LEXINGTON, Ky. – Lucky Seven Stable’s Smile Happy is the 9-5 morning-line choice in a field of twelve 3-year-olds for Saturday’s 98th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) going 1 1/8 miles on the main track.
A major steppingstone for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run May 7 at Churchill Downs, the Toyota Blue Grass offers 170 points toward qualification to this year’s Derby on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the first- through fourth-place finishers. The Derby is limited to the top 20-point earners that pass the entry box.
The Toyota Blue Grass will go as the ninth race on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 5:10 p.m. ET post time. First post time for the card that features five graded stakes is 12:30 p.m.
Trained by two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Kenny McPeek, Smile Happy debuted here last Oct. 29 with a 5½-length victory going 1 1/16 miles. Smile Happy followed that score with a 3¼-length victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill.
In his lone start of 2022, Smile Happy finished second behind leading Kentucky Derby contender Epicenter in the Risen Star (G2) Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds on Feb. 19. Corey Lanerie, who has been aboard Smile Happy in his past two races, has the mount Saturday and will break from post position 10.
Lucky Seven and McPeek also will be represented by Rattle N Roll (8-1 fourth choice), winner of last fall’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland.
Seeking to follow on the heels of Essential Quality, who completed a Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity-Toyota Blue Grass double last year, Rattle N Roll finished sixth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on March 5 in his lone start of 2022. Brian Hernandez Jr., who won this race in 2020 with Art Collector, has the mount and will break from post nine.
McPeek’s two Toyota Blue Grass winners are Harlan’s Holiday (2002) and Java’s War (2013).
The second choice at 5-2 on Mike Battaglia’s morning line is Jeff Drown’s Zandon.
Trained by Chad Brown and to be ridden by Flavien Prat, Zandon will be making his first start since finishing third in the Risen Star in his 2022 debut, a half-length back of Smile Happy. Zandon closed 2021 with a narrow defeat in the Remsen (G2). Zandon will break from post four.
Brown will be seeking his second Toyota Blue Grass victory, having scored with Good Magic in 2018.
Third choice on the morning line at 5-1 is WinStar Farm and Siena Farm’s Emmanuel.
Trained by three-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, Emmanuel won his first two starts and in his most recent outing finished fourth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 5.
Luis Saez has the mount and seeks to join Edgar Prado (2002-2003) as the most recent rider to win the Toyota Blue Grass in consecutive years. Saez won last year on Essential Quality and also won the 2016 renewal on Brody’s Cause.
Emmanuel will break from post six as one of two Pletcher-trained runners in the race.
Also entered Wednesday was Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Commandperformance (12-1), who will break from post one under Irad Ortiz Jr. Commandperformance will attempt to join Irap (2017) as the only maiden to win the Toyota Blue Grass.
Pletcher’s Toyota Blue Grass winners are Bandini (2005), Monba (2008) and Carpe Diem (2015).
Two other trainers will be attempting to add to their Toyota Blue Grass victory total.
Two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Julie Gilbert and Aaron Sones’ Ethereal Road (15-1), who finished second in the Rebel (G2) on Feb. 26 at Oaklawn Park, an effort that was preceded by a dazzling, last-to-first maiden score on Jan. 29.
Lukas, who won this race in 1987 with War and in 2000 with High Yield, will give Luis Contreras a leg up on Ethereal Road, who will break from post position eight.
Mike Maker, who won the race in 2010 with Stately Victor, will saddle Three Diamonds Farm’s Grantham (15-1). Runner-up in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his most recent start, Grantham will exit post position 12 and be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.
In addition to Saez and Jose Ortiz, Rafael Bejarano will be aiming for an additional victory in the race. Bejarano will be aboard BBN Racing’s Trademark (30-1) for trainer Vicki Oliver and break from post three. Bejarano won the 2007 Toyota Blue Grass aboard Dominican.
