Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) winner Odysseus will likely make his final start before the Kentucky Derby in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) April 10 at Keeneland, owner Satish Sanan said March 26.
A son of Malibu Moon trained by Tom Albertrani, Odysseus won the March 13 Tampa Bay Derby by a nose over Schoolyard Dreams during a furious finish to remain undefeated in three starts this year. The chestnut colt had his first work since that race on March 25 at Palm Meadows, covering five furlongs in 1:03.
Sanan, who races his horses in the name of Padua Stables, said there are many factors that have his team leaning toward the Blue Grass instead of the Arkansas Derby (gr. I), which they are also considering. The Arkansas Derby is also run on April 10, at Oaklawn Park.
“I know the horse hasn’t raced on synthetics, but he worked fine over it when we bought him (at Ocala last year),” Sanan said. “When you run (at Keeneland), it is only a sixteenth of a mile in the stretch too. When you look at it, he doesn’t need to win the race; just has to run something like second, third, or fourth, and get good experience.
“Second, he has the tendency to get warm before the race. Having been to Oaklawn many times, they saddle horses in the basement where it is low and dark. (At Keeneland) he can be under clouds and hopefully cooler weather. Plus, he needs the experience of the crowd around the paddock.
“Finally, Tom is concerned with shipping him twice (before the Kentucky Derby). This way, he will already be in Kentucky.
“When you take all these things into consideration, it makes more sense. But we’ll make our final decision after he has his next work.”
Albertrani and Sanan had considered training Odysseus up to the May 1 classic after he won the Tampa Bay Derby, but after giving it more thought they decided the lightly-raced horse needs another prep. Odysseus has raced only four times in his career, never having gone beyond 1 1/16 miles. The Blue Grass is at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack.
“I thought seven weeks off was too long,” Sanan said. “And going from a mile and sixteenth to a mile and quarter—nobody has ever done that (successfully).”
Odysseus, bred in Kentucky by Haymarket Farm and Lakemont Stable, is out of the Conquistador Cielo mare Persimmon Hill. He has $180,000 in graded earnings, all from the Tampa Bay Derby.
So far, the top 3-year-olds pointing to the Blue Grass are both trained by Todd Pletcher—Interactif and Aikenite. Interactif is a two-time graded stakes winner on turf and most recently was runner-up in the San Felipe (gr. II) March 13 on the Pro-Ride surface. Aikenite placed in a pair of grade I races as a juvenile and was third in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) Feb. 20 at Gulfstream Park.
Make Music for Me, winner of the March 6 Pasadena Stakes at Santa Anita, is also pointing toward the Blue Grass.