The field is coming into focus for next week’s 93rd running of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, the signature race of Keeneland’s 2017 Spring Meet.
Keeneland on Thursday named seven 3-year-olds as “likely starters” for its $1 million Kentucky Derby prep race on April 8.
Entries will be taken Tuesday for the 1 1/8 -mile dirt race that offers 100 Derby points to the winner, 40 for second place, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
McCraken, who is undefeated in four starts, and Practical Joke, a two-time Grade 1 winner, top the list of likely starters.
Other contenders, according to Keeneland stakes coordinator Tiffany Bourque, include Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapwrit, Gotham Stakes winner J Boys Echo, Wild Shot, Irap, and It’s Your Nickel.
Trained by Ian Wilkes, McCraken closed his 2016 campaign with a victory in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs and opened 2017 with a victory in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. Stabled at Keeneland since the main stable area opened March 16, McCraken is set to have his third work here Sunday or Monday.
Practical Joke, trained by Chad Brown, won the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga and the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont before closing 2016 with a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. In his 2017 debut, Practical Joke finished second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 4 at Gulfstream Park.
Post time for the Blue Grass Stakes is 6:17 p.m. The race will be televised live on NBC Sports Network.
Keeneland’s 15-day Spring Meet opens April 7 and concludes April 28, with racing on Wednesdays through Sundays. Post time for the first race each day is 1:05 p.m. Keeneland will be closed on Easter Sunday, April 16.
The opening-day feature is the $150,000, Grade 3 Transylvania for 3-year-olds.
Potential contenders for the Transylvania include Big Score, Bird Is the Word, Bird’s Eye View, Cowboy Culture, Oscar Performance, Sonic Boom and Ticonderoga.
The race card for the opening Saturday, April 8, includes four stakes in addition to the Toyota Blue Grass. The $500,000, Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland for 3-year-old fillies serves as a prep race for next month’s Kentucky Oaks. Also on the 11-race card are the the $300,000, Grade 1 Madison, the $200,000, Grade 2 Shakertown and the $250,000, Grade 3 Commonwealth.
Opening weekend concludes with the $150,000, Grade 3 Adena Springs Beaumont on Sunday, April 9.