This year’s (G2) Blue Grass Stakes looks different from previous years for a number of reasons. One is because of the time; July is not the common month for a Kentucky Derby prep race to take place in, considering that the Kentucky Derby is commonly not held in September. Not only that, but Keeneland does not typically race in the heat of the summer, having only two meets per year in the spring and fall. Last but not least, fillies are not usually seen competing against the colts in a prep race for one of the most prestigious races in North America.
However, this year is not like normal years.
The (G2) Blue Grass Stakes, taking place on the fourth day of Keeneland’s five-day summer race meet, has attracted a star studded field of thirteen competitors. The favorite headlining this race, Swiss Skydiver, brings another unique spin to this year’s very different experience of Keeneland, being the only filly in the field. A filly has never won an edition of the Blue Grass Stakes, with only one filly ever attempting to contest it since its inaugural running in 1937. The filly, Harriet Sue, placed fifth in the 1944 edition of the race, and was the first and last female to attempt it.
Swiss Skydiver’s team does not appear daunted by this prospect, however. Entering the field as the favorite, the apt daughter of Daredevil is looming large over this race, exiting three straight victories in the (G2) Gulfstream Park Oaks, (G3) Fantasy, and (G2) Santa Anita Oaks, respectively.
A two-time winner of the Blue Grass Stakes, trainer Kenny McPeek was not short on confidence when asked about his brave young filly.
“Any other year (Choosing to run a filly in the Blue Grass Stakes) would not have been easy,” said trainer Kenny McPeek. “I’ve got another filly 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. Seems to be pretty wide open”
“(Swiss Skydiver is) doing super. I think she’s going to like the added distance. I like the mile and an eight better than the mile and a sixteenth. It’ll be exciting.
While the Blue Grass stands as her first major challenge against males, the question remains of her connection’s confidence in taking the filly to the Kentucky Derby is she does succeed in the weekend prep race.
“She really is special,” said owner Peter Callahan.” “I think she’s been at six tracks and has had five jockeys in her seven races. We’re asking a lot out of her, and she keeps getting it done. She’s very resilient. She seems to continue to improve in the face of increasing competition. We have our fingers crossed that she stays in form.”
While the Kentucky Derby remains the end goal, colts such as Steve Asmussen’s Basin and Mark Casse’s Enforceable make the Blue Grass itself tough competition for the young filly that is once again looking to rise to the challenge. What will the future hold for this gutsy girl? The first filly to win the Blue Grass Stakes, perhaps? Maybe, just maybe, a Kentucky Derby contender?
In a sport fueled by those who dare to dream big, anything is possible.