Race 10 at Keeneland on Saturday, April 6 | Post Time 6:23 PM Eastern Time

Toyota Blue Grass Stakes | Purse $1 million | One and One Eighth Miles | Three Year Olds

 

Somelikeithotbrown (1) is two-for-two this year, after only winning one of five races as a two year old. Ignoring his dirt sprint debut, he had a fine 2018 campaign with three straight in-the-money finishes in graded stakes on turf, including when beaten just three-quarters of a length for the win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. For his 2018 debut, Somelikeithotbrown moved to the polytrack all-weather surface at Turfway and won both the Battaglia Memorial and Jeff Ruby Steaks (formerly the Spiral) in succession, improving from a 93 Equibase figure to 98. At the end of last year, he earned a 103 figure in the Breeders’ Cup and so the pattern for another step forward in his third start of the year is unmistakable. The Jeff Ruby was run at the same mile and one-eighth distance as the Toyota Blue Grass and only one other horse in this 14 horse field, Admire (7) has won at the distance, while only four others have ever run this far. Since he’s proven in stakes company and at the distance, the only remaining question is whether Somelikeithotbrown can run as well on conventional dirt as on all-weather and turf. The answer to that question is yes because not only did his sire Big Brown win the Kentucky Derby (2008), as a sire Big Brown produced multiple stakes winner Dortmund, who won the 2015 Santa Anita Derby at this trip as well as the Native Diver Stakes in the fall of that year. With a good inside post, jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who was aboard for the first time in the Jeff Ruby, will have the option of taking the lead out of the gate or of sitting in second or third behind the ore likely early pacesetters Market King and/or Lucky Lee. Gaffalione rode the most winners at Keeneland at the fall meeting to win the riding title and proved he knows this track as good as any, which is yet another reason to believe Somelikeithotbrown can post the upset win.

Sir Winston (9), Admire (7) and Win Win Win (8), finished fifth, seventh and third, respectively, in the Tampa Bay Derby last month. Win Win Win was sent to post as the 7 to 5 favorite and could only manage third although he did rally from seventh in the early stages. That was his first start in a two-turn race and if he can improve off the 101 figure effort he could have a big say in the outcome today. Sir Winston and Admire were nearly on even terms in that race as they were beaten four, and four and one-quarter lengths, respectively. Both open as longshots here and have races in their past which could make them contenders at high odds if repeated. Sir Winston won the Display Stakes in Canada as a two year old and in the Tampa Bay Derby he was last of 11 and 15 lengths back with a quarter mile to go so the fact he was beaten only four lengths shows some ability. If the pace in the Blue Grass is more moderate, Sir Winston could be much closer as he was in the Display when second for most of the race and that bodes well for a similar effort. Admire won at this nine furlong trip in only the second start of his career, last fall at Churchill Downs, also when racing in second in the early stages. Although he finished further back (seventh) in the Tampa Bay Derby as he did in his first start of 2019 when fifth in the Withers Stakes, Admire improved his Equibase Speed figure (94 to 98) in the same way Sir Winston did (95 to 99). Reminding ourselves Admire is trained by Dale Romans, who saddled Brody’s Cause to post the upset win in the Blue Grass Stakes in 2016 off a last place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby, Admire is another we must consider with a chance to run well at high odds.

Signalman (3) was away from the races for more than three months when he returned in the Fountain of Youth Stakes last month and likely needed the race because he did not have a sprint prep first as he had last year when winning for the first time in his second career start. Signalman, like Somelikeithotbrown, proved himself in stakes company when second of 13 in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland in October before a third of 13 finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and a win in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last November. Considering his morning workout coming into this race on March 30 was the best of 59 on the day for the distance of five furlongs, we can expect big improvement off the 100 figure effort even from his seventh place Fountain of Youth effort and therefore Signalman rounds out a quintet that I feel have the best chance to succeed in this year’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

You may be wondering why favorite Vekoma (2) is not among the horses I think can win the race. Not only are the 9 to 5 starting odds a bit low for a win bet in this big field, I don’t agree at all with the 35% probability of winning those odds represent. Sent to post at 3 to 1 in the Fountain of Youth, Vekoma ran third the entire last eighth of a mile. That was his first two-turn race, his other two efforts, both wins including the Nashua Stakes last fall, around one turn. I’m concerned about the unproductive nature of the Fountain of Youth as well. Even though winner Code of  Honor and runner-up Bourbon war ran respectably in last week’s Florida Derby, perhaps compromised by a slow pace and lone front runner, their Equibase Figures regressed considerably (19 points) and that’s why I am of the opinion there are others who will run better in this race.  

The race for the exotic wagers is wide open as well, with most of the other nine horses not without a chance to run second for the exacta or third for the trifecta. As such I am hesitant to make a recommendation which I might normally make in a race with a big field like this one, using a few horses in the first position on exacta tickets and those plus a few more in the second position. I would not talk anyone out of a ticket like that but I will just box the five contenders above and mostly concentrate on win bets on two or three horses at the highest odds (from among the contenders). 

 

Betting Strategies:

Win Bets: Somelikeithotbrown (1) to win at odds of 3 to 1 or more. We can add a place bet at 9 to 2 or higher.

For a smaller amount (example one-half the amount on Somelikeithotbrown), win bets on Sir Winston (9) and on Admire (7) at odds of 5 to 1 or more, adding place bets at 7 to 1 or higher.

Exacta: Box Somelikeithotbrown (1), Sir Winston (9), Admire (7), Win Win Win (8) and Signalman (3).