Street Sense, last year’s 2-year-old champion and early favorite for next month’s Run for the Roses, drew post 4 and will face six other 3-year-olds Saturday in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
Keeneland’s handicapper Mike Battaglia set the morning line and made James Tafel’s homebred son of Street Cry the 4-5 favorite. Second choice is J. Paul Reddam’s Great Hunter, who will break from post 7.
The Blue Grass, with an approximate post of 5:46 p.m., will be shown live on ESPN that has devoted an hour, 5-6 p.m. EDT to the race.
“(Trainer Carl) Nafzger told me before the draw ‘I always know I have a good horse when you don’t pick me,’” joked Battaglia, however the oddsmaker had to make Street Sense the favorite off last year’s form and his nose victory over Any Given Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) March 17.
Tuning up for the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass, Street Sense worked five furlongs in 1:04 Tuesday morning at his base of Churchill Downs, but really picked it up later in the drill.
“We were looking for :46 and change (for a half-mile), and I got him going a second slower,” Nafzger said of the work. “We were trying to get him to relax and I told (jockey) Calvin (Borel) to pump him once at the eighth pole. He picked it up good and galloped out.”
Street Sense galloped out six furlongs in a strong 1:15 3/5.
As for his hard-fought nose victory at Tampa Bay Downs, Nafzger said “He got the race he needed.”
Nafzger said he had three factors for running Street Sense in the Blue Grass.
“One thing, I’ve never won the Blue Grass. It’s been on my card to win and I’ve never won it. Second of all, you’re right here. You ship over (from Churchill Downs) and ship back. And thirdly, now we’ve got the Polytrack here and we don’t have to worry about the weather. If we’re going to make it in style, we’ve got to make it here.”
At Keeneland last fall, Street Sense finished third over the Polytrack in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I). The winner that day was Great Hunter.
Great Hunter, who then ran third behind Street Sense and Circular Quay in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita in his lone 3-year-old start.
In that 1 1/16-mile race, the son of Aptitude drew off in the lane to win by 1 ¼ lengths over Sam P. in 1:42.89. Finishing seventh in the Lewis was Tiago, who came back to win the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) last Saturday.
Great Hunter is trained by Doug O’Neill, who also has Notional and Liquidity on the Triple Crown trail.
Co-third choices on Battalgia’s morning line at 8-1 are Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Zanjero and Silverton Hill Farm’s Dominican.
Zanjero hasn’t won since taking an allowance race at Churchill Downs last fall, but has run second or third in three starts since, all in graded stakes company. The late-running colt by Cherokee Run was third last time out in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) March 10.
“He’s matured a lot since November and we knew he was going to come along,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. “He ran well at Churchill in the fall. We had a big meet at Churchill after spending the fall here, so working over the Polytrack has worked out well.”
Zanjero broke his maiden over Keeneland’s new surface last October. For the Blue Grass, he drew the rail.
“He’s had bad trips being wide in big fields,” Blasi noted. “He has a chance to save ground this time around.”
Dominican came from off the pace to run away with the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes last time out over Turfway’s Polytrack surface. Trainer Darrin Miller said the gelding is “a low mover and galloper. He relishes this type of surface.”
Teuflesberg will be making his 15th career start in the Blue Grass for trainer and part owner Jamie Sanders. He ran seventh last year in the Breeders’ Futurity and then broke his maiden at Keeneland Oct. 22. This year, the son of Johannesburg as won the six-furlong Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds and one-mile Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He was third last time out behind Curlin and Officer Rocket in the 8.5-furlong Rebel (gr. III).
“We want the horse to show he belongs here,” Sanders said. “He proved he could go a mile in the Southwest. I think a mile and an eighth won’t be a problem. He loves the Polytrack. If the race sets up, he’ll be right there,”
Outsider Love Dubai will run the Blue Grass off short rest, having finished, ninth in last Saturday’s Illinois Derby (gr. II) while making his U.S. debut. Owned by Ron Peltz’ Equirace.com, Love Dubai won three races over synthetic surfaces in England prior to being purchased to race here. Peltz noted he wanted to run the colt in last month’s Lane’s End, but didn’t get the necessary travel arrangements.
The Blue Grass will be shown from 5:00-6:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. Hosting will be Randy Moss, with analyst Jerry Bailey, reporter Jeannine Edwards and handicapper Hank Goldberg.
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), $750,000, 1 1/18 miles, 3-year-olds, Saturday, April 14, approximate post 5:46 p.m; television: ESPN 5-6 p.m.
PP – Horse – Jockey - ML
1 – Zanjero – Garrett Gomez – 8-1
2 – Dominican – Rafael Bejarano – 10-1
3 – Love Dubai – Miguel Mena – 30-1
4 – Street Sense – Calvin Borel – 4-5
5 – Times Squared – Julien Leparoux – 30-1
6 – Teuflesberg – Edgar Prado – 10-1
7 – Great Hunter – Corey Nakatani – 9-5