Swiss Skydiver takes on a talented field of 12 colts in Saturday’s $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes; Six fillies vie for Kentucky Oaks points in the $400,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1)
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver will try to put herself on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail Saturday when she takes on males in a field of 13 horses entered for the 96th running of the $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2) for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on Keeneland’s main track.
A major steppingstone for the $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs, the Toyota Blue Grass offers 170 points toward qualification to this year’s Derby with 100 points going to the winner, 40 to the runner-up, 20 to third place and 10 points to fourth. The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners that pass the entry box.
This year’s Toyota Blue Grass, which marks the 25th year the race has been sponsored by Toyota, will go as the ninth race on Saturday’s 10-race program with a 5:30 p.m. ET post time. First post for the card that features six graded stakes is 1:05 p.m.
Trained by two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Kenny McPeek, Swiss Skydiver will be seeking her initial Kentucky Derby points in her first test against males. She has won three graded stakes this year and compiled 310 points toward the $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) to be run Sept. 4.
Trainer McPeek remarked on his filly running against the boys for Derby points. “Any other year, (the decision not to run a filly against males in the Toyota Blue Grass) would have been easy. I’ve got another filly (Envoutante) in the Ashland that we’re fond of, and I hate running against each other if I can help it. (Swiss Skydiver) gets a bit of a weight break in the Blue Grass, and we did Triple Crown nominate her. (The race) seems to be pretty wide open,” McPeek said.
Winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), Fantasy (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks (G2) in her past three starts, Swiss Skydiver will get a 5-pound weight allowance Saturday and carry 118 pounds in the Toyota Blue Grass.
“(Swiss Skydiver is) doing super. She gets weight from all these colts,” McPeek added. “I think she’s going to like the added distance. I like the mile and an eighth (distance of the Toyota Blue Grass) better than the mile and a sixteenth (distance of the Central Bank Ashland). It’ll be exciting.”
Mike Smith has the mount and will break from post position seven. Smith is a two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner, having scored in 1993 with Prairie Bayou and 1994 with Holy Bull.
No filly has won the Toyota Blue Grass and only one filly has run in the race since it debuted at Keeneland during the track’s inaugural Spring Meet in April 1937. She is Hyman Friedberg’s homebred Harriet Sue, who in 1944 won the Ashland and next was fifth to Skytracer in the Blue Grass. That year, Keeneland’s Spring Meet was held at Churchill Downs. In 1948, future Hall of Famer Bewitch was scratched from the Blue Grass.
Another accomplished runner in the field is Jackpot Farm’s Basin. Winner of the Runhappy Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga and most recently second in a division of the Arkansas Derby (G1), Basin ranks ninth on the Derby leaderboard with 50 points. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Basin will be ridden Saturday by Ricardo Santana Jr. and break from post position eight.
Invading from California is Jim and Donna Daniell’s Rushie. Trained by Michael McCarthy, Rushie finished third in last month’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) in his stakes debut to gain 20 Derby points. Javier Castellano, who won last year’s running on Vekoma, has the mount and will break from post position 10.
Also looking to add to his Derby points total is John Oxley’s Enforceable. Winner of the Lecomte (G3) and runner-up in the Risen Star (G2), Enforceable is trained by Mark Casse and will be ridden by Joel Rosario. Enforceable is 14th on the Derby leaderboard with 33 points.
Rosario is seeking his second Toyota Blue Grass victory to go with the triumph in 2011 on Brilliant Speed. Enforceable, third in last fall’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1), will break from post 12.
Regarding drawing the outside post, trainer Casse said, “(The post is) not as important with him. It’s not going to affect us as much because we’re not going to the lead. It actually could be to our benefit in that he tends to break a little slow. But if he happens to break a little better, it will let (jockey) Joel (Rosario) find his spot.
“When you’re down inside and you break a little slow, you’re at everyone’s mercy because they come down on top of you. Plus it’s 1 1/8 miles so we have a little more run into the first turn.”
