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Notes on the $1 Million Toyota Blue Grass

April 9, 2016

Today is a blockbuster day of racing at Keeneland with five graded stakes worth $2.25 million. The richest is the 92nd running of the Toyota Blue Grass (G1), the most famous race at Keeneland and one of the most storied events in all of Thoroughbred racing. For the second consecutive year, the race for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles is worth $1 million and is being run on the first Saturday of the Spring Meet, April 9 – four weeks before the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).

The Toyota Blue Grass is Keeneland’s second million-dollar stakes, following the Fall Meet’s Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), which was increased to $1 million in 2014.

The Toyota Blue Grass is being run the same day as the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), a premier prep for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1). The Central Bank Ashland (G1), for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles, has produced 32 fillies that went on to win the Oaks (G1). In 2015, Lovely Maria won the Central Bank Ashland and Kentucky Oaks.

Today three other stakes join the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland: $300,000 Madison (G1), for older fillies and mares going seven furlongs; $200,000 Shakertown (G2), for older horses at 5½ furlongs on the turf; and $250,000 Commonwealth (G3), for older horses at seven furlongs.

The Madison field includes two horses that won at Keeneland during the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships: Distaff (G1) winner Stopchargingmaria and Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) winner Wavell Avenue.

Here is additional information about the Toyota Blue Grass to aid in your coverage:

Kentucky Derby points: The winner of the Toyota Blue Grass earns 100 points as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, a points-based system with a series of key races offering escalating points to determine which horses will compete in the $2 million Kentucky Derby.

The second-place finisher in the Toyota Blue Grass earns 40 points, followed by 20 points to the third-place finisher and 10 points to the fourth-place finisher.

Information about 2016 Toyota Blue Grass participants: Biographical information on the connections of each entrant in this year’s race, as well as past performances, charts of the race since 1937, when it was first run at Keeneland, and historical statistics on the race are available at Keeneland.com/bluegrass.

History: The Blue Grass was named for the famous Bluegrass region of Central Kentucky and held in 1911-1914 and 1919-1926 at the old Kentucky Association track near downtown Lexington. Second-place finishers Meridian (1911), Donerail (1913) and Behave Yourself (1921) went on to win the Kentucky Derby. The 1926 winner, Bubbling Over, became the first horse to win the Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby. 

With the closure of the Kentucky Association track, a group of prominent area Thoroughbred breeders went to work to return racing to Lexington. In 1935, they founded the Keeneland Association, purchased land from horseman J.O. “Jack” Keene and set out to open a model race track. Keeneland opened on Oct. 15, 1936, for nine days of racing. In April 1937, Keeneland held its inaugural Spring Meet of 11 days and ran the Blue Grass for the first time.

The winner of the first Blue Grass at Keeneland was Maxwell Howard’s Fencing, who won by three-quarters of a length over Col. E.R. Bradley’s favored pair of Billionaire and Brooklyn, who finished noses apart for second. Nine days later at Churchill Downs, Fencing and Billionaire raced back in the Kentucky Derby, inaugurating a pattern that future Derby hopefuls would follow.

Blue Grass-Kentucky Derby connection: A total of nine winners of the Blue Grass at Keeneland have won the Kentucky Derby. Another 10 horses who ran in the race have won the Run for the Roses.

Toyota sponsorship: This is the 21st anniversary of Toyota’s sponsorship of the Blue Grass. In 1996, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (located in Georgetown), five area Toyota dealerships and Toyota Motor Sales in Cincinnati teamed to sponsor the Blue Grass, marking Toyota’s first sponsorship of a horse race.

The automotive giant is a strong supporter of Keeneland. The two share a commitment of giving back to the community. Toyota has contributed nearly $119 to charitable organizations in Kentucky.

Post positions: Here are the post positions and the number of Toyota Blue Grass winners each post position has produced since 1937 (the race was run in two divisions in 1951):

Post     No. of Winners
1                      13
2                      12
3                      10
4                      14
5                      11 (including Carpe Diem, 2015)
6                      4
7                      3
8                      6
9                      2
10                    2
11                    2
12                    0
13                    1 (Goyamo, 1954)
14                    0

Record attendance at Keeneland: Five of the 10-highest attendance figures during the Spring and Fall meets were set on the day of the Toyota Blue Grass.

40,617 – April 14, 2012 (Toyota Blue Grass Day)
39,722 – April 12, 2014 (Toyota Blue Grass Day)

37,737 – April 18, 2015 (Dixiana Elkhorn Day)

37,193 – April 11, 2015 (Coolmore Lexington Day)
37,161 – April 13, 2013 (Toyota Blue Grass Day)
34,933 – April 19, 2014 (Coolmore Lexington Day)
33,821 – April 21, 2007 (Coolmore Lexington Day)
33,727 – April 10, 2010 (Toyota Blue Grass Day)
33,680 – April 18, 2009 (Coolmore Lexington Day)
33,621 – April 16, 2005 (Toyota Blue Grass Day)

Last year, 26,257 fans were at Keeneland on Toyota Blue Grass Day.


Brody’s Cause is by Giant’s Causeway, sire of 2015 winner Carpe Diem.

