Sierra Leone 2-1 MLO Fav for Blue Grass

April 2, 2024

Risen Star champ Sierra Leone (left front). (Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir) 

Saturday’s 100th Running of the $1 Million Toyota Blue Grass has Sierra Leone as 2-1 Morning Line Favorite

Keeneland Press Release

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Peter Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg and Brook Smith’s Sierra Leone is the 2-1 morning line favorite in a field of 11 3-year-olds entered Tuesday for Saturday’s 100th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1).

Contested at 1 1/8 miles over the main track, the Toyota Blue Grass is the 10th race on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 5:52 p.m. ET post time. First post Saturday is 1 p.m.

Trained by two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Chad Brown, Sierra Leone comes into Saturday’s race off a victory in the Risen Star (G2) run at 1 1/8 miles at Fair Grounds on Feb. 17. Sierra Leone has won two of three races and was second by a nose to Toyota Blue Grass rival Dornoch in the Remsen (G2).

Tyler Gaffalione has the mount on Sierra Leone and will exit post 10.

Brown’s Toyota Blue Grass winners are Good Magic in 2018 and Zandon in 2022. Good Magic is the sire of Dornoch.

Brown has two other entrants in the race: Calumet Farm’s Good Money (20-1) and Flanagan Racing’s Top Conor (15-1).

Good Money has won one of two races and finished fourth in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G3) on March 9 in his most recent start. Javier Castellano, who won the 2019 Toyota Blue Grass on Vekoma, has the mount from post 5.

Top Conor has won his only race, going a mile at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 17. Top Conor will exit post 1 and be ridden by Jose Ortiz, who won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2018 on Good Magic.

West Paces Racing, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing and Pine Racing Stables’ Dornoch, a full brother to 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve winner Mage, is the second choice on the morning line at 3-1.

Trained by Danny Gargan, Dornoch enters Saturday’s race off a front-running victory in the Coolmore Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream on March 2. Dornoch has won three consecutive races starting with his initial victory at Keeneland last fall going 1 1/16 miles. His second victory came by a nose over Toyota Blue Grass rival Sierra Leone in the Remsen last December going 1 1/8 miles.

“That’s a good spot,” Gargan said. “He came out of the 3 hole in the Fountain of Youth and the Remsen. He will come out of there running and make his way through.”

Three-time Toyota Blue Grass-winning rider Luis Saez has the mount on Dornoch and will attempt to join six other riders to have won the race in consecutive years. Saez won aboard Tapit Trice (2023), Essential Quality (2021) and Brody’s Cause (2016). Dornoch drew post position 4.

Third choice on the morning line at 7-2 is Qatar Racing, Resolute Racing and Marc Detampel’s Just a Touch, who has won one of two races and comes into Saturday’s race off a runner-up effort in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct March 2. Florent Geroux has the mount from post position 6.

Just a Touch is trained by Brad Cox, who won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2021 with Godolphin’s Essential Quality. Cox has another Godolphin runner this year in Encino (10-1). A winner of two of three races over the all-weather surface at Turfway Park this winter, Encino enters Saturday’s race off a victory in the John Battaglia Memorial (L) on March 2. Flavien Prat, who won the 2022 Toyota Blue Grass on Zandon, has the mount Saturday from post position 11.

Repole Stable’s Be You, fourth choice on the morning line at 8-1, will attempt to give trainer Todd Pletcher back-to-back Toyota Blue Grass victories following Tapit Trice last year. Third in the American Pharoah (G1) and fourth in the Hopeful (G1) last year, Be You notched his first victory in six starts on March 2 at Gulfstream going 7 furlongs.

Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount on Be You from post 2 for Pletcher, whose other Toyota Blue Grass winners were Bandini (2005), Monba (2008) and Carpe Diem (2015).

“I’m happy with the post,” Pletcher said via text.

Two trainers will seek to add to their victory ledger in the Toyota Blue Grass. Two-time winner Kenny McPeek will saddle LatLong (30-1), and two-time winner D. Wayne Lukas will send out Seize the Grey (20-1).

Walking L Thoroughbreds’ Lat Long, third in the Lecomte (G3) in his most recent start, will attempt to join Harlan’s Holiday (2002) and Java’s War (2013) as Toyota Blue Grass winners for McPeek. Brian Hernandez Jr., who won the 2020 Toyota Blue Grass aboard Art Collector, has the mount on Lat Long from post 7.

Lukas, who saddled War to victory in 1987 and High Yield in 2000, will be represented by MyRacehorse’s Seize the Grey. Seize the Grey, who will be ridden by Nik Juarez and break from post 3, enters Saturday’s race off a third-place finish in Turfway’s Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on March 23.

The Toyota Blue Grass offers 200 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby on a 100-50-25-15-10 scale to the first- through fifth-place finishers. The 150th running of the $5 million Kentucky Derby, to be run May 4 at Churchill Downs, is limited to the top 20-point earners and invitees.

The field for the Toyota Blue Grass, with riders and morning line odds from the rail out, is:

PostHorseTrainerJockeyMorning Line Odds
1Top ConorChad BrownJose Ortiz15-1
2Be YouTodd PletcherIrad Ortiz Jr.8-1
3Seize the GreyD. Wayne LukasNik Juarez20-1
4DornochDanny GarganLuis Saez3-1
5Good MoneyChad BrownJavier Castellano20-1
6Just a TouchBrad CoxFlorent Geroux7-2
7Lat LongKenny McPeekBrian Hernandez Jr.30-1
8Epic RideJohn EnnisAdam Beschizza20-1
9MugatuJeff EnglerJoe Talamo30-1
10Sierra LeoneChad BrownTyler Gaffalione2-1
11EncinoBrad CoxFlavien Prat12-1

All starters will carry 123 pounds.

@PastTheWire Thank you for that article. I was 11yrs old watching race on TV & remember it like yesterday.Great article #GreatHorse #Ruffian

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