Haskin's Blue Grass Preview: Poly Prices

Haskin's Blue Grass Preview: Poly Prices
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Pyro is his final pre- Blue Grass (gr. I) workout on April 7 at Keeneland.
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There are two ways of looking at Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) – either as a rich workout for the first Saturday in May for Pyro, Cool Coal Man, Visionaire, Big Truck, and Halo Najib, who all have sufficient earnings, or as a final, desperate attempt to sneak into the Derby field by utilizing the often dirt form-challenged Polytrack.

Then, of course, there is the betting angle, which is to throw out all dirt form and try to land one of those Polytrack/grass longshots, such as Cowboy Cal, Medjool, or Miner’s Claim. As for the favorites, well, you’re on your own. All Pyro, Cool Coal Man, Visionaire, and Big Truck need to do is run well enough to get something out of the race, similar to what Street Sense   did in last year’s Blue Grass, in which he finished second in a four-horse photo against horses who weren’t in the same class as him, and whom he would go on to destroy in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

The real intriguing horse in here is Cowboy Cal, whose career debut, on dirt, was a poor effort, but whose subsequent races on grass were excellent. He has both turf and dirt breeding, and he runs like a dirt horse, so, add that to his turf record, and Polytrack could be right up his alley. If he does win, he would still be a major question mark in the Derby, so this could be his one big chance at a grade I win, at least for a while. His half-mile breeze in :47 2/5 April 6 also was encouraging.

His stablemate Monba ran a good fourth in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) on Cushion Track, so he could bounce back with a good effort, but he’s been inactive since his Fountain of Youth (gr. II) fiasco. This could be trainer Todd Pletcher’s last shot of getting in the Derby, and, like a badger, Pletcher is most dangerous when backed into a corner.

Medjool, like most of the California horses, has never seen a dirt track. He did make the transition from Cushion Track out west to Polytrack back east by finishing an impressive third in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway, racing very wide every step of the way. He definitely is one to watch in the Blue Grass.

The other longshot who could surprise a lot of people at a monster price (if he handles the Polytrack) is Cool Coal Man’s stablemate Stevil, who may be a lot better than his record indicates. When he was second to Visionaire in an allowance race back in January, he was forced to go some seven wide turning for home, while Visionaire had a ground-saving trip and rallied through a big opening along the rail. He didn’t have the smoothest of trips in his next start against Face the Cat, finishing third, and missed a couple of works following that race. He resurfaced in the Louisiana Derby at odds of 95-1 and again had a bad trip. He made a good run behind horses and then had to alter course in the upper stretch, looking for room, while getting sawed off by two horses in front of him. Despite that, he finished a respectable fifth, beaten only 5 1/2 lengths by Pyro, and 2 1/2 lengths for the place spot. How he’ll take to Polytrack no one knows, but at the price he’s going to be, it could be worth the gamble that he’ll like it, even as part of the exotics. If he does, everyone knows that Polytrack brings the better-quality horses and the lesser-quality horses (at least on form) closer together. And he does have a sharp :59 2/5 breeze at Churchill Downs on April 6 and has the second-time-blinkers-on angle.


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If Stevil should happen to hit the board on Saturday, he could do a lot of damage on Derby Day, especially with his pedigree. When last seen, he was 200-1 at the Wynn future book. It’s just a question whether Polytrack can propel him to the big one on May 3.

So, Cowboy Cal, Medjool, and Stevil are three longshots to keep an eye on, with Monba having a shot to at least hit the board, and Stevil the most likely megabomb to leap into the Derby picture.

Miner’s Claim ran a big race in the Rushaway Stakes in his first start of the year, and could be another Dominican type, but that was not a strong field and he will have to step up here. Watch for him down the road, however. He looks like a good one.

Now, of course, if form should happen to hold up, which often is not the case, then Pyro, Cool Coal Man, Visionaire, and Big Truck are going to be hard to crack. Pyro drew well in post 7, but Visionaire is parked on the far outside. His best style of running is to make one big run from far back, so if he can take back and drop in before the clubhouse turn he should be OK. Cool Coal Man, who needs only to run a solid, competitive race to prepare him for a big effort in the Derby, will break from the rail. He just needs to get a break traffic-wise in case he gets pinned down on the inside. Big Truck has been tearing up the track in the morning, with four straight bullet works, including a :46 3/5 half in his only work at Keeneland. Halo Najib is two-for-three on Polytrack with one second, so he does have that going for him.

Watch Video coverage and interviews from the post position draw for the Blue Grass Stakes.

 

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