

Cherry Wine has left Hot Springs, Arkansas in an attempt to find a softer spot here. He ran extremely well after being sidelined with a fever and then having to handle traffic in the Rebel Stakes, where he ran right by fifth-place finisher Suddenbreakingnews, who was an impressive winner in the Southwest Stakes.

Cherry Wine has had one work since the Rebel Stakes, at Gulfstream Park, going five furlongs in 1:00.47, which was the third fastest of 19 for the day at the distance. Cherry Wine has a good pedigree for middle and classic distances, but his lack of stakes experience is a negative. With the Kentucky Derby winner likely to come from anywhere this year, given the abundance of talent, Cherry Wine could certainly fly into Kentucky under the radar and be a very good value bet on Derby Day.

The third horse that deserves some attention come Blue Grass day is Brody’s Cause. If you can forgive his seasonal debut at Tampa Bay and remember that his greatest races have come at Keeneland, then he looks like a good bet here. He will be a bit higher priced now that he has shown he may not have made the transition from two to three. However, it could have been the surface at Tampa Bay as well. That surface is known for being quirky and Brody’s Cause may not have been able to get ahold of the track like he needed to. He broke his maiden at Churchill Downs and then came to Keeneland and won the Grade I Breeders’ Futurity over Exaggerator, the only horse to come back and win a graded stakes event out of that race. He was also third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. No horse other than Nyquist has exited that race to win a graded stakes race.

The Blue Grass Stakes is among the final major preps before horses ship to Churchill Downs to train for the biggest race of their young lives. The race is run at 1 1/8 miles over the main dirt track at Keeneland. Post time is 6:00pm on Saturday, April 9, 2016.

Casey Laughter
Casey Laughter has been following horse racing since 2003, when Funny Cide stole her heart and took Louisville by storm. After that, Casey had succumbed to the horse racing bug — and has been unable to shake it after all these years.

Casey has visited tracks in Ohio, Kentucky and New York, covering events from a weekend at Keeneland to the defeat of a Triple Crown winner. As a student, Casey is hoping to break into the racing world with her photos and her writing.

She has a personal blog named A World Full of Furlongs and a photography portfolio on Flickr named Casey Laughter Photography. She also writes for another horse racing website named Lady and the Track.