MAFAAZ HAS MEET AND GREET WITH STARTING GATE CREW

Shadwell Stable’s Mafaaz (GB), who will race Saturday in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G1) in his Amerian debut, visited the starting gate Thursday morning at Keeneland and then galloped a mile and a quarter under exercise rider Miguel Moya.

“He just walked in the there and backed right out,” said Les Reynolds, head traveling lad for trainer John Gosden. “We just wanted him to get used to the gate here and let the gate personnel see him.

“We wanted him to get a feel for the gate here. Your gates are bigger here and not padded the same. We have requested there not be a man in the gate with him Saturday. We don’t use them in England. If there is a man in the gate, the horses tend to look at them and then miss the break.”

Thursday’s gate visit will be the only one for Mafaaz, who was scheduled for a paddock schooling session during Thursday’s racing program.

Reynolds has been an assistant to Gosden for nine years and made the trip to Santa Anita last fall with Raven’s Pass and Donativum, who collected victories in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

“He was happy with the draw,” Reynolds said of Gosden’s reaction to drawing post position five in the Toyota Blue Grass. “It is a good spot, right in the middle, and you can do what you want with him.”

Gosden and jockey Richard Hills are scheduled to arrive in Lexington on Friday night.


HOLD ME BACK IN OUTSIDE SPOT

WinStar Farm LLC’s Hold Me Back, the 3-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass (G1), drew post 10 in the 11-horse race, of some concern to trainer Bill Mott.

“The speed’s inside, so is everybody else,” Mott said. “He’ll have to find his way the best he can.”

The Toyota Blue Grass will mark the fifth career start for Hold Me Back, who is coming off a 1 ¾-length victory in the Lane’s End (G2) on March 21 at Turfway Park. He broke from post two in that race. The farthest outside post the colt has drawn was post four in the Remsen (G2) last November.

On Thursday morning, Hold Me Back, ridden by Mott’s assistant trainer, Leana Williford, jogged and galloped around the main track.

Kent Desormeaux, who rode Hold Me Back in the Lane’s End, will be aboard the Giant’s Causeway colt on Saturday.


OTHER TOYOTA BLUE GRASS STAKES NEWS

Silverton Hill LLC’s Cliffy’s Future had a quiet morning at Barn 8 a day after working three furlongs in :36.40. “He came out of the work fine. Everything is good with him,” trainer Darrin Miller said.

All other Toyota Blue Grass entrants stabled at Keeneland were on the track Thursday morning.

Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s Charitable Man galloped a mile and a half with Pat Correa up. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is scheduled to be at Keeneland on Friday.

Frankfurt Stable’s Massone galloped under jockey Goncalino Almeida. Massone’s trainer, Ron McAnally, is expected to be at the barn Friday morning for training hours.

IEAH Stables John Sikura, et al, Joseph Bulger, James Covello and Puglisi Racing LLC’s Patena galloped early Thursday morning with exercise rider Marcus Powell up.

Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain visited the paddock and then galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Keith Harris.

Samotowka Stables LLC, Delfiner Partners, George Krall and Magdalena Racing’s Theregoesjojo galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Amanda Tamburello.

Join in the Dance will school in the paddock with the horses in the fifth race on Thursday, said Ginny DePasquale, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. In the morning, the Sky Mesa colt jogged and stood in the starting gate with exercise rider Kim Boniface aboard. Owned by brothers Jake and Reed Ballis, Rashard Lewis and brothers Regan and William Swinbank, Join in the Dance will start from post two for the Toyota Blue Grass and will be ridden by John Velazquez.


“EXPERIMENT” AWAITS MY PAL CHARLIE IN SATURDAY’S COMMONWEALTH

B. Wayne Hughes’ My Pal Charlie has built a solid resume by routing, highlighted by a victory in the Grade 2 Super Derby last September at Louisiana Downs.

On Saturday, My Pal Charlie drops back to a sprint distance for the first time since his 2-year-old campaign when he faces seven rivals in the Grade 2 Commonwealth at seven furlongs.

“We are going to experiment a little and turn him back,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “It was our intent to run him here and he runs well on the Polytrack.”

The past performance lines show only one race on a synthetic track for My Pal Charlie, but Stall says not to be deterred by that.

“I think the reason he had a good fall was because he trained here on the Polytrack during the summer,” Stall said. “I think that has helped him. He was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup (Dirt Mile) on the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita.

“I know if this was the old Keeneland, we would probably not be in this spot. On the Polytrack, he can find his stride.”

