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 (G1). 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.
Reigning two-year-old champion Midshipman earned an Eclipse Award following wins in last year’s Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). 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 (G3) winner Desert Party.
Toyota Blue Grass nominees include prominent names on the Triple Crown Trail, including Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile, winner of the CashCall Futurity (G1) and Robert B. Lewis (G2); Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can and Elizabeth Valando’s Hello Broadway, who finished 1-2, respectively, in the Hutcheson (G2); Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farms’ Friesan Fire, winner of the LeComte (G3) and Risen Star (G3); Sid and Jenny Craig Trust’s Chocolate Candy, winner of the El Camino Real Derby (G3); Thomas McCarthy’s General Quarters, winner of the Sam F. Davis (G3); 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 Keeneland.com. Fans can follow all the excitement via the special toyotabluegrassstakes.com section of Keeneland’s website, which features race charts, history and statistical data, vintage photos and videos, and more.