Blue Grass Stakes Handicapping Preview

Blue Grass Field is Strong Led by McCraken and Tapwrit in Top Kentucky Derby Qualifyer

This is the 93rd running of the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) for 3-year-olds at Keeneland on their quest to get into the starting gate on the 1st Saturday in May. This is one of the select races for Churchill Downs tiered point system to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.  The winner of this race will receive 100 points with the next three finishers receiving 40-20-10 points. A small but solid field of 7 is lined up Saturday led by the undefeated Sam F. Davis (G3) winner and morning line favorite McCraken (7/5) and the recent Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner and solid 2nd choice Tapwrit (5/2). These two faced off in the Sam F. Davis and McCraken won easily in record time but the only one gaining on McCraken down the stretch in the race was Tapwrit.

Tapwrit came back in the Tampa Bay Derby to show his closing effort was no fluke as he stalked the pace and made a powerful move on the turn to have the lead at the top of the lane by 3 lengths only to widen it to 4 ½ lengths at the finish line in hand.  One thing to note about this small field today in the Toyota Blue Grass is that is has a huge void of speed entrants or pressers. The trainer of Wild Shot has stated he’s no longer looking to change Wild Shot’s best attribute, which is his speed, and new jockey Corey Lanerie will either send Wild Shot from the break or stalk the California invader Irap if his connections decide to send.  But also note the Irap is shedding the hood for this race, so look for him to stalk the speed from the break and if that happens then Wild Shot will be galloping on the front end and we feel his connections are looking to squeeze the lemon dry today and be all out down the lane to win this race. You could see Wild Shot pass on the Kentucky Derby and recharge for the Preakness at Old Hilltop as well. Also note that McCraken only needs a top 3 finish to secure a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby and Tapwrit with 54 points is basically guaranteed a spot in the starting gate and Todd Pletcher will instruct Jose Ortiz not to fully extend Tapwrit as they’re main goal is the first Saturday in May for the Kentucky Derby.

Two other runners that could very well be primed to show big efforts down the lane are J Boys Echo, who broke his maiden over this main track here at Keeneland in fine fashion. Since that race he’s come back to win the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct and the speed boys assigned him with the current highest Beyer Number for 3 year-olds with a 102. The other colt that should have a big say down the lane is Practical Joke from the Chad Brown barn.  He’s coming in second off the layoff and his 3-year-old debut was in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and he made a huge middle move only to flatten out in the stretch to finish 5 ¾ lengths behind Gunnevera. The only negative on this colt is the so called experts don’t think he can stay 10 furlongs, but we will see on Saturday as he will be much fitter for this run down the lane at Keeneland.

We suggest to make a WPS wager on Wild Shot at inflated odds as he might just get away with an easy lead and gallop home a daylight winner.  Our exacta wager we be as Wild Shot / Practical Joke over McCraken, Tapwrit, & J Boys Echo.

The Toyota Blue Grass is race 10 at Keeneland and has a schedule post time of 6:17 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 8.

Kenny Schmitt contributed to this article. Follow him on Twitter @FBWinners

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