The $750,000 Gr. I Toyota Bluegrass Stakes presents a field of 13 contenders that are headlined by Breeders Cup Juvenile and two-year-old colt champ Hansen.
This race will feature a lot of speed and horses that are at their best when they are up front setting the pace. Hansen is a speed horse but showed he can stalk the pace and pull away on the stretch to win, and that will come in handy today.
This race also marks the return of Hansen to synthetic surface racing, where he was very successful winning his first two races by a combined 25 lengths. He is the big favorite to win and is looking to win his fifth race in six career races.
While Hansen is comfortable at the top of the graded earnings Top 20 list for the Kentucky Derby, for his opponents this will likely be their last chance to get in that list. The only way for them to ensure that is by winning this race and thus, defeating Hansen.
The horses running today that are in the Top 20 right now are Hansen (First - $1,400,000), Dullahan (13th - $405,000) and Prospective (16th - $365,452).
Hero of Order (Eight - $615,500) is in but he was not originally nominated to Triple Crown. It would require $200,000 supplement and could not get into the Derby field ahead of any original or late nominee.
The horses on the outside looking in are Scatman (T36th - $100,000) and Howe Great (42nd - $90,000).
This makes the favorite a target in a race that should be serving him as his last prep race towards his goal as a possible Kentucky Derby winner. Everyone will be gunning for the win, so the race and tactical strategies will be the keys to a victory today.
With so many of the top jockeys and trainers in the country present here, this makes the race even more interesting to watch.
Here are the predictions for the entire field:
Bluegrass Stakes | Grade I | Purse: $750,000 | Distance: 9 Furlongs | Post Time: 6:18 p.m. ET
|1||Heavy Breathing ||Corey J. Lanerie ||Todd A. Pletcher ||12/1|
He finished a disappointing and tiring third place as the big favorite in the Spiral. The inside post should help him get to the early lead, but he will have plenty of challengers today. I think he was affected by the surface (synthetic) on his last one, and is mind-boggling that he will run on that surface again. The added pace and the track surface won't help him today. Predicted finish: Eight.
|2||Gung Ho ||Edgar S. Prado ||Michael J. Maker ||30/1|
A pace stalker that likes to wait before attacking the leaders and make his run from the far turn on. When he has faced quality horses he has been missing in action, like he did two races ago when he finished seven lengths behind Dullahan. Needs to improve a lot to win here. Predicted finish: 11th.
|3||Prospective ||Luis Contreras ||Mark Casse ||10/1|
This horse is improving with each race and another forward move can be expected today. He is not that far from Hansen with his Beyer figures and needs to improve very little to win here. He had the blinkers on for the first time on his win at the Tampa Derby on his last race and showed a marked improvement.
He will benefit from all the speed in the race and get past Hansen at the top of the stretch and try to hold off my favorite, but will ultimately give in to my favorite. Predicted finish: Second (Place).
|4||Hansen||Ramon A. Dominguez ||Michael J. Maker ||6/5 |
The favorite will have his hands full today. He has been busy on his workouts having clocked four for this race, which tells me he is ready to fire a good performance. But what I see on his last three races—in Beyer figures (94, 95, 96)—going back to his Breeders Cup win, is that they have been equally productive.
I expect a similar effort from him in this race but I think my two favorites are improving enough to catch up to him and beat him today. Predicted finish: Third
|5||Russian Greek ||Miguel Mena ||Gennadi Dorochenko ||50/1|
Has won three of his first four races, but his last two has been very poor efforts. On those two races he has faced two Derby contenders and has been thoroughly beaten. He is outclassed here. It would be another huge upset for trainer Dorochenko if this horse wins here. Predicted finish: Last.
|6||Dullahan||Kent J. Desormeaux ||Dale Romans ||6/1|
In the 2011 Breeders Cup Juvenile he finished fourth to Hansen, six lengths back. He didn't run again until Mar. 10 this year where he finished a closing second to Howe Great at the Palm Beach.
His last three Beyers (85, 83, 86) have been similar, but he has two workouts for this race that includes one bullet last Sunday (5F - :57 2/5) that shows he is ready to fire a big race and take the step forward. The half-brother to Derby winner Mine that Bird will win this race. Predicted finish: Winner (Win).
|7||Politicallycorrect ||Elvis Trujillo ||Wesley A. Ward||30/1|
He might be politically correct, but he has been outclassed every time he has faced top competition. He looks out of group here. Predicted finish: 12th.
|8||Midnight Crooner ||Garrett K. Gomez ||Bob Baffert ||15/1|
This is a horse that seems to be at his best up front and in the lead early. He did this in his lone win where he easily wired his competition on synthetic surface. He makes a big jump in class here and even with Gomez aboard and Baffert training he looks like a stretch here. Predicted finish: Sixth.
|9||Holy Candy||Joel Rosario||John W. Sadler||30/1|
He was scratched from the Santa Anita Derby last week to run here today. This horse gets a major step up in class after his maiden win and shows potential. He should be running right behind the wall of speed up front and should be the first to make a move on them. I just don't think he is better than my four favorites. Predicted finish: Fifth.
|10||Howe Great||Javier J. Castellano||H.Graham Motion||6/1|
This horse is my intriguing pick for this race. He comes from holding off my favorite here, Dullahan at the Palm Beach. He was all-out stretch during that effort and showed he can rate and have something left for the stretch.
This race will be his synthetic surface debut, but trainer Motion knows all about this mix and matching of surfaces. My only concern today with him is all the speed in the race and whether that will take from him and not be able to hold my two favorites. Predicted finish: Fourth.
|11||Ever So Lucky ||Julien R. Leparoux ||Jonathan E. Sheppard||12/1|
He comes from a disappointing finish at the Swale where he couldn't follow the pace and tired at the end. That race was only seven furlongs and he gets two more today.
That being said, that last race was his first race in almost four months since finishing second to Gemologist at the Kentucky Jockey Club at 8.5 furlongs. Even when he has two superb (:57 and :59 2/5) five furlongs workouts, he seems to be fading in his races and the added distance and pace here don't help his chances. Predicted finish: Seventh.
|12||Hero of Order||Eddie M. Martin Jr.||Gennadi Dorochenko||12/1|
He is coming off his epic upset (109/1) at the Louisiana Derby. He showed a lot of grit and resiliency on that win over a hard charging Mark Valeski and jockey Martin had a phenomenal ride defending that mount on the final furlong.
But circumstances here are different, the field and the pace are much tougher today. There will be no hero finish today for him. Predicted finish: Ninth.
|13||Scatman||Shaun X. Bridgmohan||Michael E. Lauer||12/1 |
On the positive side, he will not have to face Secret Circle who had beaten him in his last two races at the Southwest and Rebel. But just like the other front runners, the quantity of speed horses here is brutal, and with this outside post, it makes it even tougher than if he would have been facing Secret Circle today.
He had been starting to show some fading finishes as the distances were longer, and here he gets an even longer race. It will take a monumental effort from him to win here, and he doesn't have that in him. Predicted finish: 10th.