Seeking his initial Derby points is Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector. Trained by Tom Drury, Art Collector enters Saturday’s race off two allowance victories at Churchill Downs this year by a combined 9 ¾ lengths. Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount and will break from post position three.
In addition to McPeek, who won the Toyota Blue Grass with Harlan’s Holiday in 2002 and Java’s War in 2013, three other trainers will try to add to their win totals in the race. Nick Zito, whose Blue Grass victories came with Strike the Gold (1991), Halory Hunter (1998) and The Cliff’s Edge (2004), will saddle Dream Walkin Farms’ Hunt the Front. A maiden winner at Oaklawn, Hunt the Front will be ridden by Corey Lanerie and break from post 11.
Dale Romans, a two-time Blue Grass winner with Dullahan (2012) and Brody’s Cause (2016), will send out graded stakes-placed Attachment Rate. Owned by Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister, Attachment Rate will be ridden by Luis Saez and break from post nine. Saez won the 2016 Blue Grass for Romans on Brody’s Cause.
Bill Mott, who won the Toyota Blue Grass in 1984 with Taylor’s Special, will send out LNJ Foxwoods and NK Racing’s maiden winner Tiesto. Flavien Prat has the mount and will break from post 13.
Three other riders with previous wins – John Velazquez, Rafael Bejarano and Jose Ortiz – will be seeking additional Toyota Blue Grass victories. Velazquez, who rode Bandini in 2005 and Carpe Diem in 2015 to victory for Todd Pletcher, has the call on Jacks or Better Farm’s Shivaree, who will break from the rail. Bejarano, who won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2007 aboard Dominican, has the call on Partner Stable’s Hard Lighting who will break from post six. Ortiz, who took the 2018 race on champion Good Magic, will be aboard Arnaldo Monger and trainer Rey Hernandez’s Finnick the Fierce and break from post two.
$600,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2), 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles Weight: Males: 123 lbs./Swiss Skydiver: 118 lbs., Post time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Post. Horse – Trainer – Jockey
1. Shivaree – Ralph Nicks – John Velazquez
2. Finnick the Fierce – Rey Hernandez – Jose Ortiz
3. Art Collector – Tom Drury Jr. – Brian Hernandez Jr.
4. Mr. Big News – Bret Calhoun – Mitchell Murrill
5. Man in the Can – Ron Moquett – Tyler Gaffalione
6. Hard Lighting – Alexis Delgado – Rafael Bejarano
7. Swiss Skydiver – Kenny McPeek – Mike Smith
8. Basin – Steve Asmussen – Ricardo Santana Jr.
9. Attachment Rate – Dale Romans – Luis Saez
10. Rushie – Michael McCarthy – Javier Castellano
11. Hunt the Front – Nick Zito – Corey Lanerie
12. Enforceable – Mark Casse – Joel Rosario
13. Tiesto – Bill Mott – Flavien Prat
Central Bank Ashland Is Classic Prep Race
For 3-year-old fillies, the Central Bank Ashland is a major prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Sept. 4. The Central Bank Ashland carries 170 qualifying points for the Oaks on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the first four finishers.
$400,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1), 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles, Weight: 121 lbs., Post time: 4:24 p.m.
Post. Horse – Trainer – Jockey
1. Alta’s Award – Steve Asmussen – Ricardo Santana Jr.
2. Venetian Harbor – Richard Baltas – Joel Rosario
3. Bonny South – Brad Cox – John Velazquez
4. Envoutante – Kenny McPeek – Jose Ortiz
5. Tonalist’s Shape – Saffie Joseph Jr. – Tyler Gaffalione
6. Speech – Michael McCarthy – Javier Castellano
Saturday’s card: Ten races begin at 1:05 p.m.
Complete stats on Equibase
Saturday graded stakes lineup: Six graded stakes are worth a total of $1.9 million.
