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2022 Blue Grass Stakes Contenders & Odds

Smile Happy Heads Field For $1 Million Blue Grass Stakes

Smile Happy (Lucky Seven Stables) is the 9-5 morning-line choice in a field of 12 3-year-olds for the 98th running of the Grade 1, $1 million Blue Grass Stakes going 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Keeneland on Saturday, April 9.

A major steppingstone for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run May 7 at Churchill Downs, the Toyota Blue Grass offers 170 points toward qualification to this year’s Derby on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the first- through fourth-place finishers. The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box.

The Toyota Blue Grass will go as the ninth race on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 5:10 p.m. ET post time. First post time for the card that features five graded stakes is 12:30 p.m.

Entry Horse ML Odds Jockey Trainer
1 Commandperformance 12-1 Irad Ortiz, Jr.
123 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
2 Fenwick 20-1 Paco Lopez
123 Lbs
Kevin McKathan
3 Trademark 30-1 Rafael Bejarano
123 Lbs
Victoria Oliver
4 Zandon 5-2 Flavien Prat
123 Lbs
Chad Brown
5 Volcanic 20-1 Adam Beschizza
123 Lbs
Mark Casse
6 Emmanuel 9-2 Luis Saez
123 Lbs
Todd Pletcher
7 Golden Glider 20-1 Ricardo Santana, Jr.
123 Lbs
Mark Casse
8 Ethereal Road 20-1 Luis Contreras
123 Lbs
D. Lukas
9 Rattle N Roll 8-1 Brian Hernandez, Jr.
123 Lbs
Kenneth McPeek
10 Smile Happy 9-5 Corey Lanerie
123 Lbs
Kenneth McPeek
11 Blackadder 20-1 Florent Geroux
123 Lbs
Rodolphe Brisset
12 Grantham 20-1 Tyler Gaffalione
123 Lbs
Michael Maker

Trained by two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Kenny McPeek, Smile Happy debuted here last Oct. 29 with a 5½-length victory going 1 1/16 miles. Smile Happy followed that score with a 3¼-length victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill.

In his lone start of 2022, Smile Happy finished second behind leading Kentucky Derby contender Epicenter in the Risen Star (G2) Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds on Feb. 19. Corey Lanerie, who has been aboard Smile Happy in his past two races, has the mount Saturday and will break from post position 10.

Lucky Seven and McPeek also will be represented by Rattle N Roll (8-1 fourth choice), winner of last fall’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland.

Seeking to follow on the heels of Essential Quality, who completed a Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity-Toyota Blue Grass double last year, Rattle N Roll finished sixth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 5 and fourth in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 26 at Fair Grounds. Brian Hernandez Jr., who won this race in 2020 with Art Collector, has the mount and will break from post nine.

McPeek’s two Toyota Blue Grass winners are Harlan’s Holiday (2002) and Java’s War (2013).

The second choice at 5-2 on Mike Battaglia’s morning line is Jeff Drown’s Zandon.

Trained by Chad Brown and to be ridden by Flavien Prat, Zandon will be making his first start since finishing third in the Risen Star in his 2022 debut, a half-length back of Smile Happy. Zandon closed 2021 with a narrow defeat in the Remsen (G2). Zandon will break from post four.

Brown will be seeking his second Toyota Blue Grass victory, having scored with Good Magic in 2018.

Third choice on the morning line at 5-1 is WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Emmanuel.

Trained by three-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, Emmanuel won his first two starts and in his most recent outing finished fourth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 5.

Luis Saez has the mount and seeks to join Edgar Prado (2002-2003) as the most recent rider to win the Toyota Blue Grass in consecutive years. Saez won last year on Essential Quality and also won the 2016 renewal on Brody’s Cause.

Emmanuel will break from post six as one of two Pletcher-trained runners in the race.

Also entered Wednesday was Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Commandperformance (12-1), who will break from post one under Irad Ortiz Jr. Commandperformance will attempt to join Irap (2017) as the only maiden to win the Toyota Blue Grass.

Pletcher’s Toyota Blue Grass winners are Bandini (2005), Monba (2008) and Carpe Diem (2015).

