The final five horses to arrive at Keeneland on Thursday for Saturday’s $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) got acquainted with the main track on a brisk Friday morning.
Three of the runners – Goats Town, Lookin for a Kiss and Zapperini – arrived from Churchill Downs; Twizz came from the Trackside Training Center in Louisville; and Cards of Stone came from Belmont Park.
The Toyota Blue Grass, in addition to its Grade 1 status and $1 million purse, carries 170 points toward the Kentucky Derby on a scale of 100-40-20-10 to the first- through fourth-place finishers. Post time Saturday is 6 p.m. ET.
Post 1 – Lookin for a Kiss: Michael Bruder’s Lookin for a Kiss galloped after the renovation break with exercise rider Augustine Hernandez aboard.
Recently transferred to the barn of trainer Mike Tomlinson, Lookin for a Kiss has won one of two starts and will be ridden Saturday by Tyler Gaffalione. Gaffalione, who never has ridden at Keeneland, was aboard for the maiden victory.
By Lookin At Lucky, Lookin for a Kiss has no Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
Post 2 – Donegal Moon; Post 4 – Zulu; Post 11 – Cards of Stone: Trainer Todd Pletcher’s three entrants in the Toyota Blue Grass all galloped 1¼ miles before the morning renovation break, assistant Tristan Barry said. The move was the first at Keeneland for Cards of Stone, who arrived Thursday morning from New York.
Zulu, a colt by Bernardini owned by Michael B. Tabor, Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stables, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite
“He’s a very tactical horse,” Barry said. “He’s got a lot of speed, but he’s not unrateable. I think he’ll probably break and sit close enough to the pace.”
Asked about how the Toyota Blue Grass might shake out for the other Pletcher horses, Barry said he thought Donegal Racing’s Donegal Moon, by Malibu Moon, will “probably be sitting mid-division, toward the back, and making one big run at the end.”
Barry hasn’t spent much time with Highclere America, McConnell Racing Stable, Wachtel Stable and Darlene Bilinski’s Cards of Stone but has watched the Bustin Stones gelding’s races on TV.
“He seems like he’s a free-running horse who likes to be left alone and use his weapon, which is his speed,” he said.
Zulu has 20 Derby qualifying points. Donegal Moon and Cards of Stone have no Derby qualifying points.
Post 3 – Cherry Wine/Post 6 – Brody’s Cause: Trainer Dale Romans sent his two Toyota Blue Grass hopefuls to the track for routine gallops under exercise rider Miguel Garcia after the renovation break.
“Everything is good here,” said Romans, who would like to see a dead heat at the wire with his two stretch runners. A dead heat to win would notch each runner 70 points toward the Kentucky Derby.
“Seventy, that should be enough,” Romans said of the Run for the Roses that is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box.
Entering Saturday’s race, Brody’s Cause, by Giant’s Causeway, has 14 Derby qualifying points and Cherry Wine, by Paddy O’Prado, five.
Both horses were scheduled to school in the Paddock in Friday’s first race.
Post 5 – Crescent Drive: Paul Van Doren’s Crescent Drive, who will be making his graded stakes debut Saturday, galloped before the renovation break under exercise rider Juan Gonzalez.
Trained by Tom Amoss, the Flower Alley colt has no Derby qualifying points.
Post 7 – Laoban: Trained by Eric Guillot, the Uncle Mo colt jogged two miles early and was scheduled to school in the Paddock with Friday’s 3rd race.
Arriving at Keeneland around 9 a.m. after a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Cincinnati/ Northern Kentucky International Airport were Laoban’s co-owners, Mark and Jennifer McCormick of McCormick Racing.
“It’s still sinking in,” Mark McCormick said about running a horse in the Toyota Blue Grass. “It has happened really fast. We feel real good about his chances.”
The McCormicks have been involved in Thoroughbred ownership only since the end of 2014 but Mark always has always been interested in horses and racing. He grew up riding pleasure horses on his family’s farm in Vincennes, Ind., and thinking it would be fun one day to have racehorses and his own farm.
After graduating from Indiana University with majors in English and music, Mark, talented with the guitar, moved to California to pursue a career in the music business. There he met his wife, Jennifer Xiao Rong McCormick, who had moved to the U.S. from China in 1997. The couple married in 2000.
Mark named Laoban, which means “boss” in Mandarin Chinese and is pronounced “Lay-ban.” The McCormicks own 25 percent of the colt while Southern Equine Stable owns 75 percent.
Laoban, a maiden, has 22 Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
Post 8 – Twizz: Warner Thoroughbreds, Freddy and Jessica Lewis III, Brett and Jim Setzer and Justice Racing Stable’s Twizz galloped shortly after 6 a.m. with exercise rider Orlando Aguilar aboard for trainer Mike Maker.
By Twirling Candy, Twizz has no Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
Post 9 – Goats Town: Calumet Farm’s Goats Town walked through the Paddock after the renovation break under exercise rider Allison Walker and then galloped a mile and quarter.
“He’s a good feeling dude,” Walker said of the Dublin colt, a maiden who has no Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
Two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner D. Wayne Lukas trains Goats Town.
Post 10 – American Dubai: Richard Keith’s American Dubai galloped after the renovation break with exercise rider Jerry O’Dwyer aboard.
Chris Landeros, who rode American Dubai in his most recent start in the Rebel (G2) will again partner with the Rodney Richards trainee.
“I just hope he gets a clean break and is able to get a good position,” Richards said of his first Toyota Blue Grass starter.
By E Dubai, American Dubai has two Derby qualifying points.
Post 12 – Zapperini: Lloyd Madison Farms IV’s Zapperini, fifth in the Risen Star (G2) in his most recent start, walked through the Paddock after the renovation break and then jogged under exercise rider Margarito Fierro.
Trained by Greg Foley, the Ghostzapper colt has no Derby qualifying points.
Post 13 – Star Hill: Calumet Farm’s Star Hill galloped before the renovation break with exercise rider Jennifer Patterson aboard.
Star Hill, by Elusive Quality, is trained by Rusty Arnold, who has won five Grade 1 races at Keeneland but never the Toyota Blue Grass.
“It would be big to win it,” said Arnold, whose best finishes have been third with Wavering Monarch in 1982 andTricky Creek in 1989. “I have had better luck in the (Central Bank) Ashland with a win (Karlovy Vary in 2012) and a couple of seconds.”
Star Hill has 10 Derby qualifying points, accumulated with a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his most recent start.
“I just want to see him continue to improve,” Arnold said. “He doesn’t have to win to make me happy.”
Earlier Saturday, Arnold will try to double his Central Bank Ashland win total when he sends out Weep No Moreagainst the likes of Cathryn Sophia, Carina Mia and Rachel’s Valentina.
“That is a tough race,” Arnold said. “You probably have the three best fillies in the country outside of Songbird in there.”
Post 14 – My Man Sam: Sheep Pond Partners, Newport Stables and Jay W. Bligh’s My Man Sam galloped about 1½ miles after the renovation break.
Bligh, who lives in Del Mar, Calif., bred My Man Sam, who was born at historic Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky. The colt’s dam, Lauren Byrd, by Arch, was second in Keeneland’s 2010 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine.
By Trappe Shot, My Man Sam has no Derby qualifying points.
For more about the horses in the Toyota Blue Grass and their connections, click here.