Blue Grass, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby Headline Saturday's Championship Series

Apr 07, 2017 Kevin Kerstein

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Friday, April 7, 2017) – The Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by is in its final stages with three crucial steppingstones on Saturday to America’s greatest race – the $750,000 Wood Memorial (GII), $1 million Blue Grass (Grade I) and $1 million Santa Anita Derby (GI).

All three races will award 100 points to the winner and 40 points to the runner-up, which is an almost-guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on the first Saturday in May.

 The Wood Memorial will go as Race 10 at Aqueduct with a post time of 5:52 p.m. (all times EDT). The Blue Grass is Keeneland’s Race 10 at 6:17 p.m. and the Santa Anita Derby is Race 8 at 7:12 p.m.

 In addition to first two finishing positions, the three 1 1/8-mile races will award 20 and 10 points, respectively, to the third and fourth-place finishers, which could be decisive to those competitors that have already garnered points in earlier races.

 All three Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series races will be televised live on NBCSN beginning at 5:30 p.m. The races also will be broadcast on satellite radio’s Sirius 113 as part of Horse Racing Radio Network’s coverage, which can also be heard online at

 The top point earners in the 37-race Road to the Kentucky Derby series will have preference to compete in the 20-horse Grade I, $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. After Saturday, the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI) on April 15 is the only remaining race to award 100 points to winner.

 St. Elias Stable’s Battalion Runner is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the field of eight for the Wood Memorial. Battalion Runner is seeking his first stakes win following an impressive 8 ¾-length maiden victory on Dec. 31 and a gutsy allowance win on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream Park.

 Battalion Runner’s main rivals include Cloud Computing, who will make his second start around two turns following a runner-up effort in the March 4 Gotham (GIII); Irish War Cry, the Feb. 4 Holy Bull winner who looks to return to form following a 21-length defeat in the March 4 Fountain of Youth (GII); and Mo Town, the Nov. 26 Remsen (GII) winner who will make his second start as a 3-year-old after a fifth-place finish in the Feb. 25 Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds.

 At Keeneland, undefeated McCraken heads a field of seven for the Blue Grass and is the 7-5 morning line favorite. McCraken was last seen in the Feb. 11 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs where he rallied from just off the pace to defeat a field of nine. The colt was originally pointing to the March 11 Tampa Bay Derby (GII) but a minor ankle injury rerouted the son of Ghostzapper to the Blue Grass. The time away didn’t concern bettors, who made McCraken the overall Pool 4 (5-1) favorite in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, which closed last Sunday.

 The Blue Grass attracted a strong field, including Tapwrit, the 4 ½-length winner of the Tampa Bay Derby after running second to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis; Practical Joke, the Fountain of Youth runner-up; and J Boys Echo, the 3 ½-length winner of the Gotham at Aqueduct.

 The final Road to the Kentucky Derby Championship Series race of the day is the Santa Anita Derby where a field of 13 are signed on to compete. The Feb. 12 San Vicente (GIII) winner and March 11 San Felipe (GII) runner-up Iliad is the 5-2 morning line favorite, and one of four entrants for Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill.

 The shape of California’s Derby contenders changed drastically following the running of the San Felipe when convincing winner Mastery was sidelined by injury.

 Iliad’s main rivals include three Bob Baffert trainees: American Anthem, who will attempt to rebound from a dull effort in the March 18 Rebel (GII); Reach the World, an impressive runner-up in a March 9 allowance at Santa Anita; and Irish Freedom, who will make his second start of the year following a fifth-place finish in the same race as Reach the World.

 Along with the Baffert trio, fellow Hall of Fame trainer John Shirreffs entered a pair of contenders: Gormley, the Jan. 7 Sham (GIII) victor and fourth-place finisher in the San Felipe, and Royal Mo, who will try to rebound from a ninth-place finish in the Rebel.

 Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will send out lightly-raced Battle of Midway following his gutsy allowance win over Reach the World.

 In addition to Iliad, O’Neill has entered Milton Freewater, So Conflated and Term of Art.

 Saturday’s Road to the Kentucky Oaks Championship Series features a trio of races: the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) is Race 6 with a post time of 5:30 p.m; Keeneland’s Ashland (GI) is Race 9 at 5:40 p.m. and Aqueduct’s Gazelle (GII) is Race 11 at 6:25 p.m. The top-four finishers in each race will receive 100-40-20-10 points.


 1.     The Blue Grass is tied with the Florida Derby for producing the most Kentucky Derby winners (23) but the last horse to win the Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby was Strike the Gold in 1991. 

 2.     Blue Grass favorite McCraken’s owner Janice Whitham is very familiar with McCraken’s family. The Whitham family owned and bred McCraken’s dam, grand dam, third dam and fourth dam. McCraken will attempt to give the Whitham’s their first Kentucky Derby entrant.

 3.     If all goes according to plan, Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher could have as many as seven horses with 20 or more points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard. Currently, Pletcher’s contenders with 20 points or more are No. 3 Always Dreaming (100 points); No. 6 Tapwrit (54); No. 8 Malagacy (50); No. 11 Patch (40) and No. 18 Master Plan (20). He has entered Tapwrit in the Blue Grass and Battalion Runner (0 points) and Bonus Points (5) in the Wood Memorial.

