The $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) drew an overflow field for its 90th renewal to be run April 12 at Keeneland, all entrants hoping to earn a place in the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
The Blue Grass will be broadcast live on "The Jockey Club Tour on Fox" from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET). The Blue Grass is worth 170 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby, with 100 points to the winner.
Bobby's Kitten, the third Derby hopeful for Ken and Sarah Ramsey this year, is the 3-1 favorite on the morning line set by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia. Ramsey also has Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Vicar's in Trouble and Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) winner We Miss Artie already on the Derby leaderboard.
"We've got a dirt horse, a synthetic horse, and a turf horse," Ramsey said. "So hopefully whatever conditions develop at Churchill Downs on Derby day, one of them will like it and win."
Bobby's Kitten, a 3-year-old son of Kitten's Joy comes off a one-mile turf allowance win going wire-to-wire March 8 at Tampa Bay Downs. It was the colt's first start for trainer Chad Brown since a third-place finish in the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Park. The 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass will be his Polytrack debut after making all five of his previous starts on grass. Javier Castellano gets the mount from post 5.
"I'd like him to settle down and try to be behind a couple horses; we can't win the Kentucky Derby on the front end, so he needs to get some dirt kicked in his face," Ramsey said. "Hopefully we'll run first or second so we get enough points to get in the Derby."
Trainer Dale Romans goes old school with Spendthrift Farm's recent Transylvania Stakes (gr. III) winner Medal Count, who aced an off-the-turf edition of that 1 1/16-mile test April 4 with a brilliant rail-skimming move under Robby Albarado. That rider returns from the 13 hole aboard the son of Dynaformer, the 9-2 second choice on the morning line.
"He ran well, he had an easy trip, he really only ran the last quarter of a mile," Romans said of Medal Count's effort in the Transylvania. "He was really impressive and I've been a big fan of this horse since the beginning. He's always had the natural ability, but mentally he needed to put it together. He started coming around in Florida and the race we saw the other day was what we've been waiting for. I think he'll run all day.
"This is such an important race, we just don't want to pass it up. He's had a lot of good energy; he bounced out of the race like he never ran. I would have put a pretty stiff work in him on Saturday anyway, so I don't think the turnaround is that big a deal and it actually may be beneficial to have had that race under his belt."
California shipper Dance With Fate drew post 8 and is 12-1 on the morning line. The son of Two Step Salsa was second to Tamarando in the Feb. 15 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) last time out and earlier in his career finished second in both the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I).
"I think a lot of good, good horses are coming out of California," said Peter Eurton, who trains Dance With Fate for a partnership that includes Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable, and Ciaglia Racing. "For him, the Blue Grass has always been part of the plan because he's run so well on synthetic."
John Oxley's Coastline broke his maiden at Keeneland going seven furlongs on the Polytrack last October, and returned to a Polytrack surface for the first time since then with a tough-beat third in the Spiral at Turfway Park behind fellow Blue Grass contender Harry's Holiday. Earlier this year he ran third in the Smarty Jones Stakes and fourth in the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
"That 's one of the reasons we're here," trainer Mark Casse said of the Speightstown colt's preference for the synthetic track. "I thought he struggled a lot out in Hot Springs and that's why I ran him in the Spiral. I thought his Spiral race was good, and in the last couple weeks I think he's gotten better and better."
Stewart Elliott gets the mount from post 11; Coastline is 8-1 on the morning line.
"He's one for one at this racetrack and hopefully we'll make it two for two," Casse said.
Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) winner Vinceremos will make his first start for trainer Todd Pletcher since his second by three lengths to upsetter Ring Weekend in the March 8 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II). The son of Pioneerof the Nile who runs for WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing tries a synthetic track for the first time from post 12 under Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado.
"We bought the horse after training here at Keeneland, and he's trained at WinStar on synthetic and always handled it very well," said Twin Creeks' Randy Gullatt. "It's always a gamble running a horse on a track he hasn't run on yet, but I think he'll be fine. The horse always breaks well and puts himself in the race really well, so I don't think that's going to be an issue."
Also in the field are Asserting Bear and Big Bazinga, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Spiral last out; Delta Jackpot (gr. III) and Hopeful Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Casiguapo; Tampa Bay Derby ninth-place finisher Coltimus Prime; and Laurel Park stakes winner Extrasexyhippzster, eighth in the March 1 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) in his most recent start.
Rounding out the group are Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) winner Gala Award; allowance winner Pablo Del Monte coming off a third in the Feb. 1 Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III); minor stakes winner So Lonesome, who was ninth in the Palm Beach last time out, and also-eligible Divine Oath.
$750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), 3YOs, 1 1/8 miles (all weather track)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer, Odds
1. Asserting Bear, E. Wilson, R Baker, 15-1
2. Extrasexyhippzster, J. Pimentel, M Trombetta, 15-1
3. Pablo Del Monte, V. Espinoza, W A Ward, 12-1
4. Harry's Holiday, R. Napravnik, M Maker, 10-1
5. Bobby's Kitten, J. Castellano, C C Brown, 3-1
6. Coltimus Prime, A. Garcia, J Nixon, 20-1
7. Casiguapo, R. Maragh, M Morales, 30-1
8. Dance With Fate, C. Nakatani, P Eurton, 12-1
9. Big Bazinga, B. Hernandez, Jr., K Vassilieva, 20-1
10. So Lonesome, J.Rocco, Jr., T M Bush, 50-1
11. Coastline, S. Elliott, M E Casse, 8-1
12. Vinceremos, E. Prado, T A Pletcher, 8-1
13. Medal Count, R. Albarado, D L Romans, 9-2
14. Gala Award, J. Velazquez, T A Pletcher, 5-1
AE Divine Oath, J. Leparoux, T A Pletcher, 12-1
All assigned 123 pounds.