Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s Tapit Trice is the 5-2 morning line choice in a field of 11 3-year-olds entered Wednesday for Saturday’s 99th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) going 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
A major test for 3-year-olds and a steppingstone for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run May 6 at Churchill Downs, the Toyota Blue Grass offers 200 points toward qualification to this year’s Derby on a 100-40-30-20-10 scale to the first- through fifth-place finishers. The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners and invitees that pass the entry box.
The Toyota Blue Grass will go as the ninth race on Saturday’s 11-race program at Keeneland with a 5:15 p.m. ET post time. First post time for the card that features five graded stakes is 12:30 p.m.
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Trained by three-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, Tapit Trice brings a three-race win streak into Saturday’s race highlighted by a 2-length victory as the 1-2 favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) on March 11.
Tapit Trice Wins Tampa Bay Derby
Luis Saez, a Toyota Blue Grass winner with Brody’s Cause in 2016 and Essential Quality in 2021, has the mount on Tapit Trice and will break from post position one.
Pletcher’s Toyota Blue Grass winners are Bandini (2005), Monba (2008) and Carpe Diem (2015).
The second choice on the morning line set by Nick Tammaro at 3-1 is Westerberg Limited, Mrs. John Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s Verifying.
Trained by Brad Cox, who won this race in 2021 with Essential Quality, Verifying is a winner of two of five starts and finished second to Blazing Sevens in the Champagne (G1). In his most recent start, Verifying was fourth in the Rebel (G2) that was run over a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 25.
Tyler Gaffalione has the mount on Verifying and will break from post position three.
Andrew and Rania Warren’s Gotham (G3) winner Raise Cain is the third choice on the morning line at 9-2.
The Blue Grass Field
Trained by Ben Colebrook, Raise Cain won the Gotham by 7½ lengths in what was his graded stakes debut. Raise Cain, a maiden winner here last fall, was third in the Bowman Mill here and then runner-up in the Gun Runner at Fair Grounds to close his 2022 campaign.
Joel Rosario, who won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2011 on Brilliant Speed has the mount on Raise Cain and will break from post 10.
Colebrook will send out a second runner for the Warrens in Scoobie Quando (15-1). Scoobie Quando was runner-up in the John Battaglia Memorial (L) at Turfway Park on March 4 in his most recent start.
Luan Machado has the mount on Scoobie Quando and will exit post position six.
Brown Saddles Blazing Sevens
The fourth choice at 6-1 on the morning line is Rodeo Creek Racing’s Blazing Sevens.
Trained by Chad Brown, who won the Toyota Blue Grass last year with Zandon, Blazing Sevens won the Champagne last fall and completed his 2022 campaign with a fourth-place finish in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance here.
Blazing Sevens finished eighth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in his lone 2022 start. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount Saturday and will break from post position eight.
Brown, who also won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2018 with Good Magic, is seeking to become the fourth trainer to win the race in consecutive years and the first since LeRoy Jolley in 1976-1977.
In addition to Pletcher, Brown and Cox, two other trainers will be seeking to add to their Toyota Blue Grass victory totals.
Kenny McPeek, who won the race in 2002 with Harlan’s Holiday and in 2013 with Java’s War, will send out three runners.
Leading the McPeek contingent is R.T. Racing Stable and Cypress Creek Equine’s Sun Thunder (10-1) enters Saturday’s race off a fifth-place finish in the March 25 Twinspires Louisiana Derby (G2). Prior to that effort, Sun Thunder finished second in the Risen Star presented by Lamarque Lincoln and Lamarque Crescent City Ford (G2).
Florent Geroux has the mount on Sun Thunder and will break from post position seven.
McPeek also will send out Dixiana Farms’ homebred Hayes Strike (15-1). Two-time graded-stakes placed, Hayes Strike enters Saturday’s race off a victory in the Private Terms at Laurel on March 18. James Graham has the mount and will break from post position five.
McPeek’s third entrant is Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables and Team Stallion’s Mendelssohns March (20-1), who will be making his stakes debut. Undefeated in two starts, Mendelssohns March will break from post position 11 and be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., who won this race in 2020 with Art Collector.
Lukas Looks for Third Blue Grass Win
Two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Major Blue (30-1) for his wife Laurie and Bob and Ann Ghent. A two-time winner last month at Oaklawn Park, Major Blue will be ridden by David Cabrera and break from post position nine.
One other rider will be seeking to add to his win total in the race: Javier Castellano, who won the 2019 edition of the Toyota Blue Grass on Vekoma. He has the call Saturday on Gary Barber’s Classic Car Wash (12-1).
Trained by Mark Casse, Classic Car Wash was runner-up to Tapit Trice in the Tampa Bay Derby and prior to that third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Classic Car Wash will break from post four.
The field for the Toyota Blue Grass, with riders and morning line odds from the rail out, is: Tapit Trice (Saez, 5-2), Clear the Air (Ricardo Santana Jr., 30-1), Verifying (Gaffalione, 3-1), Classic Car Wash (Castellano, 12-1), Hayes Strike (Graham, 15-1), Scoobie Quando (Machado, 15-1), Sun Thunder (Geroux, 10-1), Blazing Sevens (Ortiz Jr., 6-1), Major Blue (Cabrera, 30-1), Raise Cain (Rosario, 9-2), Mendelssohns March (Hernandez Jr., 20-1). All starters will carry 123 pounds.