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Turning Blue into Green

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 4/27/2010 9:18:59 AM

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With three weeks to go, it’s put up or shut up for the Kentucky Derby hopefuls and the two preps this week, the Arkansas Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes, pretty much will close the book on the top contenders.

The definitive preps in recent years have changed. A couple of seasons ago, Giacomo used a 4th in the Santa Anita Derby as a springboard. But only three horses in recent years, Affirmed, Sunday Silence, and Winning Colors, have gone on to Kentucky glory and winning in Arcadia.

On the other hand, history has been good to the Blue Grass. The winners of this important fixture include Whirlaway, Shut Out, Tomy Lee, Chateaugay, Northern Dancer, Lucky Debonair, Dust Commander, Riva Ridge, and Spectacular Bid. The last horse to pull a Blue Grass score to a Derby double was Strike the Gold in 1991 but Street Sense was beaten by a nose in the Blue Grass and paid nearly 5-1 Derby Day in 2007.

Only two horses have done the Arkansas Derby/ Ky.Derby two- step, Sunny’s Halo and Smarty Jones. I remember watching the way Sunny’s Halo won geared down in his Oaklawn prep and I bet him Derby Day. As for Smarty, he just kept making them believe.

A short and sweet field is in prospect this week for the Blue Grass led by Tampa Bay Derby hero Odysseus. He’s three for 3 this year but was not exactly flattered when the horse that beat him at Tampa disappointed in the Wood when out of the money.

On the other hand the runner he crushed at Tampa, Exhi, returned to win the Rushaway Stakes.

Connections of Odysseus were considering working him up to the race after his last but opted for this spot, and it’s a wise move.

Aikenite will be hoping the good fortune of those that competed in the Fountain of Youth continue in his direction. He was 4th in that race and the fray came back super live. The obvious concern is that he has only won one race in his career.

Interactif has made his reputation on grass but he proved in the San Felipe that he is versatile and he has a nice late punch to boot.

Although Make Music for Me broke his maiden in a stakes for the lone score, he is an interesting runner. He’s been a solid second to Lookin at Lucky a couple of times and seems to not be bothered by real estate. His trainer, Alexis Barba is far from a household name but she learned under Eddie Gregson, who got Gato Del Sol to peak on Kentucky Derby Day.

Pleasant Prince, runner-up in the Florida Derby, will go in the Blue Grass more as an insurance policy than anything else. He is near the Graded earnings bubble to make the Derby cut and even if the reformed claimer runs 4th, he will likely go on to Louisville.

Paddy O’Prado has only run one bad race and it came in the slop. He also graduated in a stakes going 9 furlongs on grass.

Codoy finished first twice but was taken down in his last effort. He must prove he can weave his way through traffic and also prove he can win on something other than Polytrack.

Giant’s Tomb improved once sent a distance of ground and he has some upside to him while Homeboy Kris will try to utilize his blazing speed.

Trained by Big Brown’s conditioner, Richard Dutrow Jr., Kris is fresh and dangerous.

When the smoke clears, expect Odysseus to take the biggest step toward Churchill as he can sit in the first flight, maybe 2 or 3 lengths off the lead, primed to pounce for the cash.

For those looking for some heat at Hot Springs a contentious cast could pass the entry box for the Arkansas Derby. Super Saver will be looking to make amends for his flop as chalk in the Tampa Bay Derby and figures to give a good account of himself.

Noble’s Promise lost a heart breaker in the Rebel to troubled SA Derby third Lookin at Lucky.

Lookin at Lucky and figures to be a handful. He always tries, brings tactical speed, but sure would like him to discover the killer instinct.

The grand old man of the game, D. Wayne Lukas, is back in action with Dublin, an improving son of Afleet Alex that is a bit trouble prone but has the right to run all day long and also Northern Giant, the Lane’s End second that appears to love the Oaklawn surface.

Pulsion will be on his high horse again after the pop and stop job in the Florida Derby while 2 for 2 Tiz the One is giving away a ton of experience having not run as a juvenile.

His dam was a stakes winner at Mountaineer but it’s anybody guess how he will do as the distances increase but his sire did win the Breeders’ Cup Classic twice.

Longshots will be in full forces with Uh Oh Bango, just a maiden winner, A Student, who just beat allowance foes as an upsetter, New Madrid, a long-fused son of Rock Hard Ten and Line of David, who has won his last 2 starts, the last with a 88 Beyer figure but he will be trying the conventional surface for the first time.

Noble’s Promise will take some beating but keep an eye on Dublin. He doesn’t have to win this race and may not even be totally tightened down by Lukas, as he well knows you REALLY get paid in Louisville.

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