Smile Happy was installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland.
The Blue Grass is a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race with 100-40-20-10 points up for grabs for the field of 12.
The Ken McPeek trained Smile Happy made a good late rally to finish in the runner up spot in the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds in his last outing on Feb. 19. Jockey Corey Lanerie has the return call and will break from the 10 post.
Favorites have fared well in recent years in the race, winning three of the last four editions including Essential Quality last year, who went on to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby.
The Blue Grass has produced 23 Kentucky Derby winners, but the last Derby winner to prep in the race was Street Sense in 2007.
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In the last five runnings of the Blue Grass, 17 went on to run in the Kentucky Derby and only Good Magic was able to crack the exacta, the runner up in 2018.
McPeek will also saddle Rattle N Roll (6-1), who was fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2) in his most recent start. He breaks from the nine post with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons.
“The draw is fine for both. We will have to take the overland route. It was a last-minute decision to run Rattle N Roll,” McPeek said. “He has been training real well the past two days and he won a Grade 1 (here) last fall. I think he will like an off track and I want to run him in the mud. I also think he will like a mile and an eighth better than the mile and sixteenth (of the Stonestreet Lexington-G3 next weekend).”
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The Chad Brown trained Zandon is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line. The colt was third in the Risen Star, a half-length behind the runner up Smile Happy. Flavien Prat will ride the son of Upstart for the first time.
The Blue Grass is one of five stakes on an outstanding betting card. The other stakes are the $400,000 Appalachian (G2), the $300,000 Commonwealth (G3), $500,000 Madison (G1) and the $350,000 Shakertown (G2).
Eight Go in Wood Memorial at Aqueduct
A pair of undefeated colts will square off in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct with 100-40-20-10 Road to the Kentucky Derby points up for grabs.
The Chad Brown trained Early Voting is perfect in two starts, winning the Withers (G3) over the Aqueduct main track on Feb. 5. Jose Ortiz will be in the saddle for Brown.
“He went first time around two turns and he passed the test well,” Brown said of the Withers effort. “He definitely gained experience and he appears to be training well. He prefers to be forwardly placed, so hopefully he’ll be there again.”
Morello is undefeated in three starts, winning the Gotham (G3) at the Big A going a one turn mile on March 5. The Steve Asmussen trainee has won his three starts by a combined 13 ¾ lengths.
Jose Lezcano will be aboard this son of Classic Empire.
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out a pair of contenders in Holy Bull (G3) third place finisher Mo Donegal and Gotham third place finisher Golden Code.