The highlight of the Keeneland spring meeting is the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1), contested at 1 1/8 miles over the Polytrack as the major Kentucky prep for the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown. The race is also worth 100 points toward getting in the Derby field under the Road to the Kentucky Derby. A full field of 14 went to post on Saturday at the historic Lexington oval under sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60's. Rydilluc was sent off as the 7-2 favorite, winner of his last 3 starts including the Palm Beach (G3) at Gulfstream. In to challenge him included 9-2 second choice Java's War, second in the Tampa Bay Derby last out, and 5-1 third choice Palace Malice, seventh in the Louisiana Derby.
Rydilluc and 21-1 Undrafted battled for the early lead through fractions of 23.81, 48.04, and 1:12.76 while stalked by 11-2 Uncaptured and Palace Malice. Entering the stretch, Undrafted tired badly as Rydilluc continued to lead to midstretch getting the mile in 1:37.29. In the final furlong, Java's War, who was last through the first 3/4 mile, rallied 7 wide to win the Blue Grass Stakes by a neck over Palace Malice in 1:50.27. It was another 1/2 length back to 22-1 Charming Kitten third, and 1 3/4 lengths back to favorite Rydilluc fourth.
Winning trainer of Java's War, Ken McPeek, said, "I wasn’t worried (about the slow break). That’s his running style. He’s not a horse that’s quick out of there. He’s a big, long-striding colt. If you try to force him away from there, you’re just going to make it worse. Julien did the right thing, and he got him there. We didn’t know coming into his 3-year-old year whether he was a turf horse or a Polytrack horse, but obviously he’s running over about anything we put him on. That race at Tampa (second to Verrazano) gave us the idea that, OK, we really do fit."
Winning Julien Leparoux of Java's War added, "He didn’t really break, but he traveled very nice for me. At the three-eighths pole, I tried to catch up a little bit, and he ran big the whole way through the stretch. I didn’t really ask him big time at the 3/8 pole. I just ask him to start going a little bit. The way he relaxes the first part, I think he’ll be fine for the 1 1/4 miles."
Trainer Todd Pletcher of second place finisher Palace Malice and third place finisher Charming Kitten said, "Both horses ran extremely well. I am proud of both of them but disappointed at the same time. I will talk to Mr. (Cot) Campbell first (about Palace Malice), but that was our game plan coming in. We are happy to get that part accomplished. This is (Palace Malice's) first start on Polytrack, but we thought he would handle it because he worked so well on it at the sale. But until you run on it, you never really know. We were concerned about coming back in two weeks on short rest, but his energy level was good and he seemed to bounce out of the race real well. We were feeling good about coming into this race. I would say (owner) Mr. (Ken) Ramsey would be very enthusiastic about running (Charming Kitten) in the Derby.
Gary Contessa, trainer of fourth place finisher and beaten favorite Rydilluc said, "He ran good. That shows us we’re keeping him on the turf. He came back really blowing and hard. That’s a sign he didn’t handle the track. I thought we were home free, but he really ran great." Jockey Edgar Prado added, "He ran good. He tried hard. The post position (13) didn't help too much. But I was able to drop to the rail and save some ground. He was comfortable there. When I asked him to run, he kicked in. He just got outrun the last part."