Blue Grass Stakes Contenders and Odds for Saturday 4/9/22
|Post Position||Horse and Morning Line Odds|
|7||Golden Glider (20-1)|
|8||Ethereal Road (20-1)|
|9||Rattle N Roll (8-1)|
|10||Smile Happy (9-5)|
Balanced Field on Tap for Blue Grass Stakes
Over the past five years, the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes has produced results that seemed bent on proving a point.
From the moment Keeneland’s signature Kentucky Derby (G1) prep was downgraded to Grade 2 status in 2017, the race doubled down on its history of quality with its last four winners all going on to be victorious in top-level contests. With its Grade 1 merit restored for the 2022 edition, the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes will aim to keep that momentum going on April 9 as a balanced field of 12 were entered for the 1 1/8-miles race that headlines the opening weekend of the Keeneland Spring Meet.
The Blue Grass offers 170 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the first four finishers
Having already secured one Kentucky Derby contender last weekend with Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) winner Tiz the Bomb, trainer Ken McPeek looks to bolster his roster of classic hopefuls as he sends out graded stakes winners Smile Happy and Rattle N Roll Saturday. In addition to each being owned by Lucky Seven Stable, both colts have proven affinity for Keeneland with Smile Happy breaking his maiden over the main track last October 29 and Rattle N Roll capturing the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) there last October 9.
While Rattle N Roll hasn’t been able to find the winner’s circle in two starts this season, most recently finishing fourth in the March 26 Louisiana Derby (G2), Smile Happy went on to take the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) last November 27 and was second to leading Kentucky Derby contender Epicenter in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds on February 19.
“This is a really good horse. He ran well in New Orleans,” McPeek said of Smile Happy, who was installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the Blue Grass. “I think he could have been a tad closer, but the pace didn’t set up well for him. He still showed real bravery to run late. This horse has a very bright future.
“It is exciting to have two Derby contenders, and the others might check that box, too. It is an enviable position.”
Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher will also have a two-pronged entry for the Blue Grass in Commandperformance and Emmanuel. A son of More Than Ready, Emmanuel captured his first two career starts before finishing fourth in the March 5 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). Commandperformance, meanwhile, is still seeking his first career win, finishing second in last October’s Champagne Stakes (G1) and taking runner-up honors again behind fellow Blue Grass entrant Fenwick in a maiden special weight test at Tampa Bay Downs on March 12.
“Emmanuel has a bit of a larger physical presence than a lot of the More Than Readys we’ve had. He’s a good-sized, strong colt with a really good More Than Ready disposition,” Pletcher said. “He’s a very straightforward, very professional, smart colt.”
Pletcher’s former boss, D. Wayne Lukas, will also be well represented in the Blue Grass Stakes as the legendary trainer is set to saddle Rebel Stakes (G2) runner-up Ethereal Road. The bay son of Quality Road broke his maiden going 1 1/16-miles at Oaklawn Park on January 29 and was leading in the stretch of the Rebel Stakes when he was caught late by longshot Un Ojo.
Four-time Eclipse Award winner Chad Brown, who won the 2018 Blue Grass with champion Good Magic, seeks a second triumph in the race with the well-regarded Zandon, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line. The son of Upstart finished third during his seasonal bow in the Risen Star Stakes, a race that saw him rally after breaking in the air and falling well back in the early going.