Grade I day, even if Blue Grass is Grade II

BG2016
Brody’s Cause wins the 2016 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course.

The Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, the centerpiece of Keeneland Race Course’s spring meet and its main Kentucky Derby prep, is now a grade II after being downgraded by the American Graded Stakes Committee. Nonetheless, it’s one of Kentucky’s best racing days yearly. Here are picks for the Lexington track’s stakes.

Race 6 | Grade III Commonwealth Stakes | 7 furlongs 

1. A.P. Indian
2. Limousine Liberal
3. Ami’s Flatter
4. Redesdale

Comment: A.P. Indian looks to be working well to start the year after finishing 2016 with a third in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Keeneland’s Grade II Phoenix Stakes from last fall could be repeated as A.P. Indian won, Limousine Liberal was a nose short and Ami’s Flatter was third. Limousine Liberal, the winner of the BC Sprint, starts the year following a bullet work at Keeneland. Ami’s Flatter could post a mild upset benefitting from two races already this year, most recently a second in the Challenger at Tampa Bay Downs.

Race 7 | Grade II Shakertown Stakes | 5 1/2 furlongs turf 

1. Hogy
2. Green Mask
3. Mongolian Saturday
4. Justin Squared

Comment: Hogy hasn’t won over the course like Mongolian Saturday, but he came within a half length last fall in the Grade III Woodford (won by Mongolian Saturday) and has a win at today’s distance at the Fair Grounds (In turf sprints, the difference between the 5-furlong distance like at Churchill Downs and the extra half furlong at Keeneland can be huge in handicapping.). Hogy has seven wins in 15 starts at the distance. Green Mask ran second to Hogy last out and beat that one in December at the Fair Grounds. Mongolian Saturday has two wins over the course, including the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (Grade I), but will take a stand against. Justin Squared is working well and is intriguing, but this may be too much to ask in his first of 2017.

Race 8 | Grade I Madison Stakes | 7 furlongs 

1. Paid Up Subscriber
2. Constellation
3. Clothes Fall Off
4. Wheatfield

Comment: Paid Up Subscriber might be able to get the lead and could hold on while shortening up from the longer routes she ran last year. Constellation figures to be right behind her and could swoop by in her second start of the year.

Race 9 | Grade I Central Bank Ashland Stakes | 1 1/8 miles 

1. Summer Luck
2. Tapped
3. Daddys Lil Darling
4. Meanie Irenie

Comment: Summer Luck gets the nod in an evenly matched Ashland. The added sixteenth of a mile should help her; she also has a second over the course. Tapped ships from California for the respected Jerry Hollendorfer. Daddys Lil Darling is the morning line favorite and could improve in her second off the layoff but will bet others are faster.

Race 10 | Grade II Toyota Blue Grass Stakes | 1 1/8 miles 

1. Tapwrit
2. McCraken
3. J Boys Echo
4. Practical Joke

Comment: Tapwrit and the undefeated favorite Mccracken loom largest. Giving the edge to Tapwrit, who lost to the favorite in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes, but both are essential in multi-race wagers. J Boys Echo broke his maiden at Keeneland. Practical Joke can improve in second off layoff and might benefit from a better trip than he had in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes.

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