Handicapping the Blue Grass Stakes (G1)

Keeneland    Race 10    5:40 ET

Blue Grass S. (G1)    3yos    1 1/8 miles Polytrack 

As always, handicapping a Polytrack race at Keeneland is not about identifying the most talented horse. It is about identifying the horse that will like the track and figures to get a manageable trip. This is one of the most wide open editions of the race I've ever seen. So many directions to go...

1 Dynamic Sky: Raced greenly last year when finishing 2nd in the Breeders' Futurity (G1) here at Keeneland, but he showed he liked the surface. He has some spatial issues - often leaning on other horses or running into space awkwardly, and the addition of blinkers at age three has not helped so far. Last time he was too keen trying to press outside the extremely fast Verrazano. He is better off settling early. I like his pedigree for Poly and the 9f distance (by Sky Mesa, out of a Distorted Humor mare than won a stake going 12f on turf). Hoping Rosario learned about him last time and will have an improved plan of attack. Consider if double-digit odds.

2 My Name Is Michael: No excuses when punchless in the stretch run (as the favorite!?) in the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway (Note on the Spiral Stakes replay: program #1-5 in that race return here) . He goes blinkers on here. He has shown a decent finishing move going 8.5 furlongs -- when second to Avie's Quality at Woodbine and third behind Falling Sky and Dynamic Sky at Tampa. Rosario jumps off of this Bill Mott trainee in favor of the Mark Casse trainee to his inside. Needs turnaround and then some.

3 Undrafted: Here's the stretchout speed for trainer Wesley Ward. He won his debut at this track impressively, but that was going 4.5 furlongs. Distance is a question, but note that he did win going two turns on the Gulfstream turf. His third-place finish in the Swale last time was a good run. He's relaxing better without the blinkers. I have a feeling Ward will have him set for a top effort, and if the track is playing to speed he becomes interesting to me, especially at double-digits.

 4 Java's War: I really liked this War Pass colt on the turf last year and was surprised by his second behind Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2), but note he is not a real pretty mover on the dirt. He looked better on the Poly here last year when third in the Breeders' Futurity. Contender.

5 Palace Malice: Had no chance last time when he moved early into a wall of horses and was bumped and blocked in the Louisiana Derby (G2) (brutal trip, watch the 2 horse). I liked him in that spot, but I'm less bullish here on two weeks rest and moving to Poly.

6 Channel Isle: There was no lack of try in him when finishing 7th, beaten 4 1/2 lengths in the Spiral. Figs say he is not nearly fast enough. Will need a fast pace to help him. He likes Poly, but seems outclassed for the win. Could maybe stab with him underneath in the tri or super at a huge price.

7 Uncaptured: Got a pretty good trip when finishing evenly behind Black Onyx in the Spiral. He was late to change leads, but to me he looked good physically, like he has grown up a bit at age three. He'll need to do better than that here, but improvement is quite possible second off the layoff. Contender.

8 Charming Kitten: Got a tough trip in his only Polytrack run, and progeny of Kitten's Joy usually love this surface. Pletcher-Ramsey is a potent owner-trainer combo, although he has finished behind a handful of today's opponents. On the plus side, the three turf runs down in Florida should have him ready for today's task. Fitness is extremely important on this track. Couldn't run down Rydilluc last time, but he gets a four-pound weight shift today. Contender, but not for me in the win slot.

9 Tesseron: The three-year-old debut wasn't too bad, and the first (Black Onyx) and fourth-place (Crop Report) finishers returned to win stakes. My first time through this race, I liked how this Tapit colt looks on paper here. But on video, I see him running in spots in a couple of his performances. He has some ability for sure, but I get the feeling he hasn't completely figured out how to win. Not overly enthusiastic about him in a big field on the stretch to 9 furlongs.

10 Footbridge: Tough to bet a maiden winner shipping from California to Lexington, going first-time Poly, but Footbridge has some foundation after running third-second-second-first in some quality maiden fields out West. Jock yanked him back off the pace last time and he came with a good rally. That's a good experience. Tough spot for first-time vs. winners, but the pedigree looks good for Poly (by Street Cry, out of an English mare). I could get interested if he's a big price.

11 Balance the Books: He showed a strong late move on the turf last year and should like 9 furlongs, but he was disappointing last time when trying Polytrack for the first time. He was closer to the pace than usual and didn't fire at all. Trainer Chad Brown puts him back in here on the all-weather (?). Improvement expected, as he's much better than his last. Candidate to come flying late.

12 West Hills Giant: He ran well for second in the Gotham (G3) when sent from an outside post. I'd expect him to be forwardly placed here again. He's run well on turf and dirt. Another contender.

13 Rydilluc: He's been dynamic during his three-race win streak on the turf. He likes to press the pace, but he has a nice finishing move. He came home his final three furlongs in :34-2 last time going 9 furlongs on the Gulfstream turf. That is very strong for a pace presser. And although he got a soft pace up front, there were horses on his flank trying to press him. I liked the way he reacted to that pressure, with a forward burst. He's outside of the other possible speed types and if he doesn't break well, a very tough trip looms. Turf front-runners who can punch home often transfer well to the Poly in my experience. Talented contender but must overcome post. Looked quite good working at Keeneland (video).

14 Fear the Kitten: Little Kitten's Joy colt was a clever claim for $40,000 in his career debut, but I'm not crazy about what he's done in the graded stakes ranks, and this is a tough post.

 Conclusions: Trying to predict how this race will unfold is not easy. The talent of Rydilluc is tempting, but I can't endorse taking ~4-1 on Edgar Prado from the 13 post on a new surface. There will be contenders offered at 10-1 or more, and favorites have a subpar record in grade stakes on Keeneland's Polytrack. I picked Balance the Books on That Handicapping Show, so if he's double digits, he will be my play to rebound second off the layoff. Not much would surprise me here.

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