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Skip Dickstein

Uncle Mo, Soldat Among Blue Grass Nominees

Kathmanblu is among the 107 fillies nominated to the Ashland (gr. I).

Many of the nation’s talented 3-year-olds, including champion Uncle Mo , Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (gr. II) winner Soldat , San Vicente (gr. II) winner The Factor , and Holy Bull (gr. III) winner Dialed In , are among the 162 horses nominated to Keeneland’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) slated for Saturday, April 16.

The 2011 spring race meeting, to be held April 8-29, will kick off the year-long celebration of Keeneland’s 75th anniversary.

Mike Repole Stable’s 2-year-old champion and Derby favorite Uncle Mo heads this year’s Toyota Blue Grass nominees. The son of Indian Charlie earned an Eclipse Award and Experimental Free Handicap high weight following an undefeated season in 2010 highlighted by wins in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) and Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I).

Eclipse Award-winning trainers Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert are each represented by 14 Toyota Blue Grass nominees. Uncle Mo and grade I-placed Stay Thirsty , along with WinStar Farm’s Sam F. Davis (gr. III) winner Brethren , highlight the Pletcher contingent, while Fog City Stable and George Bolton’s San Vicente winner The Factor leads the Baffert nominees.

Two Toyota Blue Grass nominees were impressive stakes winners Feb. 26 at Gulfstream. Harvey Clarke, Craig Robertson III, Paul Braverman & Namcook Stable’s Soldat stamped himself as a leading Derby contender with a wire-to-wire, two-length win in the Fountain of Youth, while Peachtree Stable’s Flashpoint dominated the Hutcheson (gr. II) field by 7 1/4 lengths.

“This is an exciting crop of 3-year-olds, and we are very pleased to have so many of the top Kentucky Derby contenders nominated to the Toyota Blue Grass,” said W. Rogers Beasley, Keeneland’s vice president of racing, in a release. “We thank our horsemen for their support, and look forward to a spectacular spring meeting.”

Among other prominent Triple Crown contenders nominated to the Toyota Blue Grass are: Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In, winner of the Holy Bull; Robert Yagos’ Archarcharch and Gem Inc’s J P's Gusto, first and second, respectively, in the Southwest (gr. III); Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team One Racing Stable’s Mucho Macho Man , winner of the Risen Star (gr. II); Michael Ryan’s Silver Medallion, winner of the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III); and Batman Stable, M. Hanna, Philip Lebherz, Cindy Olsen, Janet Sharp and Glen Wallace’s Sway Away, second in the San Vicente.

Held three weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass was first held at the old Kentucky Association track in Lexington from 1911-14 and from 1919-26, and revived by Keeneland in the spring of 1937, one year after its opening. In all, 23 horses–four at the Kentucky Association track and 19 at Keeneland–have used the Blue Grass as a path to victory in the Derby; most recently champion Street Sense  in 2007.

A complete list of 2011 Toyota Blue Grass nominees and past performances for each horse is available at www.keeneland.com. Fans can find more information at www.toyotabluegrassstakes.com, which features Blue Grass race charts, history and statistical data, vintage photos and videos.

In other Keeneland racing news, graded stakes winners Kathmanblu, R Heat Lightning, and Zazu are among the 107 accomplished 3-year-old fillies nominated to Keeneland’s April 9 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I).

Contested at 1 1/16 miles, the Ashland is the first of four grade I stakes during Keeneland’s spring race meeting.

The Ashland has traditionally been a premier prep for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Since 1936, 31 fillies have used the Ashland as a steppingstone to victory in the Oaks; including three this past decade: Ashado (2004), Summerly (2005) and Proud Spell (2008). Last year, in a thrilling stretch run, Ashland winner Evening Jewel lost the Oaks by only a nose to champion Blind Luck

The early favorite for this year’s Oaks is Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Kathmanblu, who followed wins in last fall’s JPMorgan Chase Jessamine and Golden Rod (gr. II) with a victory in the recent Rachel Alexandra (gr. III) at Fair Grounds. Two other Central Bank Ashland nominees also are proving to be serious classic contenders--Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Moss’ Las Virgenes (gr. I) winner Zazu and E. Paul Robsham’s R Heat Lightning, a dominating 7 1/4-length victor in the recent Davona Dale (gr. II) at Gulfstream.

Among the other top fillies nominated to the Central Bank Ashland are: John C. Oxley’s Dancinginherdreams, who broke her maiden at first asking last fall at Keeneland, followed by a win in the Pocahontas (gr. II) and seconds in the Forward Gal (gr. II) and Davona Dale; Hardacre Farm’s Pomeroy’s Pistol, winner of the Forward Gal (gr. II) and third in the Davona Dale; Zayat Stables’ A Z Warrior, winner of the Frizette (gr. I); Dawn and Ike Thrash’s Tell a Kelly, winner of the Darley Debutante (gr. I); and Blinkers On Racing, Dave Aurelio, Robert Butler, Joleen Coons and Lapso’s Turbulent Descent, winner of the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) and second in the Las Virgenes.