Brian’s Derby Preps: The Blue Grass

Keeneland: The Grade I, $750,000 Blue Grass at 1 1/8 miles

#1 Newsdad (20-1): Solid third in the grassy GIII Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park behind a pair he meets again here, and he’s got the right kind of late running style to handle this course. Keeps improving with each start, there still seems to be plenty of upside in this corner, and he drew well and should be closing late in what rates as a very modest renewal of this Grade I; no reason he can’t shock this group at a big price.

#2 King Congie (5-1): Turf stakes winner has had some health issues this spring and he enters off a DQ win at GP in February, so he’ll need to be sharp and ready to roll to compete in this GI. No knocks on his form, but he’s going to be a relatively short price in a full field while being no faster than about 10 others; siding against.

#3 Santiva (7-2): Sharp second over the track last fall in the GI Breeders’ Futurity while still a maiden and he’s definitely a bigger and stronger horse as a 3yo. Freshened off a big second in the GII Risen Star at Fair Grounds in February, which was the plan all along, and he enters off some sharp works at Palm Meadows. Figures to be right off what is shaping up as a very moderate pace and will loom  large the entire trip; clearly the horse to beat.

#4 Joes Blazing Aaron (12-1): Wired the aforementioned Palm Beach at GP and he projects as the lone speed, which should give him every chance at running a biggie. Never been on the fake stuff, but he’s 2-for-2 since being switched to turf and those types win these races all the time, so he hits hard at a price; catch him to cash.

#5 Brilliant Speed (6-1): Troubled third (DQ’d up to second) behind ‘Congie at GP in February and now enters fresh and looking for his second career win. No knocks and he fits nicely, but he’s going to be a short price in a wide open race off a nine-week layoff, so he’s got some work to do; passing.

#6 Sensational Slam (10-1): Pletcher runner is 2-for-2 over Polytrack and enters off a sharp 6F win in the minor Capossela at Aqueduct to kick off his season, so toss that 10-1 ML you were watering at. The AQU win was his first start since September, and he ran far and away his best race to date, so it appears he grew up quite a bit in the time off, and now that he’s back on a surface he likes, he could be that much tougher; major player.

#7 Twinspired (12-1): Decent third over the Poly at Turfway Park in the GIII Spiral, but he’ll have to do a bit better here to contend. Broke his maiden at first asking over the track, so at least you know he likes it here, but on paper he rates behind several of these; minor award seems to be his ceiling.

#8 Willcox Inn (10-1): Classy runner was third in the Futurity here last fall and then repeated that performance in the GII Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in his next start to end his 2yo campaign. Ran well in a minor FG stakes to kick off his year and should improve with that run under his belt as he looks to break through as a sophomore; contention runs deep.

#9 Wilkinson (6-1): Fast-closing and troubled second sprinting here in his debut last fall and he’s been running well on the main track ever since, including a GIII score in the LeComte at FG in January. Have to believe this is not his preferred surface, but with a GI and some big bucks on the line, it’s definitely worth the shot, but he’s got to prove it before backing at an underlaid price; others rate higher.

#10 Praetereo (15-1): Pletcher’s second runner used blinkers-off to finally get him over the hump in start number six last time going this distance over the main track at GP. Takes a huge step up in class today, but he’ll be a big number and does have a nice closing kick; the price will be right if you’re looking this way.

#11 Crimson China (10-1): Not many hotter than Motion these days and he brings an in-form and talented runner that has run well over synthetics in the past. Major closing kick in this corner and that should work well over this track and distance while also easing the concerns of this outside draw. Enters off a strong second in TP’s Rushaway and if he improves just a pinch, he’ll be tough to deal with; won’t fault anyone looking this way.

#12 Queen’splatekitten (12-1): The third from the Pletcher barn drew poorly and runs the risk of a wide trip entering the first turn, so be careful if you’re looking this way. Son of turf sire Kitten’s Joy has run well in both starts this year, including a big second behind ‘Joes in the Palm Beach, but his name says it all: he’s probably just using this to gear up for a big run in the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine late this spring; playing against.

Selections:

#1 Newsdad

#3 Santiva

#6 Sensational Slam

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