Big Bazinga's morning work at Keeneland April 6.

Big Bazinga's morning work at Keeneland April 6.

Keeneland Photo

Blue Grass Contenders in Keeneland Workouts

Big Bazinga, Extrasexyhippzster each drill half mile Sunday; Mr Speaker possible.

Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) contenders Big Bazinga and Extrasexyhippzster were out at Keeneland April 6 for morning workouts as they prepare for the upcoming race.

The $750,000 Blue Grass, at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds over Keeneland's Polytrack, will be contested April 12. It is one of two final major prep races for this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), along with the $1 million Arkansas Derby (gr. II) on the same day.

At 9 a.m. Sunday, Derby Dreamers Racing Stable's Big Bazinga worked four furlongs in :47 3/5 with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard. The breeze was the eighth quickest of 63 at the distance on a busy morning at the Lexington track.

"I just told (Hernandez) to do a nice maintenance work," trainer Katerina Vassilieva said. "He's a pretty good work horse. He'll just kind of naturally do it on his own; he doesn't need to be asked. (I wanted him) just to finish off stronger than the first part and gallop out strongly, which he did. He loves the Polytrack, and he traveled really well over it today. I'm really pleased with him."

Vassilieva said Big Bazinga's earlier success on Polytrack was key to making the Blue Grass a target. The Bluegrass Cat  gelding, a Keeneland sales graduate, opened his career last September at Woodbine, winning his first race over the surface and next finishing second in the Grey Stakes (Can-III). He returned to Polytrack in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral (gr. III) at Turfway Park in his third start as a 3-year-old March 22, and was beaten by 2 1/2 lengths in finishing fifth.

"He ran really well in the Spiral, so we thought this was the logical next spot for him," Vassilieva said.

Vassilieva's assistant, Amber Mayers, and Big Bazinga arrived at Keeneland a few days after the Spiral.

"(Mayers) says he's training brilliantly, better than she's ever seen," Vassilieva said. "He seems happy. He's traveling over the surface really well. It's a surface he already knows and likes, so I think he's in good shape."

Hernandez will ride Big Bazinga Saturday. The dark bay has a win and two seconds in six lifetime starts.

Kirwan Equine Group and Ed Hipps' Extrasexyhippzster completed his major work for the Blue Grass with a sharp half-mile in company in :46 flat, handily, before the morning renovation break.

With Stewart Elliott up, Extrasexyhippzster posted fractions of :11 2/5 and :22 2/5, and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 3/5. Extraasexyhippzster started even with workmate Allwewantforxmas and finished two lengths in front.

"I thought it was a good work and Stewart liked it," trainer Michael Trombetta said. "Allwewantforxmas is going to run in the Giant's Causeway (April 19)."

The work was the second at Keeneland for Extrasexyhippzster, who breezed five furlongs in 1:00 a week earlier. His latest work was the second swiftest on the morning.

The Pennsylvania-bred son of Stroll  never has raced on Polytrack, but he has all-weather track experience.

"He has trained on the synthetic at Fair Hill (training center)," Trombetta said. "But it is hard to tell how they will do on it until they race on it."

Julien Pimentel, who has ridden the colt in his past four starts, will have the assignment in the Blue Grass.

Winner of the Miracle Wood at Laurel Park in January, Extrasexyhippzster comes into the race off an eighth-place showing in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) March 1 on the inner track at Aqueduct Racetrack. Last early after brushing at the start, he rallied on the fat turn while wide and weakened in the stretch.

Also working toward possible Toyota Blue Grass starts Sunday morning at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida were four horses for trainer Todd Pletcher, each going a half-mile. Comprising the quartet were Danza  (:49.05), Divine Oath (:50.60), Gala Award (:49.25), and Vinceremos (:49.25).

Back at Keeneland was Blue Grass candidate Mr Speaker , winner of the Dania Beach (gr. IIIT) and runner-up in the Palm Beach (gr. IIIT) on the turf at Gulfstream Park. Working on his own, the Pulpit colt covered a half-mile in :46 1/5 and galloped out five furlongs in :59 3/5.

"He worked a little faster than I wanted," trainer Shug McGaughey said. "I am still on the fence about the Blue Grass. I do not want to run him in a big field, but I have not eliminated it yet."