Zapperini is by Ghostzapper, sire of 2010 winner Stately Victor.

The broodmare sires of Cards of Stone and Zulu won the Blue Grass. Cards of Stone is out of a daughter of 2000 winner High Yield. Zulu is out of a daughter of 1990 winner Summer Squall. The paternal grandsire of Hint of Roses (also-eligible) is 1997 winner Pulpit.

Cherry Wine’s sire, Paddy O’Prado, was second in 2010.

Julien Leparoux (My Man Sam) won the 2013 race on Java’s War. He is riding in the race for the eighth consecutive year.

Riding in the race for the first time this year are Tyler Gaffalione (Lookin for a Kiss), Martin Garcia (Donegal Moon), Florent Geroux (Hint of Roses, AE), James Graham (Crescent Drive), Emisael Jaramillo (Star Hill), Jose Lezcano (Laoban), Chris Landeros (American Dubai), Paco Lopez (Cards of Stone) and Mitchell Murrill (Twizz).

Gaffalione and Jaramillo had not ridden at Keeneland prior to the 2016 Spring Meet.

Todd Pletcher (Cards of Stone, Donegal Moon, Zulu) is seeking a record fourth win in the race. His three winners are Bandini (2005), Monba (2008) and Carpe Diem (2015).

D. Wayne Lukas (Goats Town) is seeking his third win. He won with War (1987) and High Yield (2000).

Mike Maker (Twizz, Pinson-AE, Hint of Roses-AE) won the race with Stately Victor (2010).

Dale Romans (Brody’s Cause, Cherry Wine) won the race with Dullahan (2012).

Making their Toyota Blue Grass debuts are trainers Tom Amoss (Crescent Drive), Greg Foley (Zapperini), Eric Guillot (Laoban), Mike Tomlinson (Lookin for a Kiss) and Rodney Richards (American Dubai).

Goats Town and Star Hill are homebreds racing for the famous Calumet Farm, now owned by Brad Kelley. While under previous ownership, Calumet won a record six runnings of the race with Bull Lea (1938), Ocean Wave (1943), Faultless (1947), Coaltown (1948), Forward Pass (1968) and Alydar (1978).

Donegal Moon races for Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing, who won the race in 2012 with Dullahan.

Zulu races for the partnership of Michael B. Tabor, Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stables. Tabor and Magnier were partners in 2000 winner High Yield. Tabor and Smith owned 2005 winner Bandini. Stonestreet owned 2015 winner Carpe Diem in partnership with WinStar Farm.

Keeneland sales graduates: Eight of the 16 horses entered in the Toyota Blue Grass are graduates of Keeneland sales. 

Sold at the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling Sale were American Dubai ($35,000), Brody’s Cause ($350,000), Donegal Moon ($220,000), Laoban ($260,000) Lookin for a Kiss ($55,000), Twizz ($50,000) and Zulu ($400,000).

Sold as weanlings at Keeneland’s 2013 November Breeding Stock Sale were Laoban ($40,000), Pinson ($75,000) and Twizz ($35,000).

The shortest-priced favorite to win was Spectacular Bid (1979), who went off at .05-1 (1-20). He paid $2.10.

The longest shot to win was Stately Victor (2010), who went off at 40.10-1 in 2010. He paid $82.20.

The last time the post-time favorite won was 2015 when Carpe Diem was 2-5.

Largest margin of victory: The largest margin of victory was turned in by Arts and Letters, who won the 1969 race by 15 lengths. He was followed by Alydar (13-length winner in 1978) and Sinister Minister (12¾-length winner in 2006).

Fastest times: The stakes record is 1:47 1/5, set by Skip Away in 1996. The track record is 1:47.90 set by 4-year-old Race Day when he won the Hagyard Fayette (G2) on Oct. 30, 2015.

Geldings to win: Cards of Stone is the lone gelding entered in this year’s Toyota Blue Grass. Six geldings have won the race: Fencing (1937), Ruhe (1951, 2nd division), Rockhill Native (1980),Bachelor Beau (1986), Prairie Bayou (1993) and Dominican (2007).

Maidens to win: No maiden has won the race. Maidens Goats Town, Laoban and Hint of Roses (AE) were entered in this year’s race.

Largest field: Fourteen horses, which are scheduled to start today, also ran in the race in 1954, 1974, 2013 and 2014.

Wagering: All-sources wagering reached a record $21,647,378 during the 12-race 2012 Toyota Blue Grass card. Keeneland’s record for single-day on-track handle was $3,599,647 on April 16, 2005, day of the Toyota Blue Grass.

TV and radio coverage: The Toyota Blue Grass will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network from 5-7 p.m. ET. Coverage of the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland will be included.

TVG’s coverage includes the Toyota Blue Grass, Central Bank Ashland, $350,000 Madison (G1) and $250,000 Commonwealth (G3) and will be aired on Fox 56 in Lexington from 5-7 p.m.

As always, all Keeneland races are streamed live on Keeneland.com.

Horse Racing Radio Network, the Eclipse Award-winning broadcast organization, will provide live coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass from 4-7:30 p.m. Coverage is available via live streaming on the HRRN website, horseracingradio.net.