Two other trainers will be attempting to add to their Toyota Blue Grass victory total.

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Two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones’ Ethereal Road (15-1), who finished second in the Rebel (G2) on Feb. 26 at Oaklawn Park, an effort that was preceded by a dazzling, last-to-first maiden score on Jan. 29.

Lukas, who won this race in 1987 with War and in 2000 with High Yield, will give Luis Contreras a leg up on Ethereal Road, who will break from post position eight.

Mike Maker, who won the race in 2010 with Stately Victor, will saddle Three Diamonds Farm’s Grantham (15-1). Runner-up in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his most recent start, Grantham will exit post position 12 and be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.

In addition to Saez and Jose Ortiz, Rafael Bejarano will be aiming for an additional victory in the race. Bejarano will be aboard BBN Racing’s Trademark (30-1) for trainer Vicki Oliver and break from post three. Bejarano won the 2007 Toyota Blue Grass aboard Dominican.

The field for the Toyota Blue Grass, with riders and morning line odds from the rail out, is: Commandperformance (Irad Ortiz Jr., 12-1), Fenwick (Paco Lopez, 20-1), Trademark (Rafael Bejarano, 30-1), Zandon (Flavien Prat, 5-2), Volcanic (Adam Beschizza, 20-1), Emmanuel (Luis Saez, 5-1), Golden Glider (Ricardo Santana Jr., 20-1), Ethereal Road (Luis Contreras, 15-1), Rattle N Roll (Brian Hernandez Jr., 8-1), Smile Happy (Corey Lanerie, 9-5), Blackadder (Florent Geroux, 20-1) and Grantham (Tyler Gaffalione, 15-1). All starters will carry 123 pounds.

TOYOTA BLUE GRASS POST POSITION DRAW QUOTES

Kenny McPeek, trainer of Smile Happy (post 10; Corey Lanerie to ride) and Rattle N Roll (post 9; Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride)

“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. 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).”

Rodolphe Brisset, trainer of Blackadder (post 11; Florent Geroux to ride)

“The 12 (post) would have been worse. Nothing we can do about it.”

Mark Casse, trainer of Golden Glider (post 7; Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride) and Volcanic (post 5; Adam Beschizza to ride)

Regarding both posts: “Beautiful.”

“It made sense to give Volcanic a little more time after (finishing third) in the Sam F. Davis (G3) (on Feb. 12). I thought the Blue Grass would suit him. He has some (early) speed and we have a good post. Kind of the same thing for Golden Glider. I thought about splitting them up (to separate races) but the nice thing about the Blue Grass is that if they run well, we are already in Kentucky so there is less shipping.”

Mike Maker, trainer of Grantham (post 12; Tyler Gaffalione to ride)

“I guess it’s better than the 15. That’s pretty much all you can do (is work out a trip).”

Kevin McKathan, trainer of Fenwick (post 2; Paco Lopez to ride)

“It is perfect. He is going to go the front and that’s why the draw was important.”

Vicki Oliver, trainer of Trademark (post 3; Rafael Bejarano to ride)

“It’s not bad. He’s got a lot of early speed. I would have liked to be a little further out in case (he misses) the break. I don’t think the 3 hole is too bad.”

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Pre-Draw News

Quartet Tunes Up for Possible Toyota Blue Grass Bids

APRIL 3 – Four horses expected to be entered on Wednesday for Saturday’s 98th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) put in works over a fast Keeneland main track Sunday morning.

Trainer Mark Casse was represented by the first two Toyota Blue Grass workers of the morning with Volcanic covering the half-mile in :51.40 when the track opened at 5:30 a.m. and Golden Glider following an hour later in :49.40 for the same distance. Jockey Declan Carroll was aboard for both works.

“I was very pleased with both of them,” said David Carroll, assistant to Casse. “They both got here Friday from Ocala and galloped yesterday. I just wanted to let them get a feel for the track.”

Both colts have returned to Keeneland, where they trained here last spring before making their racing debuts.

