The featured race for the opening weekend of the Keeneland Spring meet is the G2 Blue Grass Stakes, a major stop on the Kentucky Derby trail every year, with 100 points going to the winner of this prestigious race. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Good Magic will be attempting to make up for a loss in his seasonal debut in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. He should go off as the favorite, but I think the race is much deeper than just him.
Even with the defection of Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip, the Blue Grass looks to be a competitive affair this year, with plenty of intriguing contenders. Aside from the previously mentioned (11) Good Magic, Sam F Davis winner and Tampa Bay Derby runner-up (12) Flameaway is in the race, and he will be my top selection here. I expect him to go to the front, perhaps stalking behind the longshot (3) California Night. He was erratic and slow to switch leads in the stretch of the Tampa Bay Derby, but was gaining rapidly on the leader once he leveled off. I’m willing to chalk that up to greenness and give him another chance here. He proved in that race that he is fully capable of stalking and passing horses, and I believe the son of Scat Daddy is the most likely to upset the favorite.
Also worth mentioning is (10) Free Drop Billy, who won the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at this racetrack for trainer Dale Romans as a two-year-old. He was second to G1 Florida Derby winner Audible in the Holy Bull in his first start of the year – where he was 7 3/4 lengths clear of Tiz Mischief in third – and returned to chase Enticed and Old Time Revival home in the Gotham. I think the mile distance of that race was too short for the son of Union Rags, anyway, and the extra furlong should help him in this spot.
(11) Good Magic deserves to be the favorite, as he is the class of the field, but I am wary of his loss in the Fountain of Youth. Both Promises Fulfilled and Strike Power were disappointing in the Florida Derby, and Good Magic had every chance to beat them but simply wasn’t good enough. Of course, he should improve in his second start off the layoff, but while he’s a must-use on any horizontal wagers, I do think he’s very beatable.
The most interesting horse in the race for me is (7) Blended Citizen. He caught my eye with his big late run in the El Camino Real Derby, and came back off that third-place effort to win the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park when adding blinkers. The major question here is not whether this colt is talented, but whether he can reproduce his closing kick on traditional dirt. His three races over the surface to date were abysmal, but they were also the first three races of his career. If he handles the dirt, he should be rolling late and I believe he’s talented enough to get some Derby points if that’s the case.
A horse that I believe is getting better and has every right to improve in his second start around two turns is (13) Machismo. He was last seen finishing fourth behind Good Magic and company in the Fountain of Youth, but being by More Than Ready and out of a Smart Strike mare, he should relish the extra sixteenth of a mile he will get here. He broke his maiden two races back in wire-to-wire fashion, but sat well off the pace in the Fountain of Youth and made a solid run. I don’t foresee him winning, but he could provide value in trifectas and superfectas.
To summarize, (12) Flameaway is my top pick in the race, with (10) Free Drop Billy and (11) Good Magic as the two other major candidates for the win. (7) Blended Citizen will provide a good price if you’re willing to gamble that he will take to the dirt as a more mature horse, and (13) Machismo could provide good value underneath at 20-1 on the morning line.