The 2015 Blue Grass Stakes (G-1) will be contested over dirt for the first time since 2006, writes Laurie Ross, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds.
So, should we toss all of the Polytrack stats?
No, the 1 1/8 mile Blue Grass is a strong prep race no matter the surface, although the winners in the last eight years have done better in the Kentucky Derby than their dirt predecessors did.
Go figure. Let’s take a closer look at this year’s field.
CARPE DIEM (Giant's Causeway - Rebridled Dreams, by Unbridled's Song)
Kicked off his three year old season impressively in the Tampa Bay Derby and should be ready to step up in the Bluegrass.Carpe Diem is a half brother to Dixiana Breeders' Futurity (G-1) hero J. B.'s thunder (by Thunder Gulch) and the English multiple stakes winnerDoncaster Rover (by War Chant).
Carpe Diem’s dam is a stakes placed sprinter and his second dam won two stakes as a juvenile. The Todd Pletcher trainee has put in a series of strong works at Palm Meadows.
Pletcher has won two of the last ten editions of the Blue Grass Stakes, but the last time he took home the trophy was in 2008.
Blue Grass Stakes Upset Chances:
UNRIVALED (Super Saver - Safely, by Unbridled)
Began his career last July in sprints, but it wasn’t until late December when he put it all together, easily out distancing a full field of maidens going a mile at PARX.
Yes, the time was a yawn inducing 1:43.52, however, Unrivaled galloped to a 15 length win, little more than a paid breeze. He won by five lengths against winners in his last start.
So what’s so special about this colt? He’s still a two year old and his pedigree suggests that Unrivaled should improve with maturity and could handle classic distances.
His dam is a full sister to Honest Man, who hit his best stride as a four and five year old, with victories in the Mineshaft Handicap at 1 1/6 miles and the 1 1/8 miles Philip H. Iselin Stakes, both Grade 3 events.Unrivaled’s second dam Oath won the Spinaway (G-1) and she’s a half sister to Champion Juvenile War Pass.
Unrivaled could be one of those colts who is maturing rapidly.
OCHO OCHO OCHO (Street Sense - Winner, by Horse Chestnut (SAF))
Was undefeated in his three starts as a two year old. What happened?
He totally bombed in the San Felipe, where he was in tight and had to steady early, but he dropped out to finish 15 lengths behind Dortmund.
Ocho Ocho Ocho has one of the classiest female families around, carefully cultivated by the Phipps family and Claiborne farm.
Ocho Ocho Ocho’s is a half brother to G-3 stakes placed Private Ensign. The rail is traditionally fast at Keeneland, so look for Ocho Ocho Ocho to rebound.
DANZIG MOON (Malibu Moon - Leaveminthedust, by Danzig)
Is one of those slow-maturing types. He won his maiden by a widening 4 ¾ lengths in his third career start.
Unfortunately, he was left in the dust in the Tampa Bay Derby. Perhaps he didn’t care for the surface.
His dam is a full sister to stakes winner and sire Defer and a half to G-3 stakes winners Philanthropist and Reload. Danzig Moon’s third dam Pure Profit, fourth dam Clear Ceiling and fifth dam Gray Flight are all blue hens.
The promising Mark Casse trainee owns a sharp pre-race breeze and is worth consideration.
Blue Grass Stakes Longshot Chances:
PEPPER ROANI (Broken Vow - Ho Joy, by Silver Ghost)
Gets another shot on dirt after a steady diet of Polytrack starts.
It took him longer time than an unmotivated pizza delivery guy to win his maiden. He finished a distant second in the John Battaglia Memorial and could be on the upswing.
All three of his half siblings are dirt sprinters, so maybe his form will improve over the dirt.
Class is the issue here, as there’s very little black type in his distaff line. His late pace figures are better than a few in here.
FRAMMENTO (Midshipman - Ginger Bay, by Golden Missile)
Is a one run type that passes the slower horses to spoil the superfecta. He added blinkers and had a jock switch to Johnny V. in the Fountain of Youth and finished a distant third.
His pedigree is borderline for 1 1/8 miles and there’s little class in Frammento’s distaff line. Unless Gary Stevens puts this colt into the race earlier, I’ll be looking for him to spoil the superfecta late.
CLASSY CLASS (Discreetly Mine - Collegiate, by Saarland)
Weakened on the pace in the Withers to finish third, beaten 3 ¾ lengths. Then he switched tactics, running from off of the pace in the Gotham to record the same result.
Classy Class’s stakes placed dam is a half sister to a stakes winning turf miler and stakes winning sprinter.
The colt receives stamina attributes through his dam sire, but his sire and distaff line strongly lean towards miler speed.
Classy Class may find 1 1/8 miles beyond his distance range. If he couldn’t beat Grade 3 horses in New York, it’s doubtful he can take on bigger and better at Keeneland.
GORGEOUS BIRD (Unbridled's Song - Elusive Bird, by Elusive Quality)
Improved right up until he faced stakes horses in the Fountain of Youth. He was in the back of the pack and went four wide around the turn in that race, which is the wrong running tactics for Gulfstream Park.
The pretty gray colt is a half brotherto Pow Wow Wow who was third in the 2013 edition of the Forward Gal Stakes (G-2).
Their unraced dam is a daughter of Champion Three Year Old Bird Town, who is a half sister to Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone.Blue Grass Stakes Selections:
Race Keys: With the switch back to dirt, we really don’t know how the surface will shape up.
Traditionally, the rail is very speed favoring and those on the front end tend to stay there.
The last four Bluegrass heroes finished second in their preps, and the last one to enter off of a victory was Dominican back in 2007. Note that he and Carpe Diem have Todd Pletcher in common.
Carpe Diem is the class of the race and it is his to lose.
Unrivaled is a rapidly improving colt and could spring the upset.
Ocho Ocho Ocho and Danzig Moon could bounce back with decent efforts.
Pepper Roani is the only one in the field who finished second in his previous start. Can he upset the field and keep that trend alive?
He may be worth an include on your superfecta tickets.
#5 CARPE DIEM
#1 OCHO OCHO OCHO
#8 DANZIG MOON
Blue Grass Stakes analysis by Laurie Ross