For Breeze Easy’s Volcanic, Sunday’s work was his fifth since a third-place finish in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 12. Adam Beschizza is scheduled to ride Saturday.

Conrad Farms’ Golden Glider had his second work since finishing fourth in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 12. Clockers caught Golden Glider in fractions of :12.40, :25, :49.40 with an out time for 1:02.40 for five-eighths and 1:16.60 for three-quarters. Ricardo Santana Jr. has the Toyota Blue Grass mount, according to Carroll.

Next at 7:30 a.m. after the first renovation break was Three Diamonds Farm’s Grantham, who worked a half-mile in company with an unraced 3-year-old in :48.60 for trainer Mike Maker.

“I thought he worked well,” Maker said of Grantham, who arrived here a couple of days ago from Gulfstream Park.

Second in the Tampa Bay Derby, Grantham will be ridden in the Toyota Blue Grass by Tyler Gaffalione, Maker said.

Following the second renovation break at 9 a.m., El Camino Real Derby (L) winner Blackadder worked 5 furlongs in company with the 5-year-old allowance winner Cibolian in 1:02.80 with Adam Beschizza aboard for trainer Rodolphe Brisset.

The work was the second at Keeneland for Blackadder after being transferred to Brisset. “He did what we wanted, and hopefully it sets him up for Saturday,” said Brisset’s wife, Brooke, who supervised the work.

Brisset is scheduled to return to Lexington Sunday afternoon following the victory by Yuugiri in Saturday’s Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn Park.

Keeneland’s $1 Million, Grade 1 Blue Grass Attracts 121 Nominees

Keeneland’s $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G1), which will be run for the 98th time on April 9, opening Saturday of Keeneland’s 15-day Spring Meet, has attracted 121 nominees led by Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter and Lucky Seven Stable’s Smile Happy, the 1-2 finishers in last Saturday’s Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds and the top two point earners on the 2022 Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1).

The Toyota Blue Grass, Keeneland’s signature race and a key Triple Crown prep, features two exciting enhancements this year: The race has been reinstated as a Grade 1 event, and the purse has returned to the $1 million it offered from 2015-2019.

“The Grade 1 status and $1 million purse of the Toyota Blue Grass reaffirm the stature of this historic event on the spring racing calendar,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing Gatewood Bell said. “Keeneland Racecourse is appreciative of all the horsemen for their interest in nominating to the Toyota Blue Grass, which anchors a fantastic three-day opening weekend of our Spring Meet.”

The 1 1/8-mile Toyota Blue Grass is one of the nation’s most prominent steppingstones to the first leg of the Triple Crown, the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 7 at Churchill Downs. The winner of the Toyota Blue Grass earns 100 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, while the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers receive 40 points, 20 points and 10 points, respectively.

Captured last year by multiple champion and Belmont (G1) winner Essential Quality, the Toyota Blue Grass is one of five graded stakes worth a combined $2,550,000 to be run April 9 on Keeneland’s 11-race card, which has a special first post of 12:30 p.m. Other stakes that day are the $500,000 Madison (G1) for fillies and mares at 7 furlongs on the dirt; $400,000 Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association for 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile on the turf; $350,000 Shakertown (G2) for 3-year-olds and up at 5½ furlongs on the turf and $300,000 Commonwealth (G3) for older horses at 7 furlongs on the dirt.

Keeneland will offer a $500,000 All-Stakes Pick 4 and a $500,000 All Stakes Pick 5.

The Toyota Blue Grass is the ninth race with a 5:10 p.m. post. NBC will televise the race along with the Wood Memorial (G2) Presented by Resorts World Casino from Aqueduct and Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) from 4:30-6 p.m.

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The card formerly included the Central Bank Ashland (G1), a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies. Worth a stakes record $600,000 this year, the Central Bank Ashland has moved to Friday, April 8, opening day of the season.

Epicenter, trained by Steve Asmussen, has won three of five career starts highlighted by a front-running 2¾-length victory in the Risen Star. The performance by the son of Not This Time, purchased at Keeneland’s 2020 September Yearling Sale, put him atop the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 64 points.

