John Clay

Data downgrades Blue Grass Stakes, plus more random notes

Brody’s Cause and jockey Luis Saez won the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington on Saturday, April 9, 2016. The race has been downgraded to a Grade II for 2017.
Brody’s Cause and jockey Luis Saez won the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington on Saturday, April 9, 2016. The race has been downgraded to a Grade II for 2017. Lexington Herald-Leader

Random notes:

▪ It was not a shock that the American Graded Stakes Committee last week downgraded Keeneland’s Blue Grass Stakes from a Grade I to a Grade II race.

After all, the last Blue Grass winner to also win the Kentucky Derby was Strike the Gold in 1991. The last Derby winner who ran in the Blue Grass was Street Sense in 2007.

Keeneland has tried to address the drought by moving the race back a week, giving more space between it and the Kentucky Derby, but fact is fewer trainers and owners use the Blue Grass or New York’s Wood Memorial, which was also dropped to a Grade II, for a Derby prep.

Data is the determining factor here. The committee goes by the strength of the fields in the past five runnings of each race when determining a grade. The Blue Grass and Wood have not produced the caliber of horses who ran in the Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby and Florida Derby, now the only three Grade I races among the Kentucky Derby preps.

There is a silver lining. The Blue Grass has experienced this before. The race was run as a Grade II from 1990 through 1998 before it was bumped up to Grade 1. It can happen again.

▪ Leftover from Kentucky’s Governor’s Cup win over Louisville, via UK assistant athletic director/media relations Tony Neely, UK scored 41 points without ever having a first-and-goal. The Cats never snapped the football from inside Louisville’s 16-yard line.

▪ We said last week that ex-Western Kentucky and current (not for long) South Florida coach Willie Taggart was overlooked. Not anymore. Taggart is to be named the new head coach at Oregon.

▪ Western Kentucky’s last three football coaches: Taggart, soon to be Oregon’s head coach; Bobby Petrino, now Louisville’s head coach; Jeff Brohm, named earlier this week as the new head coach at Purdue.

▪ Brohm is a good choice, but Purdue is a tough job. The Boilermakers have enjoyed just two winning seasons in the past 10. Their record after Joe Tiller retired in 2008 is 31-67.

▪ The American Athletic Conference is apparently now a Power 5 feeder system. Oregon is hiring USF’s Taggart. Baylor is hiring Temple’s Matt Ruhle. Texas hired Houston’s Tom Herman.

▪ My favorite website — well, one of my favorites — Pro Football Focus named UK’s Benny Snell (running back), Nick Haynes (offensive guard) and J.D. Harmon (special-teamer) to its second-team All-SEC picks.

▪ Kentucky’s 46-point blowout win over Arizona State in the Bahamas lost a bit of luster when Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils turned up awful again Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden, losing 97-64 to Purdue.

▪ The Jimmy V nightcap contained a scary sight. In just his second college game, Duke’s Jayson Tatum scored 22 points in the win over Florida.

▪ Kentucky football faced five of the nation’s top 20 defenses by total yards allowed this year: No. 1 Alabama, No. 6 Florida, No. 11 Louisville, No. 16 Georgia and No. 18 Southern Miss.

▪ Something to ponder: If Kentucky had not blown a 25-point lead against Southern Miss and lost on a last-second field goal to Georgia, the Cats would have been 9-3 and perhaps in this year’s Sugar Bowl. But as Jerry Caliborne would say, “That’s that old iffin’ game.”

▪ Something to ponder: If not for Austin MacGinnis’ late field goals to beat Mississippi State (40-38) and Louisville (41-38), Kentucky would have been 5-7 and not headed to Jacksonville for the TaxSlayer Bowl. But as Jerry Claiborne would say, well, you know.

Last 20 Blue Grass Stakes winners

Year

Blue Grass winner

Ky Derby finish

2016

Brody's Cause

7

2015

Carpe Diem

10

204

Dance With Fate

6

2013

Java's War

13

2012

Dullahan

3

2011

Brilliant Speed

7

2010

Stately Victor

8

2009

General Quarters

10

2008

Monba

20

2007

Dominican

11

2006

Sinister Minister

16

2005

Bandini

19

2004

The Cliff's Edge

5

2003

Peace Rules

3

2002

Harlan's Holiday

7

2001

Millennium Wind

11

2000

High Yield

15

1999

Menifee

2

1998

Halory Hunter

4

1997

Pulpit

4

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