Race 4 (2:45 p.m.) $150,000 Appalachian (G2) Presented by Japan Racing Association
Race 5 (3:18 p.m.) $250,000 Madison (G1)
Race 6 (3:51 p.m.) $150,000 Shakertown (G2)
Race 7 (4:24 p.m.) $400,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1)
Race 8 (4:57 p.m.) $350,000 Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1)
Race 9 (5:30 p.m.) $600,000 Toyota Blue Grass (G2)
Saturday wagering: $500,000 Guaranteed All — Stakes Pick Five and $500,000 Guaranteed All Pick Four.
Summer Meet filled with Wagering Action and Options
Keeneland is offering a variety of handicapping action for people who will be watching and wagering during the Summer Meet from Wednesday through Sunday.
On Saturday, Keeneland will host its first online live bankroll tournament, the Keeneland Summer Challenge. Entry fee for the contest, which will cover the day’s 10 races, is $3,000. As many as six berths to the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge https://www.breederscup.com/bcbc and 10 berths to the NTRA National Handicapping Championship https://www.ntra.com/nhc/ will be awarded (based on 200 entries). Players may participate through Xpressbet or TVG.
The deadline to enter the Keeneland Summer Challenge is Friday at noon. Click https://tickets.keeneland.com/specialeventtype/keeneland-summer-challenge-live-bankroll-tournament/ to enter Keeneland Summer Challenge.
Also, sign up for a new account with Keeneland Select https://www.keeneland.com/select and receive a special $50 back after you wager $100 on Keeneland’s Summer Meet. This is on top of Keeneland Select’s lucrative sign-up bonus that will earn you $100 after you wager $300 in the first 30 days.
Here’s an overview of additional wagering features of the Summer Meet:
Every race day:
Toyota Super High 5 Jackpot: New for the Summer Meet, this wager will be offered on all Keeneland races with a minimum seven-horse field. With no winning tickets, 100 percent of the net pool will carry over to the next eligible race. Jackpot pays to a single winning ticket; multiple winning tickets trigger consolation payoff and partial carryover.
Complimentary digital program: Click here https://www.keeneland.com/racing/digital-race-day-program to download a complimentary digital program with Equibase past performances. Patrons may choose a full program or just the past performances.
Current scratches and changes will be available at https://www.keeneland.com.
TV coverage: Beginning at 11:30 a.m., “Today at Keeneland” is a 30-minute race-day preview show with handicapping picks and discussion of horses of interest. Racing analysts Gabby Gaudet and Scott Hazelton host the program, which airs live on TVG2, The CW Lexington and WKYT.com and is streamed live on https://www.keeneland.com, Keeneland Select and Keeneland’s Facebook Live and YouTube.
Watch live coverage of the Summer Meet on TVG beginning at 1 p.m. The full card also will be streamed live on Keeneland.com, Keeneland Select and Keeneland’s Facebook Live and YouTube. On Sunday, NBCSN will have live coverage that includes the TVG Elkhorn (G2) from 5-7 p.m.
Enhanced Paddock analysis: During Gaudet and Hazelton’s Paddock analysis, fans will see a greater emphasis on showing contenders and expanded commentary on the horses’ physical assessments.
New daily handicapping podcast: Racing analyst Tom Leach will host “The Daily Double, Keeneland’s Podcast for Handicappers.” Leach will talk to several notable horseplayers, who will discuss their history and interest in horse racing and will analyze the day’s Keeneland card. Guests will receive a $100 bankroll from Keeneland Select to use for the day, and they will share their wagers. Podcast is available through Apple podcasts and Spotify.
@BetKeeneland: Keeneland’s dedicated Twitter handle provides on-demand wagering content.
Drive-thru wagering at Red Mile: Available Wednesday-Sunday from 8 a.m. through the final post at Keeneland. Simulcasting also will be open at Red Mile, which is located at 1200 Red Mile Road near downtown Lexington.
Visit Keeneland at Home Presented by Central Bank https://www.keeneland.com/racing/keeneland-home for more information about the Summer Meet and learn about a variety of creative and fun ways for fans to remotely enjoy the season.
Edited Press Release
Photo: Swiss Skydiver wins the 2020 Santa Anita Oaks with Mike Smith up. Credit: Benoit Photos