2014 Blue Grass Stakes Picks with Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/8/2014
The best thing about this year's edition of the Blue Grass Stakes is that it's the last that will be run on a synthetic track. Keeneland installed a synthetic surface - a lousy one at that - after the 2006 edition of this race. Before that this was a very important Triple Crown prep, producing legends over the last few decades like Strike the Gold, Holy Bull, Skip Away, Summer Squall, Prairie Bayou and others. Since the change, though, the race has become increasingly irrelevant since form on this track doesn't transfer to Churchill Downs at all.
It must be said, though, that Palace Malice was second in this race last year, and he went on to win the Belmont. A dirt track will be going in again this fall, though, so the reputation of this race should be restored.
While this synthetic race won't tell us much about what to expect in the Derby, it will still draw horses. The reason is simple - there are enough points available that the first- and possibly second-place finishers will make the Derby field. It's a bit of a back door into the biggest of three year old races, but owners and trainers will try to get in however they can. In fact, a full field of 14 runners is expected.
Heading into the April 12 race, here are some of the bigger contenders along with my 2014 Blue Grass Stakes picks and predictions ( futures odds to win the race are from Sportsbook.ag):
Bobby's Kitten (+350) is the likely favorite. He started his career as a turf specialist, finishing third as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last year. He's well-bred, and trainer Chad Brown is effective, but his ability to shift to a synthetic here and then dirt next time out is a big question, and that makes him tough to get excited about.
Trainer Todd Pletcher could have as many as four horses in the field, with Danza (+600), Divine Oath (+1800), Gala Award (+1200), and Vinceremos (+800) all working towards the race as I write - though all are still in Florida, so nothing is set yet. Pletcher believes in a high-volume approach to Derby entrants, but his stable is not as strong this year as it has been many years recently. There isn't a horse to get particularly excited about in this group, but it seems like he is just throwing out what he can to see if anything emerges and gives him another shot at the biggest of races.
An interesting entrant, albeit one with a horrible name, is Extrasexyhippster (+1200). He was last seen in the Gotham, which is a prep race for the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He had issues coming out of the gate and was last early in that race. He made a move around the final turn, but he was forced way outside and covered far too much ground. He wound up running out of gas, and he faded down the stretch to eighth. It was a disastrous day in which nothing went right. He's better than that, though, and perhaps jockey Stewart Elliott can recapture some of the magic that led to his Derby and Preakness wins aboard Smarty Jones. The horse has never raced on a synthetic surface, but he regularly trains on one. If the price is right - and it should be - he could be worth a shot.
Big Bazinga (+1800) is another longer shot that could be worth a look (in a field as wide-open and generally uninspiring as this one you might as well look for fatter prices). He's as close to a Polytrack specialist as you can find, having run his best races at Turfway and Woodbine on the same surface he will see here. He's training well and could be a horse for the course on the day. He's a son of Bluegrass Cat, who was second in both the Derby and Belmont in 2006, so we know he can handle distance. That race at Turfway was the Spiral Stakes, and he ran better than his fifth-place finish. Joining him here from that race could be the horses that finished second, third and fourth - Harry's Holiday (+1000), Coastline (+500), and Asserting Bear (+1200).
Dance With Fate (+1800) is yet another longer shot that catches the eye. The Peter Eurton trainee is something you wouldn't usually expect to see in a race like this - a California invader. He has yet to have a breakthrough performance, but he was second in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields last time out, and had nice second-place showings as a two year old in the FrontRunner and Del Mar Futurity. There is a definite hint of desperation to entering this race, but he has some talent and could take a step forward.
Doc's Sports expert horse racing handicapper Raphael Esparza is handicapping the Blue Grass Stakes, and you can get his picks for free! Doc's is offering $60 worth of member's picks absolutely free - no obligation, no sales people - you don't even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please for any handicapper and any sport on Doc's Sports Advisory Board list of expert sports handicappers, and this credit can be used towards Raphael Esparza's Blue Grass Stakes picks. Click here for more details and take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today .
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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