WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stable's Carpe Diem , the even-money morning-line favorite in the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 4 at Keeneland, arrived at the Lexington oval the evening of March 31 and galloped around the main track the morning of April 1. Trained by two-time Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, the Giant's Causeway colt hit the track soon after it opened under exercise rider Patti Krotenko.
"It was a nice and easy gallop," assistant trainer Dermott Magnier said. "He went about a mile and a half."
Carpe Diem enters the Toyota Blue Grass with three wins in four starts, including Keeneland's Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) in October. He was second in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), and then kicked off his sophomore campaign in Florida by winning the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) by five lengths.
With a win Saturday, Carpe Diem would become the third horse to sweep the Blue Grass and the Breeders' Futurity (gr. I). The others are Round Table (1956-1957) and Dullahan (2011-2012).
In other Toyota Blue Grass activity on Wednesday morning, DP Racing's Ocho Ocho Ocho, who arrived Tuesday, jogged under exercise rider Matt Williams for trainer Jim Cassidy, who is set to arrive at Keeneland around midnight Wednesday evening.
"He just jogged today," Cassidy said. "I'll probably gallop him the next two days into the race."
The Toyota Blue Grass will be the second race of the year for Ocho Ocho Ocho, a son of Street Sense who was eighth behind Dortmund in the San Felipe (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park on March 7. In three starts at two, the Keeneland sales alumni won two stakes, including the Delta Jackpot (gr. III) at Delta Downs on Nov. 22.
Marylou Whitney's Gorgeous Bird galloped a little more than a mile and a quarter before the renovation break with exercise rider Yoni Orantes up.
Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount Saturday.
Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable's Pepper Roani remains in Louisville at Churchill Downs' Trackside Training Center with trainer Mike Maker. On Wednesday morning, the Broken Vow colt galloped a mile. He is expected to do the same on Thursday morning, according to Maker, and then ship to Keeneland with an expected arrival time of noon.
A Keeneland sales graduate, Pepper Roani exits a runner-up effort in the John Battaglia Stakes at Turfway Park. He has raced on Polytrack or turf in six of his seven lifetime starts. The colt's lone dirt try came in his second outing Nov. 6, when he finished eighth in a Churchill maiden event.
"We tried to run him in the Spiral (Stakes, grade II, at Turfway Park on March 21) and were excluded," Maker said. "He's a late-developing 3-year-old who keeps improving, so it's worth it to take a chance and try to get a piece."
Team Valor International's Unrivaled arrived at Keeneland at 4 a.m. Wednesday after a van ride from Maryland, where he has been stabled at the Fair Hill Training Center. At Keeneland last October, his Parx Racing-based trainer, Marya (pronounced "Mariah") Montoya, claimed Unrivaled for $30,000 for David Wright's Waldorf Racing Stables. The colt by Super Saver had entered the race owned by his breeder, WinStar Farm.
"We've been trying to get better-quality horses," Montoya said about her and Wright's strategy. "We go to a lot of horses of racing age sales; get outbid on a lot of horses. With Keeneland switching (back) to dirt (for the 2014 Fall Meet), I thought we could get some really nice horses (out of the claiming ranks). We liked the WinStar horse; we know they're trying to make the stallion, Super Saver.
"(Unrivaled's) form was OK. It wasn't spectacular. I liked that he was out of the Unbridled mare. We had two horses picked out and decided to go with the better-bred horse."
Unrivaled was second in that Keeneland race, nosed out for the win after recovering from a blown start. That performance foreshadowed what Montoya described as "quirks." Back at Parx, Unrivaled ran second in a maiden race Dec. 9.
"There was a time that we thought we had a horse who could run but wasn't worth anything because we couldn't overcome the gate," said Montoya, whose late father was leading Pennsylvania trainer Dennis "Goose" Heimer. "Now he's broken three times perfect."
Helping to solve Unrivaled's gate issues was Montoya's husband, Ross, who works on the Parx starting gate and accompanied his wife to Keeneland for the Toyota Blue Grass.
On Dec. 23 in his next race—his fifth career start—Unrivaled broke his maiden by 15 lengths. Enter Team Valor, which purchased the colt. On March 15 for his new owner, Unrivaled won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Parx by five lengths.
Back at Keeneland on Wednesday morning, Unrivaled walked the shedrow. He is to make his first appearance on the track Thursday, April 2, with Ross Montoya aboard. The colt will become Marya Montoya's first starter at Keeneland.
"It's very, very exciting," she said. "I don't think it's completely sunk in yet."
Arriving from South Florida yesterday afternoon was Frammento, who was accompanied on the flight by trainer Nick Zito.
"You know I am big into superstition," Zito said. "On the flight yesterday, one guy said that he drove the Sallee van that took Sun King to the Tampa Bay Derby (in 2005) which he won and another guy said his mom had bought some shoes from Strike the Gold that a trainer had had in a trunk. Then they tell me that Frammento was in the same stall on the plane that California Chrome had last year when he flew to Kentucky.
"So it was a good flight."
In Frammento, Zito sees a lot of similarities to Strike the Gold, the first of Zito's three Toyota Blue Grass winners.
"I am really happy with his demeanor," Zito said about the Midshipman colt. "He has been getting a lot of attention from people and he knows he is the star of the show and he reminds me of Strike the Gold when he was here."
With exercise rider Juan Bernardini up, Frammento visited the Paddock and galloped 11/2 miles after the renovation break. Zito indicated Frammento may go to the starting gate in the morning.
Frammento broke his maiden in his second career start that came at Keeneland in October and enters the race off a third-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (gr. III) on Feb. 21.
"He is a ready horse and for this he has to be ready," Zito said. "His third in the Fountain of Youth was amazing to close that much ground on that track. A lot of people are really happy with a win and that's how we were for finishing third."
Zito opted to skip last weekend's Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) to run here.
"That was kind of the plan all along from last fall, knowing that he liked this track," Zito said. "(Owner) Nena (Moss) and I were thinking along the same line, plus this gives us an extra week."
Gary Stevens, who won the 1998 Toyota Blue Grass on Halory Hunter for Zito, has the mount on Frammento Saturday.
Classy Class worked four furlongs in :48.59 at Belmont Park on March 28 and arrived at Keeneland early Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, "We just did our regular gallop," assistant Austin Luttrell said. "This is obviously his first time at Keeneland, so we're trying to get him used to everything. He was looking around a lot. He went very well. Roger (Horgan, the exercise rider) said he felt very well, so we're excited."
In the Toyota Blue Grass, Cheyenne Stable's Classy Class will be ridden by Junior Alvarado, who was aboard for a third-place finish in the Gotham (gr. III) for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
"Love the post position (7)," Luttrell said. "Other than Carpe Diem, it's a pretty wide-open field. I hope we get lucky and have a good trip and we'll be right up there. Junior knows the horse. We have a very smart, a very consistent jockey, and he gets along well with the horse.
"He's a very honest runner," Luttrell said of the son of Discreetly Mine. "We know exactly what we have before every race."
John Oxley's Danzig Moon galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Jason Hoyte before the morning renovation break. The Malibu Moon colt arrived at Keeneland Tuesday afternoon from South Florida.
"He shipped fine; no problems," said Sarah Campion, assistant to trainer Mark Casse. "He will gallop up to the race. He stood in the gate yesterday at Palm Meadows and he may walk through the paddock once here."
Danzig Moon, who began his racing career at Keeneland last fall, will be ridden Saturday by Julien Leparoux.