Post positions for the Toyota Blue Grass:
$1 Million Toyota Blue Grass (G1), 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles
Race 9, Post time: 5:10 p.m. ET
Weight: 123 lbs.
|1||Commandperformance||Todd Pletcher||Irad Ortiz Jr.||12-1|
|2||Fenwick||Kevin McKathan||Paco Lopez||20-1|
|3||Trademark||Vicki Oliver||Rafael Bejarano||30-1|
|4||Zandon||Chad Brown||Flavien Prat||5-2|
|5||Volcanic||Mark Casse||Adam Beschizza||20-1|
|6||Emmanuel||Todd Pletcher||Luis Saez||5-1|
|7||Golden Glider||Mark Casse||Ricardo Santana Jr.||20-1|
|8||Ethereal Road||D. Wayne Lukas||Luis Contreras||15-1|
|9||Rattle N Roll||Kenny McPeek||Brian Hernandez Jr.||8-1|
|10||Smile Happy||Kenny McPeek||Corey Lanerie||9-5|
|11||Blackadder||Rodolphe Brisset||Florent Geroux||20-1|
|12||Grantham||Mike Maker||Tyler Gaffalione||15-1|
Saturday is Toyota Blue Grass Day: Eleven races begin at 12:30 p.m.
NBC coverage: The Toyota Blue Grass will be the ninth of 11 races on Keeneland’s April 9 card with a 5:10 p.m. ET post. NBC will televise the race along with the Wood Memorial (G2) Presented by Resorts World Casino from Aqueduct and Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) from 4:30-6 p.m.
Toyota Blue Grass is a classic prep: The Toyota Blue Grass is a major prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 7 at Churchill Downs. The Toyota Blue Grass offers 170 qualifying points for the Derby on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the first four finishers.
Saturday graded stakes lineup: Fivegraded stakes are worth a total of $2.2 million.
Race 5 (2:45 p.m.) $300,000 Commonwealth (G3)
Race 6 (3:20 p.m.) $400,000 Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association
Race 7 (3:55 p.m.) $500,000 Madison (G1)
Race 8 (4:30 p.m.) $350,000 Shakertown (G2)
Race 9 (5:10 p.m.) $1 Million Toyota Blue Grass (G1)
Wagering: All-Stakes Pick Five and All-Stakes Pick Four.
How to watch the Spring Meet: TVG’s live, on-site coverage begins at 1 p.m. Thanks to the Keeneland Livestream, fans can watch all races at no charge on Keeneland.com, Keeneland Race Day App, Keeneland Select and Keeneland’s YouTube channel.
POSITION DRAW QUOTES
Kenny McPeek, trainer of Smile Happy (post 10; Corey Lanerie to ride) and Rattle N Roll (post 9; Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride)
“The draw is fine for both. We will have to take the overland route. It was a last-minute decision to run Rattle N Roll. He has been training real well the past two days and he won a Grade 1 (here) last fall. I think he will like an off track and I want to run him in the mud. I also think he will like a mile and an eighth better than the mile and sixteenth (of the Stonestreet Lexington-G3 next weekend).”
Rodolphe Brisset, trainer of Blackadder (post 11; Florent Geroux to ride)
“The 12 (post) would have been worse. Nothing we can do about it.”
Mark Casse, trainer of Golden Glider (post 7; Ricardo Santana Jr. to ride) and Volcanic (post 5; Adam Beschizza to ride)
Regarding both posts: “Beautiful.”
“It made sense to give Volcanic a little more time after (finishing third) in the Sam F. Davis (G3) (on Feb. 12). I thought the Blue Grass would suit him. He has some (early) speed and we have a good post. Kind of the same thing for Golden Glider. I thought about splitting them up (to separate races) but the nice thing about the Blue Grass is that if they run well, we are already in Kentucky so there is less shipping.”
Mike Maker, trainer of Grantham (post 12; Tyler Gaffalione to ride)
“I guess it’s better than the 15. That’s pretty much all you can do (is work out a trip).”
Kevin McKathan, trainer of Fenwick (post 2; Paco Lopez to ride)
“It is perfect. He is going to go the front and that’s why the draw was important.”
Vicki Oliver, trainer of Trademark (post 3; Rafael Bejarano to ride)
“It’s not bad. He’s got a lot of early speed. I would have liked to be a little further out in case (he misses) the break. I don’t think the 3 hole is too bad.”
Keeneland Press Release
Photo: Smile Happy won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs Nov. 27, 2021, under Corey Lanerie. (Coady Photography)