LEXINGTON, KY (March 31, 2015) – WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables’ Carpe Diem, runaway winner of last fall’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) here and a leading candidate for the 141st Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), has been installed as the even-money favorite in a field of eight entered Tuesday for Saturday’s 91st running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1).
The 1 1/8-mile Toyota Blue Grass serves as a major steppingstone for the $2 million Kentucky Derby and will be run on Keeneland’s new dirt track, the first time over such a surface since 2006.
The race offers 170 points toward qualification to this year’s Derby with 100 points going to the winner, a total that would ensure a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate in a field limited to the top 20 point earners.
A total of 19 horses that ran in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland went on to win the Kentucky Derby, with the most recent being StreetSense in 2007.
The Toyota Blue Grass is scheduled to go off at 6 p.m. ET as the 10th race on Saturday’s 11-race card. First post time is 12:35 p.m. for the program that features four other graded stakes, two more of which are Grade 1s: the Central Bank Ashland and the Madison.
Trained by two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, Carpe Diem has won three of his four career races and inTemperatures are expected to be in the upper 50s on Saturday.
his lone start of 2015 won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) by five lengths. His only defeat came in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in which he finished second to Texas Red.
A Keeneland sales graduate, Carpe Diem will attempt to become the third horse to win the Breeders’ Futurity and come back the following spring to win the Blue Grass. The other two are Round Table (1956-1957) and Dullahan (2011-2012).
John Velazquez, who has ridden Carpe Diem in all of his starts, has the mount Saturday and will break from post position five. Velazquez rodeBandini to victory in the 2005 renewal of the race for Pletcher, whose other Toyota Blue Grass victory came in 2008 with Monba.
Co-second choices on the morning line at 6-1 are DP Racing’s Ocho Ocho Ocho, trained by Jim Cassidy, and Cheyenne Stables’ Classy Class, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.
A winner of his first three starts that included a score in the Delta Jackpot (G3), Ocho Ocho Ocho finished eighth in his 2015 debut behind the undefeated Dortmund in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita on March 7. Santiago Gonzalez has the riding assignment on Ocho Ocho Ocho, who will break from post position one.
Classy Class enters the Toyota Blue Grass off a third-place finish in the Gotham (G3) on March 7 at Aqueduct. Junior Alvarado, who was aboard in the Gotham, has the mount Saturday and will break from post position seven.
In addition to Pletcher, two other trainers have posted victories in the To
yota Blue Grass, with one conditioner, Nick Zito, shooting for a record fourth victory in Keeneland’s marquee spring race for 3-year-olds.
Zito, one of four trainers with a race-high three victories in the Toyota Blue Grass, will saddle Frammento, who was third in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 21 in his most recent start. Owned by Mossarosa, Frammento broke his maiden at Keeneland last fall.
In addition to Zito, trainers with three Blue Grass victories are Ben Jones, Woody Stephens and LeRoy Jolley. Zito’s Toyota Blue Grass winners are Strike the Gold (1991), Halory Hunter (1998) and The Cliff’s Edge (2004).
Frammento, who will break from post position six, will be ridden by Gary Stevens, who won the 1998 Toyota Blue Grass on Halory Hunter for Zito.
One other trainer trying to add to his Toyota Blue Grass victory total is Mike Maker.
Maker, who won the 2010 race with Stately Victor, will send out Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable’s Pepper Roani. Miguel Mena has the mount and will break from post position three.
The complete field for the Toyota Blue Grass with jockey and morning-line odds from the rail out is as follows: Ocho Ocho Ocho (Gonzalez, 6-1), Gorgeous Bird (Brian Hernandez Jr., 8-1), Pepper Roani (Mena, 12-1), Unrivaled (Robby Albarado, 12-1), Carpe Diem (Velazquez, 1-1), Frammento (Stevens, 8-1), Classy Class (Alvarado, 6-1) and Danzig Moon (Julien Leparoux, 8-1). All starters will carry 123 pounds.
On Saturday, the first post is 12:35 p.m. ET. Keeneland will run 11 races with the final race post time of 6:30 p.m. Approximate post times for the day’s stakes are: Madison (G1) at 3:28 p.m., Commonwealth (G3) at 4:05 p.m., Shakertown (G3) at 4:42 p.m., Central Bank Ashland (G1) at 5:20 p.m. and Toyota Blue Grass (G1) at 6 p.m.
Saturday’s wagering opportunities include:
All-Stakes Pick Four presented by TVG. The $300,000 guaranteed Pick Four features races 7-10, the Commonwealth, Shakertown, Central Bank Ashland and Toyota Blue Grass.
All-Stakes Pick Five presented by TVG. The $300,000 guaranteed Pick Five features races 6-10, the Madison, Commonwealth, Shakertown, Central Bank Ashland and Toyota Blue Grass.
Pick Six Wager. The Pick Six wager returns to Keeneland for the 2015 Spring Meet. Available with a new minimum wager of $1, the Pick Six will be offered on the last six races of each race day with a carryover provision and consolation payouts if there are no perfect tickets.
The Toyota Blue Grass will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network from 5-7 p.m. ET. A replay of the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland will be shown during the broadcast.
Horse Racing Radio Network, the Eclipse Award-winning broadcast organization, will provide live coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass, Central Bank Ashland and Madison beginning at 4 p.m. The program will include the TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial (G1) from Aqueduct and Santa Anita Derby (G1) from Santa Anita. All Horse Racing Radio Network coverage airs locally on HANK 96.1 FM in Lexington and via live streaming on the HRRN website, horseracingradio.net.
The “Kentucky Winner’s Circle” hosted by E.J. Clark, will air live from Keeneland from 3-5 p.m. in the Louisville radio market. The show will be broadcast on 790 AM WKRD.
For more than 75 years, the Keeneland Association has devoted itself to the health and vibrancy of the Thoroughbred industry. As the world’s largest Thoroughbred auction company, Keeneland conducts sales every January, September and November. Its sales graduates dominate racing across the globe at every level. In April and October, Keeneland offers some of the highest caliber and richest Thoroughbred racing in the world. In 2015, Keeneland will host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Oct. 30-31. Uniquely structured, Keeneland is a private, for-profit corporation that returns its earnings to the industry and the community in the form of higher purses, and it has donated millions of dollars in charitable contributions for education, research and health and human services throughout Central Kentucky. To learn more about Keeneland, visit Keeneland.com.
Press Release Courtesy of Keeneland