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Palace Malice photo courtesy of Benoit & Associates

By Ellis Starr – National Racing Analyst for Equibase

The 89th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes brings together a full field of 14 in search of enough points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby Series to enable a start in the first jewel of the Triple Crown next month. With 100 points to the winner and 40 to the runner-up, only the Blue Grass and the Arkansas Derby (also run Saturday) are left as races in the series with significant enough impact to affect a horse’s chances of making the big dance. There will be a “wild card” race in each of the next two weeks, but it is uncertain whether those results will have an impact.

With the Blue Grass taking on spotlight status, the maximum number of horses (14) entered, with another horse on the also-eligible list hoping for a defection in order to run. Recent Spiral Stakes runner-up Uncaptured, who also won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall, will get attention from handicappers and the wagering public. Other horses with recent competitive efforts in Derby prep races include Tampa Bay Derby runner-up Java’s War as well as Palm Beach Stakes (on turf) winner Rydilluc, who enters on a three-race winning streak. Palace Malice finished third, beaten just a half-length, in the Risen Star Stakes in February before a troubled seventh-place finish in the Louisiana Derby, and he will be looking to rebound in the Blue Grass. Palm Beach runner-up Charming Kitten and Swale Stakes third-place finisher Undrafted are two more that could run well enough to win with slight improvement, while Dynamic Sky hopes to return to the form shown when beaten a neck for the win in the Sam F. Davis Stakes in February following a non-threatening fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby. West Hills Giant ran gamely when second in the Gotham Stakes in his most recent race, as did the lone also-eligible engtrant, Divine Ambition, when second in the Rushaway Stakes last month. My Name is Michael disappointed as the favorite in the Spiral, but prior to that he finished third in the Sam F. Davis Stakes so he might be competitive as well. Fear the Kitten finished second in the Southwest Stakes in February but then fifth in the Spiral, so he is another looking to rebound. Channel Isle, Tesseron, Footbridge and Balance the Books round out the field.


Palace Malice had improved his Equibase Speed Figure to run faster in every race from his career debut last July through his third-place effort when beaten just a half-length with a 100 Equibase Speed Figure in the Risen Star stakes in February. In the Louisiana Derby, Palace Malice was moving up nicely from eighth in the early stages within a 14-horse field when he got to within 1 ½ lengths of the lead and ran into a complete roadblock. With traffic problems starting with five-sixteenths of a mile to run and continuing to well under one-eighth of a mile to run, Palace Malice essentially lost any chance he had at success. In spite of all that trouble, Palace Malice managed to repeat the 100 Equibase Speed Figure earned in the Risen Star. With a jockey change to Garrett Gomez and anything at all resembling better racing luck, Palace Malice can win the Blue Grass Stakes and add to the already impressive contingent that North American leading trainer Todd Pletcher has assembled for the Kentucky Derby, including Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary and unbeaten Wood Memorial Stakes winner Verrazano.



Saturday, April 13, 2013, 4:30 – 6 p.m. (NBC)

Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Keeneland)

Saturday, April 13, 2013, 6 – 7 p.m. (NBC Sports Network) 

Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn Park)

To find NBC Sports Network in your area, click here.

Java’s War ran the best race of his career last month when second to Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby, earning a 103 Equibase Speed Figure that can be improved upon in his second start following 3 1/2 months on the shelf. With Verrazano having come back to win the Wood Memorial last weekend and with Java’s War previously having run well at Keeneland when third in the Breeders’ Futurity last fall, this colt would be no surprise if moving on to the Kentucky Derby next month off a win in the Blue Grass Stakes.

West Hills Giant actually earned the best last-race Equibase Speed Figure in the field, 108, when second in the Gotham last month, holding second gamely after leading from the start. Having been off for four months before making his 3-year-old debut last month in a sprint, West Hills Giant could take another step forward and has the potential to run much better than his high odds suggest.

Dynamic Sky and Uncaptured share the same owner (John C. Oxley) and trainer (Mark Casse) but will run uncoupled in the Blue Grass, both having run well in similar Derby preps. Dynamic Sky gets the ground-saving rail for this 1 1/8-mile trip after running five paths wide for much of the race last month in the Tampa Bay Derby. Prior to that, he rallied nicely to miss by a head in the Sam F. Davis Stakes with a 100-figure effort that could see him running well in the Blue Grass if repeated. Uncaptured finished second in the Spiral Stakes with a 99 Equibase Speed Figure on a similar Polytrack surface last month, following four months on the bench, so he has room to improve back to the form shown in the fall when winning the important Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Rydilluc has won three races in a row including the Palm Beach Stakes. With all three wins coming on the turf, the main question is whether he can run as well on the synthetic  Polytrack surface. He has improved his speed figures in each race since his debut last October, culminating with a 99 figure in his most recent race. So if Rydilluc is able to transfer that form to the main track, he is yet another with a shot at success in the Blue Grass.

The rest of the field (with their best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Balance the Books (100), Channel Isle (94), Charming Kitten (99), Fear the Kitten (95), Footbridge (102), My Name is Michael (101), Tesseron (98), Undrafted (105) and also-eligible Divine Ambition (90).

My Selections:

Palace Malice

Java’s War

West Hills Giant

Dynamic Sky



$750,000 Blue Grass Stakes

Keeneland Race Course, Saturday, Race 10, 5:40 p.m. ET

3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles







Dynamic Sky

Joel Rosario

Mark Casse



My Name is Michael

Shaun Bridgmohan

William Mott




Corey Nakatani

Wesley Ward



Java’s War

Julien Leparoux

Ken McPeek



Palace Malice

Garrett Gomez

Todd Pletcher



Channel Isle

Joseph Rocco, Jr.

D. Wayne Lukas




Miguel Mena

Mark Casse



Charming Kitten

Joe Bravo

Todd Pletcher




Alan Garcia

Josie Carroll




Corey Lanerie

Eoin Harty



Balance the Books

Javier Castellano

Chad Brown



West Hills Giant

Jose Espinoza

John Terranova




Edgar Prado

Gary Contessa



Fear the Kitten

Rosie Napravnik

Michael Maker



Divine Ambition

James Graham

Darrin Miller


All horses will carry 123 pounds


Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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