Julien Leparoux, who rode My Pal Charlie to a runner-up finish in last year’s Louisiana Derby (G2) and fifth place in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby, has the mount in the Commonwealth. Leparoux will be riding Terrain for Stall in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) later on Saturday’s card.


PLENTY OF OPTIONS AHEAD FOR BEAUMONT WINNER WAR KILL

Trainer Ken McPeek reported Thursday morning that Dixiana Stables Inc.’s War Kill came out of her upset victory in Wednesday’s Grade 2 Beaumont in good order.

“She’s the little engine that could,” McPeek said. “She just wants to beat some horse. I thought Julien (Leparoux) rode her great.”

Twice a winner on Polytrack and once a winner on dirt, War Kill may next show up on the turf at Churchill Downs.

“She’s nominated to the grass stake (the Edgewood at a mile and sixteenth on May 1) and the dirt sprint (the Eight Belles at 7 ½ furlongs on May 2),” McPeek said. “She’s a War Chant, so she should like the grass, so I will probably run there. One of the questions yesterday was the distance and she partially answered that. She galloped out strong, too.”


WELL-BRED PHIPPS RUNNER SCORES FIRST WIN WEDNESDAY

For even those with even a little knowledge of Thoroughbred bloodlines, the pedigree of the No. 1 horse in the ninth race at Keeneland on Wednesday surely stood out. That blue-blooded horse is With Flying Colors, a 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy who is out of multiple Grade 1 winner My Flag, dam of champion Storm Flag Flying. With Garrett Gomez aboard, With Flying Colors nosed out Choice Play to win a 1 1/16-mile maiden race to score her first win in six starts.

“I think her thing is probably going to be the grass, long on the grass,” said C.R. “Shug” McGaughey, who trains With Flying Colors for Phipps Stable. “She’s just a great big filly that’s been slow coming around.”

With Flying Colors is the fifth foal out of My Flag, a daughter of Hall of Famers Easy Goer and Personal Ensign. My Flag’s six wins include the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Keeneland’s Ashland Stakes (G1) in 1996. The now-16-year-old mare has a 2009 filly by Awesome Again.

McGaughey said With Flying Colors might make her next start in an allowance race before the end of Keeneland’s spring season. His stakes runners here include Phipps Stable’s Electricity in the Fort Harrod on Friday, Conservative in the Coolmore Lexington (G2) on April 18 and Parading in the Ben Ali (G3) on April 19. My Flag is Parading’s second dam.


COLLEGE DAY REPORTS RECORD SPRING REGISTRATION

Despite the chilly weather, College Scholarship Day at Keeneland, held opening day, April 3, set a record for spring registration with 1,866 students participating. The previous record of 1,693 was set during the 2007 spring meet. Students represented 55 different schools throughout Kentucky and the nation, some coming from as far away as Notre Dame, University of Florida, Michigan State, Ohio State, University of Tampa, Virginia Tech and Xavier.

Full time students received free general admission, and $1,000 scholarships were given away following each of the day’s 10 races. College Day is presented by Keeneland and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association.


GROUT A “HANDS ON” VICTOR IN KEENELAND HANDICAPPING CONTEST

Ron Grout found both longshot winners on the Keeneland card and took home the $1,350 winner’s share of the $2,850 purse in the first Wednesday Handicapping Contest of the spring meeting on April 8. The Florence, Kentucky resident, described as “a fantastic handicapper,” by one of his racing buddies who also played in the contest, was nearly speechless at his success.

“The winner of third race, Hands On, was the key,” Grout said when he found his voice. “I liked the Speedy Smithwick claim back and the fact that he had worked well since the claim. Turfway Park horses often run well at Keeneland on Wednesdays and Thursdays when the racing is easier.”

Hands On, who opened at 4-1 on Mike Battaglia’s Keeneland morning line, paid a whopping $34.20 to win and $10 to place, giving the 14 players who selected him a big shot at a contest victory.

Edward Bryant of Frenchburg, Kentucky, finished a close second, only 80 cents behind Grout’s score of $105.60, and received $650 for his efforts. Tim Tripure of Lexington was third with a score $101.20 and made $325. Cash prizes were paid to the top 10 finishers.

“It was great to kick off the meeting with such a large field,” said contest coordinator Jude Feld. “We had players from Georgia, Ohio and Michigan who scheduled their Keeneland visit because of the contest, but this week, the Kentuckians did all the good.”

Two more Wednesday Handicapping Contests will be held during the spring meeting, on April 15 and April 22. There is a $10 entry fee and a limit of three entries per player. For more information, go to http://www.keeneland.com.