Champion Midshipman highlights the list of 183 3-year-olds nominated to Keeneland's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

Champion Midshipman highlights the list of 183 3-year-olds nominated to Keeneland's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

Bill Luster

Blue Grass Draws 183 Nominations

The Kentucky Derby prep race will be held April 11 at Keeneland

Godolphin Racing’s 2008 champion juvenile colt Midshipman  highlights an all-star list of 183 3-year-olds nominated to Keeneland’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), to be held April 11.

The 1 1/8-mile Toyota Blue Grass, contested over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface, is one of the country’s richest preps for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Nineteen horses, including most recently Street Sense  in 2007, have used the Blue Grass as a steppingstone to victory in the Derby. Counted among this year’s 183 nominations – the most in more than two decades – are many of the nation’s top Triple Crown contenders.

“This is a highly accomplished roster of nominees; we thank our horsemen for their great support,” said Keeneland director of racing Rogers Beasley. “Keeneland in the spring is a very special place to go racing, for owners and trainers as well as fans. We feel it is an outstanding showcase for Triple Crown contenders.”

Reigning 2-year-old champion Midshipman earned an Eclipse Award following wins in last year’s Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). The son of Unbridled's Song has been training this winter at Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba racecourse, where he is anticipated to make his sophomore debut in early March. Godolphin also is represented by recent UAE 2000 Guineas (UAE-III) winner Desert Party .

Blue Grass nominees include prominent names on the Triple Crown Trail, including Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile , winner of the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) and Robert B. Lewis (gr. II); Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can, and Elizabeth Valando’s Hello Broadway, who finished one-two, respectively, in the Hutcheson (gr. II); Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farms’ Friesan Fire , winner of the LeComte (gr. III) and Risen Star (gr. III); Sid and Jenny Craig Trust’s Chocolate Candy, winner of the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III); Thomas McCarthy’s General Quarters, winner of the Sam F. Davis (gr. III); Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor’s undefeated Dunkirk, the $3.7-million sale topper at Keeneland’s 2007 September Yearling Sale; and IEAH Stable, John Sikura, et al’s Patena, second in the LeComte.

Todd Pletcher led all trainers with 13 nominees, followed by Steve Asmussen with 12, and D. Wayne Lukas with 10. Last year, Pletcher became only the second trainer in Blue Grass Stakes history to saddle the one-two finishers – Monba and Cowboy Cal, respectively. Pletcher also won the 2005 Toyota Blue Grass with Bandini.

A complete list of nominations to the 85th running of the Toyota Blue Grass, as well as past performances, is available at Fans can follow all the excitement via the special section of Keeneland’s website, which features race charts, history and statistical data, vintage photos and videos, and more.