Smile Happy, trained by two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Kenny McPeek, made his 2022 debut in the Risen Star after concluding a 2-for-2 campaign in 2021 with a 3¼-length victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in November at Churchill. The Runhappy colt sold as a weanling at Keeneland’s 2019 November Breeding Stock Sale and won his career debut here last October during the Fall Meet by 5½ lengths.

Epicenter and Smile Happy lead the 18 horses who are among the top 20 horses on the Derby leaderboard nominated to the Toyota Blue Grass.

Third on the leaderboard is Kentucky West Racing and Clarke M. Cooper’s Classic Causeway. From the final crop of Giant’s Causeway, Classic Causeway won the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 12 in his 2022 debut. He ended 2021 with a runner-up finish to Smile Happy in the Kentucky Jockey Club for trainer Brian Lynch.

Other Toyota Blue Grass nominees on the leaderboard include Rustlewood Farm’s Pappacap (4), runner-up in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance; Jeff Drown’s Zandon (5), third in the Risen Star and runner-up in the Remsen (G2); C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable’s White Abarrio (6), winner of the Holy Bull (G3); Donegal Racing’s Mo Donegal (7), winner of the Remsen; Lucky Seven Stable’s Rattle N Roll (8), winner of the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland last fall; Klaravich Stables’ Early Voting (14), winner of the Withers (G3), and Peter L. Cantrell’s Call Me Midnight (15), winner of the Lecomte (G3) over Epicenter.

Additional notable horses nominated to the Toyota Blue Grass are three runners from trainer Todd Pletcher, a three-time winner of the race: Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Commandperformance, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and runner-up in the Champagne (G1), WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s undefeated Major General and Sumaya U. S. Stables’ Pioneer of Medina, fourth in the Risen Star.

Pletcher conditions 23 horses nominated to the Toyota Blue Grass to lead trainers. Chad Brown is second with 13 nominees, including Early Voting and Zandon.

The late nomination period for the Toyota Blue Grass closes Wednesday, March 23.

Post positions for the Toyota Blue Grass and the other April 9 races will be drawn Wednesday, April 6.

Blue Grass Stakes Elevated to Grade 1 Status

JAN 28 – Keeneland’s $1 million Blue Grass Stakes has been elevated to Grade 1 status for the 2022 Spring Meet, as announced today by the American Graded Stakes Committee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

The Toyota Blue Grass, which celebrates its 98th running on Saturday, April 9, is a premier 3-year-old prep worth 170 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1), including 100 qualifying points to the winner. The race had been a Grade 2 stakes since 2017.

In recent years, the Toyota Blue Grass has been won by juvenile champions Essential Quality (2021) and Good Magic (2018) and by Grade 1 winners and millionaires Vekoma (2019) and Art Collector (2020).

The early nomination deadline for the Toyota Blue Grass is Feb. 19.

“We are thrilled that the Toyota Blue Grass has been restored to Grade 1 status,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing Gatewood Bell said. “This is a goal we’ve worked toward for several years, and we couldn’t be happier for our fans, our horsemen and our sponsor, Toyota. We thank them all for their loyal support of Keeneland’s racing program, and we look forward to the Spring Meet with even more anticipation.”

Four other Keeneland stakes also received upgrades.

Two Fall Meet stakes for 3-year-olds were elevated: the Bryan Station, held at 1 mile on the grass, was promoted to Grade 3 status, while the Perryville at 7 furlongs became a Listed stakes.

Keeneland ran the Bryan Station from 1993-2009 and revived the race as a 1 1/8-mile stakes on the turf for 3-year-olds in 2015 and 2020 as part of the undercard of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships The Perryville was held from 1999-2009 at about 7 furlongs and in 2015 and 2020 was a 6-furlong event, also part of the Breeders’ Cup undercard.

Two Spring Meet stakes, the $200,000 Palisades and $200,000 TVG Limestone, were promoted to Listed status. Both stakes are for 3-year-olds at 5½ furlongs on the grass. The Palisades is scheduled for Sunday, April 10; the TVG Limestone, for fillies, will be held Friday, April 15.

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