Tapit Trice Headlines Field of 11 in G1 Toyota Blue Grass

April 5, 2023

Tapit Trice finishes as expected in the Tampa Bay Derby, in front (SV Photography)

Keeneland Press Release/Edited

LEXINGTON, Ky.— Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s Tapit Trice is the 5-2 morning line choice in a field of 11 3-year-olds entered Wednesday for Saturday’s 99th running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G1) going 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

A major test for 3-year-olds and a steppingstone for the $3 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run May 6 at Churchill Downs, the Toyota Blue Grass offers 200 points toward qualification to this year’s Derby on a 100-40-30-20-10 scale to the first- through fifth-place finishers. The Derby is limited to the top 20 point earners and invitees that pass the entry box.

The Toyota Blue Grass will go as the ninth race on Saturday’s 11-race program with a 5:15 p.m. ET post time. First post time for the card that features five graded stakes is 12:30 p.m.

Trained by three-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, Tapit Trice brings a three-race win streak into Saturday’s race highlighted by a 2-length victory as the 1-2 favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) on March 11.

“Not exactly the draw we wanted, but he did win the allowance race at Gulfstream Park from post one,” said Pletcher on the draw.

Luis Saez, a Toyota Blue Grass winner with Brody’s Cause in 2016 and Essential Quality in 2021, has the mount on Tapit Trice and will break from post position one.

Pletcher’s Toyota Blue Grass winners are Bandini (2005), Monba (2008) and Carpe Diem (2015).

The second choice on the morning line set by Nick Tammaro at 3-1 is Westerberg Limited, Mrs. John Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s Verifying.

Trained by Brad Cox, who won this race in 2021 with Essential Quality, Verifying is a winner of two of five starts and finished second to Blazing Sevens in the Champagne (G1). In his most recent start, Verifying was fourth in the Rebel (G2) that was run over a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 25.

Tyler Gaffalione has the mount on Verifying and will break from post position three.

Raise Cain wins an eventful edition of the Gotham (Chelsea Durand)

Andrew and Rania Warren’s Gotham (G3) winner Raise Cain is the third choice on the morning line at 9-2.

Trained by Ben Colebrook, Raise Cain won the Gotham by 7½ lengths in what was his graded stakes debut. Raise Cain, a maiden winner here last fall, was third in the Bowman Mill here and then runner-up in the Gun Runner at Fair Grounds to close his 2022 campaign.

Joel Rosario, who won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2011 on Brilliant Speed has the mount on Raise Cain and will break from post 10.

Colebrook will send out a second runner for the Warrens in Scoobie Quando (15-1). Scoobie Quando was runner-up in the John Battaglia Memorial (L) at Turfway Park on March 4 in his most recent start.

Luan Machado has the mount on Scoobie Quando and will exit post position six.

Colebrook had no issue with the draw for either runner, saying: “No problem for both with the posts. Joel will take Raise Cain back and follow them around. Scoobie Quando is fine, right in the middle. Did not want to the one or two for him.”

The fourth choice at 6-1 on the morning line is Rodeo Creek Racing’s Blazing Sevens.

Trained by Chad Brown, who won the Toyota Blue Grass last year with Zandon, Blazing Sevens won the Champagne last fall and completed his 2022 campaign with a fourth-place finish in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance here.

Blazing Sevens trains at Keeneland ahead of the Breeders’ Cup (Courtney Snow/Past The Wire)

Blazing Sevens finished eighth in the Fountain of Youth (G2) in his lone 2022 start. Irad Ortiz Jr. has the mount Saturday and will break from post position eight.

Brown, who also won the Toyota Blue Grass in 2018 with Good Magic, is seeking to become the fourth trainer to win the race in consecutive years and the first since LeRoy Jolley in 1976-1977.

In addition to Pletcher, Brown and Cox, two other trainers will be seeking to add to their Toyota Blue Grass victory totals.

Kenny McPeek, who won the race in 2002 with Harlan’s Holiday and in 2013 with Java’s War, will send out three runners.

Leading the McPeek contingent is R.T. Racing Stable and Cypress Creek Equine’s Sun Thunder (10-1) enters Saturday’s race off a fifth-place finish in the March 25 Twinspires Louisiana Derby (G2). Prior to that effort, Sun Thunder finished second in the Risen Star presented by Lamarque Lincoln and Lamarque Crescent City Ford (G2).

“His last race (when he was fifth in the Louisiana Derby-G2 on March 25) was a paceless race, and he really didn’t get to run until the last part. He seems none the worse for wear, and the partnership is keen to try him again,” said McPeek on Sun Thunder.

Florent Geroux has the mount on Sun Thunder and will break from post position seven.

McPeek also will send out Dixiana Farms’ homebred Hayes Strike (15-1). Two-time graded-stakes placed, Hayes Strike enters Saturday’s race off a victory in the Private Terms at Laurel on March 18. James Graham has the mount and will break from post position five.

“He got back in form in his last start. It is a tough spot for him, but he is doing well and deserves a chance,” McPeek said. “He is a 1 1/8-mile-type horse, and I felt the Blue Grass is a better spot for him than the Stonestreet Lexington-G3 (on April 15) that I won with his half-brother Senior Investment in 2017.”

Mendelssohns March gallops at Oaklawn Park March 27 (Coady Photography)

McPeek’s third entrant is Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables and Team Stallion’s Mendelssohns March (20-1), who will be making his stakes debut. Undefeated in two starts, Mendelssohns March will break from post position 11 and be ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., who won this race in 2020 with Art Collector.

Despite Mendelssohns March jumping into deep waters, McPeek thinks he can handle it: “It is a long way around there, so he ought to be fine (coming out of the far outside post.) I know we are throwing him into the deep end, but he is very talented and seems to be a horse that can handle it.”

Two-time Toyota Blue Grass winner D. Wayne Lukas will saddle Major Blue (30-1) for his wife Laurie and Bob and Ann Ghent. A two-time winner last month at Oaklawn Park, Major Blue will be ridden by David Cabrera and break from post position nine.

One other rider will be seeking to add to his win total in the race: Javier Castellano, who won the 2019 edition of the Toyota Blue Grass on Vekoma. He has the call Saturday on Gary Barber’s Classic Car Wash (12-1).

Trained by Mark Casse, Classic Car Wash was runner-up to Tapit Trice in the Tampa Bay Derby and prior to that third in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Classic Car Wash will break from post four, which was great, according to Casse: “It’s a great spot. We are going to need to save ground.”

Trainer Will Walden, who sends out Gotham (G3) fifth-place finisher Clear the Air (30-1) from post two was okay with the draw, saying: “The two hole is fine. Clear the Air has plenty of tactical speed if prompted. Tapit Trice never seems in any hurry to leave the blocks, so essentially we drew the rail. Saving ground around the first turn of a two-turn race never seems like a bad idea.”

Ricardo Santana Jr. has the mount on Clear the Air.

The field for the Toyota Blue Grass, with riders and morning line odds from the rail out, is: Tapit Trice (Saez, 5-2), Clear the Air (Ricardo Santana Jr., 30-1), Verifying (Gaffalione, 3-1), Classic Car Wash (Castellano, 12-1), Hayes Strike (Graham, 15-1), Scoobie Quando (Machado, 15-1), Sun Thunder (Geroux, 10-1), Blazing Sevens (Ortiz Jr., 6-1), Major Blue (Cabrera, 30-1), Raise Cain (Rosario, 9-2), Mendelssohns March (Hernandez Jr., 20-1). All starters will carry 123 pounds.

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