Seven of the eight contenders for Saturday’s $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) trained on Keeneland’s main track Thursday morning. The eighth, Pepper Roani, arrived here before noon.
Post 1 – Ocho Ocho Ocho (Pictured Below): DP Racing’s Ocho Ocho Ocho, winner of the Delta Jackpot (G3) and Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes (moved to the main track because of rain at Santa Anita), jogged to the backstretch and galloped an easy lap around the main track a little after 9 a.m. Trainer Jim Cassidy was in attendance.noon from Louisville.
“(Assistant and exercise rider Matt Williams) said he feels like a lot bigger horse than he looks,” Cassidy said. “He’s pretty cool. He has a great, long stride on him, which is really helpful considering his size.”
Regarding choosing the Toyota Blue Grass instead of the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on his home track in California the same day, Cassidy said, “I didn’t want to knock him out with a tough race out there. I wanted to focus on the (Kentucky Derby) and I thought that this might be a little easier spot.”
On March 7, Ocho Ocho Ocho finished eighth, beaten 15½ lengths, in the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita. The colt had a rough trip in his first loss.
“He broke a tad slow and got banged around,” Cassidy said. “Tyler Baze’s horse (The Gomper) was running off and we were bounced around, hitting the rail. (San Felipe rider) Mike (Smith) said to throw that one out; he didn’t even have a chance to run.”
Asked if Ocho Ocho Ocho would show speed in the Toyota Blue Grass after such a troubled trip, “I would expect (to be on the lead),” Cassidy said. “I think it’s obvious.”
Post 2 – Gorgeous Bird: Marylou Whitney’s homebred Gorgeous Bird jogged on the main track a little after 6 a.m. Thursday with exercise rider Yoni Orantes up.
Gorgeous Bird, a winner of two of four career starts, enters the Toyota Blue Grass off a fifth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 21 at Gulfstream.
“The track was very dry and cuppy that day,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “It tends to be a little quick and speed favoring on big days and that is a little tough on closers. We just felt we needed to try him up here (instead of last Saturday’s Florida Derby).”
Post 3 – Pepper Roani: Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable’s Pepper Roani arrived here before noon from trainer Mike Maker’s base at Churchill’s Trackside Training Center. Maker reported the colt galloped there Thursday morning before shipping.
Post 4 – Unrivaled: Arriving the day before from the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, Team Valor International’s Unrivaled made his first appearance on the main track about 6:45 a.m., jogging once under Ross Montoya. His wife, Marya (pronounced “Mariah”) Montoya, trains Unrivaled, a colt by Super Saver she claimed for $30,000 here in October for David Wright’s Waldorf Racing Stables.
Ross Montoya works on the starting gate at Parx, where Unrivaled has made his three most recent starts. Following a second on Dec. 9, the colt broke his maiden by 15 lengths on Dec. 23 and in his first race for Team Valor won a March 15 allowance race by five lengths.
“His schedule’s been a little flexible because of this horse,” Marya said about her husband.
Marya, who also exercises Unrivaled, said she was pleased with Unrivaled’s first time back on the Keeneland track in nearly six months.
“We were just letting him loosen up,” she said. “He’s not going to get any fitter between now and the race. Let him step out on the track, loosen up, look around a little bit.”
After the exercise, the trainer walked Unrivaled in the walking ring outside the barn.
“He’s a happy horse,” she said.
Marya Montoya said Unrivaled’s Friday plans are to jog again or walk the shedrow, depending on the weather.
Post 5 – Carpe Diem (Pictured Right): Stonestreet Stables and WinStar Farm’s Carp Diem, the even-money morning-line favorite for the Toyota Blue Grass, left trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn at 7:35 a.m. on Thursday with two stablemates: 2013 Coolmore Lexington (G3) winner Winning Cause and allowance winner Eastwood.
With Patti Krotenko aboard for assistant Dermott Magnier, Carpe Diem galloped 1¼ miles on the main track and schooled in the starting gate. Stonestreet owner Barbara Banke, Stonestreet bloodstock adviser John Moynihan and WinStar President Elliott Walden also watched Carpe Diem’s training.
“He has the pedigree and the looks and is doing very well,” Walden said.
Banke also was pleased.
“I was happy with what I saw (today),” she said. “He likes this track and he’s doing well.”
Pletcher is scheduled to be at Keeneland Saturday morning through the race, Magnier said.
Post 6 – Frammento: Mossarosa’s Frammento visited the starting gate and then galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Juan Bernardini after the morning renovation break.
Trainer Nick Zito, who will be seeking a record fourth victory in the Toyota Blue Grass, gave a nod of approval on the morning’s activities and expressed no concern about an off-track possibility Saturday.
“He hasn’t run on an off track, but I don’t think it would bother him,” Zito said. “The race isn’t until 6 and the only way the track can be off is if it rains that day.”
Post 7 – Classy Class: Cheyenne Stables’ Classy Class turned in an easy gallop once around the main track at about 9 a.m. Roger Horgan was aboard the colt, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin.
Assistant trainer Austin Luttrell is pleased with how Classy Class has settled in at Keeneland, where his daily routine includes time in the afternoon to graze outside the barn.
“He ate everything last night, and he’s got his ears perked,” Luttrell said. “He’s looking around and seems like he likes it here.”
Post 8 – Danzig Moon: John Oxley’s Danzig Moon galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Jason Hoyte before the morning renovation break.
Danzig Moon finished fourth in his debut here last October on the opening day of the Fall Meet over a track that was labeled as good.
“He got away bad that day, made a good middle move and then flattened out,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father, trainer Mark Casse. “I don’t think he got as much credit as he deserved for that race.
“He’s got a lot of talent, but did not have a lot of maturity in that first race.”
Casse is hoping for a fast track Saturday afternoon.
“I’d prefer to see it fast,” Casse said. “But he is by Malibu Moon and his offspring generally have good off-track form.”
Press Release and Photos Courtesy of Keeneland.