Blue Grass draws overflow seeking points toward Kentucky Derby berth

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 5th, 2016

Fountain of Youth (G2) runner-up Zulu and juvenile Grade 1 winner Brody’s Cause rate as top contenders in Saturday’s $1 million Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland, but none of the entrants are on firm footing when it comes to eligibility for the 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1). As a result, the 170 points’ bounty available for the top four finishers (100-40-20-10 scale) is of extreme importance.

The 1 1/8-mile race attacted an overflow of 16 horses including a pair of also-eligibles.

Zulu, who will be making only his second stakes attempt, has established himself as a promising sort for trainer Todd Pletcher and can solidify his status as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender with a strong showing. The Bernardini colt opened his racing career with a pair convincing wins over maiden and entry-level allowance foes at Gulfstream before netting 20 points for his runner-up to Mohaymen in the Fountain of Youth, and Zulu is listed as the 5-2 morning line favorite with new rider Javier Castellano.

Brody’s Cause is seeking to rebound from a disappointing seventh as the favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and his affinity for Keeneland’s main track could prove beneficial, with the Dale Romans-trained colt winning the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and recording a rallying third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) over the Lexington, Kentucky track last fall. But the pressure is on, with the late-running Brody’s Cause possessing only 14 points toward a Kentucky Derby berth, and the son of Giant’s Causeway is listed as the 5-1 second choice with new rider Luis Saez.

Romans will also send out Cherry Wine, a troubled fourth when making his stakes bow in the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park; and maiden scorer Lookin for a Kiss, an early 50-1 outsider. It’s interesting to note Corey Lanerie, Brody’s Cause’s former rider, will stick with Cherry Wine, the 12-1 co-sixth choice.

Pletcher also has three contestants, with Donegal Moon the 5-1 third choice on the morning line following a 13 ½-length allowance romp at Parx that netted him a 102 BRIS Speed rating. Cards of Stone, who will make his first start against open rivals after most recently defeating New York-bred rivals in an Aqueduct allowance, was posted at 20-1.

Laoban, who is winless from four career outings, is actually the points’ leader among Blue Grass entrants, garnering 20 for a Gotham (G3) runner-up at Aqueduct and 2 points for a Sham (G3) third at Santa Anita. The Eric Guillot trainee is 12-1 on the morning line with new jockey Jose Lezcano.

Other runners include Oaklawn invader American Dubai, who finished third in the Southwest (G3) before a disappointing 13th in the Rebel; Tampa Bay Derby third-placer Star Hill; My Man Sam, who exits a runner-up to Wood Memorial (G1) contender Cool Coal Man in a recent Aqueduct allowance; and Risen Star (G2) fifth-placer Zapperini.

Zulu photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese