Keeneland’s big Kentucky Derby prep race, the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, plays out Saturday evening on the race course’s opening weekend. Here’s everything you need to know to get set for the 93rd running of the Blue Grass:
Post time: 6:17 p.m. (10th race)
Purse: $1 million (Grade 2)
Never miss a local story.
Distance: 1 1/8 miles (dirt)
Derby points: 100-40-20-10
TV: NBC Sports Network (Broadcast runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and includes live coverage of Derby preps at Aqueduct and Santa Anita — the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby)
1. It’s Your Nickel (20-1)
Jockey: James Graham
Trainer: Ken McPeek
Owners: Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Nehoc Stables and Magdelena Stable
Career record: 4 starts (3 firsts, 0 seconds, 0 thirds)
Career earnings: $140,220
Kentucky Derby points: 0
Most recent race: Won the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park on March 4
Notable: It’s Your Nickel’s three wins have come on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces.
Quotable: “We’re ready to find out how good he is,” McPeek said. “Up to this point, I don’t think we really know. We have some bears to run against, but if he can’t run third or better against this group, then he really, legitimately doesn’t belong in the Kentucky Derby.”
2. McCraken (7-5)
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Trainer: Ian Wilkes
Owner: Whitham Thoroughbreds
Career record: 4 starts (4-0-0)
Career earnings: $310,848
Kentucky Derby points: 20 (17th on leaderboard)
Most recent race: Won the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 11
Notable: McCraken is not only the favorite in Saturday’s race but was the favorite in the final futures pool for the Kentucky Derby.
Quotable: “How often does a horse like this come along?” Wilkes said. “You have to have fun with it, but you can’t get ahead of yourself. You have to take it one day at a time.”
3. J Boys Echo (4-1)
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Trainer: Dale Romans
Owner: Albaugh Family Stable
Career record: 5 starts (2-1-1)
Career earnings: $299,600
Kentucky Derby points: 53 (seventh)
Most recent race: Won the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 4
Notable: The Albaugh Family Stable won last year’s Blue Grass with Brody’s Cause, who also was trained by Romans.
Quotable: “It’s an even group of horses,” Romans said. “I don’t know if we’re fourth-best. It seems like a little high to me, but it doesn’t really matter. We’ll all find out Saturday afternoon.”
4. Tapwrit (5-2)
Jockey: José Ortiz
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owners: Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert V. LaPenta
Career record: 5 starts (3-1-0)
Career earnings: $313,902
Kentucky Derby points: 54 (sixth)
Most recent race: Won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11
Notable: Tapwrit finished last in a field of 10 in his career debut last Sept. 3 at Saratoga. He hasn’t been worse than second since then.
Quotable: “He got an A-plus at the gate this morning,” Pletcher assistant Ginny DePasquale said Wednesday. “He is coming around at the right time, considering his first time at Saratoga, he got a D-minus.”
5. Wild Shot (15-1)
Jockey: Corey Lanerie
Trainer: Rusty Arnold
Owner: Calumet Farm
Career record: 6 starts (1-2-2)
Career earnings: $165,600
Kentucky Derby points: 17 (23rd)
Most recent race: Finished third in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs on March 11
Notable: Wild Shot already has faced McCraken and Tapwrit twice each and has been unable to overcome either, trying to race from off the lead.
Quotable: “He will be on the lead,” Arnold said of the new strategy he plans to employ Saturday. “I’m done piddling around trying to get him to go a mile and a quarter.”
6. Irap (20-1)
Jockey: Julien Leparoux
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Owner: Reddam Racing
Career record: 7 starts (0-3-1)
Career earnings: $172,600
Kentucky Derby points: 13 (26th)
Most recent race: Finished fourth in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park on March 26
Notable: A winless horse has never won the Blue Grass Stakes.
Quotable: “I’d just like to see him finish strong, like he has been doing in the mornings there,” O’Neill said.
7. Practical Joke (7-2)
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Trainer: Chad Brown
Owner: Klaravich Stables
Career record: 5 starts (3-1-1)
Career earnings: $815,800
Kentucky Derby points: 34 (12th)
Most recent race: Finished second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 4
Notable: Practical Joke has a pair of Grade 1 wins to his credit: the Champagne Stakes at Belmont last October and the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in September.
Quotable: “I just felt in the end the horse would benefit from one extra week of training,” Brown said of his choosing the Blue Grass over last Saturday’s Florida Derby. “We were coming to Keeneland with some other horses. I like the Blue Grass. We had some success last year with My Man Sam running a good second. So it made sense for us.”