Final Kentucky Derby Preps: Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby

April 11, 2009 | Gary Quill

OK, on Monday night we finally put a fork in the NCAA basketball season as we watched what we all knew was going to be the 2009 outcome… UNC Tar Heels cutting down the nets and being crowned champions. So now what? Watch the 3-1 O’s? Sure, but first pitch isn’t until 7:05pm. C’mon, make today the day you show some interest in thoroughbred horse racing. It’ll only require an hour of your time. At 6pm, tune into ESPN2 for live thoroughbred horse racing coverage of the Arkansas Derby (Post Time 6:41pm EDT). During the broadcast they will probably show, via tape-delay, the Blue Grass Stakes (Post Time 5:19pm; live on TVG).


Let’s look at the $750,000 Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes where eleven will go 1 1/8 miles over the polytrack (synthetic, all-weather) surface at Keeneland in Lexington, KY. Talk about a wide open race. Morning Line favorite Hold Me Back (#10; 3-1) is 3 for 4 lifetime, with 2 of those over this type of surface. But a British invader, Mafaaz  (#5; 12-1), is one to watch. He has already earned an automatic entry in the Kentucky Derby by means of winning his last race across the pond in an inaugural Derby Challenge in Great Britain. Though the race was run in pedestrian time (1:55 for 1 1/8 mile on synthetic oval), he carried 129 lbs., 6 more than he will carry today. Last October he finished 2 lengths behind Donativum  who went on to win the BC Juvenile Turf in his next start. Another price horse with a legitimate shot is Massone (#11; 12-1). In nine career starts, all on the all-weather surface tracks, he only has one victory, but four runner-up finishes to the likes of I Want Revenge  and Chocolate Candy, both of whom are heading to the Derby. Crafty trainer Ron McAnally brings him in from the West Coast and gets Garrett Gomez to ride. Jockey Julien Leparoux always does well at Keeneland and is back on Terrain (#6; 6-1) after guiding him to a 3rd place finish in his 2009 debut behind Derby-bound Friesan Fire and AR Derby entrant Papa Clem in the Louisiana Derby 4 weeks ago. He should show improvement in hopes of punching his Derby ticket by hitting the board.   


In Hot Springs, Arkansas the 73rd running of the $1,000,000 Grade 2 Arkansas Derby features nine runners going the 1 1/8 mile over the Oaklawn Park dirt oval. Old Fashioned (#8; 9-5 M/L) seeks revenge on Win Willy (#9; 7-2) who won the Rebel Stakes 4 weeks ago as a 56-1 longshot. Summer Bird (#7; 30-1) who broke his maiden in his last start supposedly is in over his head here, but he is not. Why? Races are won based on how a horse performs in the final furlongs. In his maiden win, at 1 1/16 mile, Summer Bird ran the final 2½ furlongs in 31.2, whereas Rebel winner Win Willy stretch run passing Old Fashion looked impressive, his finishing time was only 32.2. Of those in the Arkansas Derby, only Papa Clem (#2; 6-1) has come home faster (31.1) on a dirt surface. So in throwing out conventional handicapping wisdom, Summer Bird could score a huge upset here, over Papa Clem with Old Fashioned, Win Willy and Flying Private settling for the minor shares.


Complimentary Past Performances for the Blue Grass Stakes and Arkansas Derby are available at Enjoy the exciting chase scenes thoroughbred horse racing has to offer. Good Luck.