 4. Trainers Bob Baffert, Doug O’Neill and John Shirreffs have nine of the 13 entrants in the Santa Anita Derby. Baffert, O’Neill or Shirreffs have won six of the last 10 runnings of the race.

 5. Juvenile champion Classic Empire will ship from Ocala, Fla. on Monday evening to Oaklawn Park for the April 15 Arkansas Derby (GI). Classic Empire is expected to breeze Sunday or Monday morning at the Winding Oaks Training Center in central Florida.

 6. Hence (Barn 38) and J Boys Echo (Barn 4) were the first Kentucky Derby contenders to arrive at Churchill Downs. Both horses arrived on Sunday to Churchill Downs. J Boys Echo shipped to Keeneland on Thursday for Saturday’s Blue Grass.

 7. Louisiana Derby winner Girvin returned to Joe Sharp’s Barn A at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center. Trackside is  also home to Spiral winner Fast and Accurate, who is stabled in Barn K with Mike Maker.

 8. Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming’s travel plans are in flux but the colt could have one or two breezes at Churchill Downs prior to the Kentucky Derby, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.

 9. Florida Derby beaten-favorite Gunnevera is expected to ship to Churchill Downs on April 22, according to trainer Antonio Sano.

 10. McCraken edged Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming as the 5-1 favorite in last weekend’s Kentucky Derby Future Wager.


The possible fields for Kentucky Derby Championship Series races are fluid as horsemen vie for points on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by” Below are known horses mentioned to be under consideration for each race based on published news reports and other sources (with Road to the Kentucky Derby point totals).:

 APRIL 15 ARKANSAS DERBY – $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI) to be run over 1 1/8 miles at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.: Malagacy (50), Untrapped (34), Classic Empire (32), Sonneteer (20), Blueridge Traveler (20), Petrov (13), Lookin At Lee (12), One Liner (10), Silver Dust (1). Not Triple Crown Nominated: Conquest Mo Money (20). Points to Top 4: 100-40-20-10.

 APRIL 15 LEXINGTON – $200,000 Lexington (GIII) to be run 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, KY.: Convict Pike (10), No Dozing (10), Resiliency (0), Time to Travel (0). Points to Top 4: 10-4-2-1.



 Florida Derby runner-up State of Honor is expected to arrive at Churchill Downs on Friday afternoon to begin his final preparation for the Kentucky Derby. … Trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed that UAE Derby (GII) runner-up Master Plan will ship to Churchill Downs with others in his stable. … Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed Wednesday that fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith will ride Untrapped in the Arkansas Derby (GI). Smith is currently tied for second in all-time mounts in the Kentucky Derby with 22. … Trainer Neil Howard stated Lecomte Stakes (GIII) winner Guest Suite has officially been removed from Kentucky Derby contention after a disappointing seventh-place finish in last Saturday’s Louisiana Derby (GII). … Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas reported Thursday that Calumet Farm’s Dilettante is no longer in consideration for the Arkansas Derby and could resurface at Keeneland. … Last Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) winner Farrell has settled in at Wayne Catalano’s Churchill Downs Barn 30. Farrell is expected to be one of the favorites for the Longines Kentucky Oaks. … “Inside Churchill Downs,” co-hosted by Churchill Downs Racetrack’s John Asher, Darren Rogers and Kevin Kerstein, airs Saturday from 10-11 a.m. (all times Eastern) on ESPN 680/105.7. … Late nominations for the Longines Kentucky Oaks and Derby Week stakes races close on Saturday, April 15. The stakes races are the April 29: $100,000 William Walker; May 4: $100,000 Kentucky Juvenile; May 5: $150,000 Edgewood (GIII), $200,000 Eight Belles (GII), $400,000 Alysheba (GII), $300,000 La Troienne (GI) and $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII); May 6: $250,000 Pat Day Mile (GIII), $300,000 American Turf (GII), $500,000 Churchill Downs (GII), $300,000 Distaff Turf Mile (GII) and $300,000 Humana Distaff (GI).



 With 22 days until Opening Night of the Spring Meet on April 29 there are approximately 600 horses on the grounds at Churchill Downs. … One of the first horses to arrive was Dubai World Cup runner-up Gun Runner, who is stabled in Steve Asmussen’s Barn 38. … Champion grass mare Tepin returned to Mark Casse’s Churchill Downs Barn 36 on Tuesday. Tepin’s plans remaining in flux. … Trainer Brendan Walsh, previously stabled at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center, has moved to Barn 9A in the Churchill Downs barn area. Besides Walsh, trainers Karl Broberg, J.R. Caldwell, John Ortiz and Tommy Vance are among the new faces on the backstretch. … At Trackside, trainers Mike Maker and Joe Sharp have a full-string of horses gearing up for competition for the meet. … Jockeys Robby Albarado and Corey Lanerie have swapped agents. Albarado, currently third in all-time wins at Churchill Downs (1,126), is now represented by Terry JawsMiller while 12-time leading rider Lanerie is represented by Lenny Pike. … Following Fair Grounds and Gulfstream Park’s final day of their meets, several of Churchill Downs top trainers returned home including Tom Amoss, Asmussen, “BuffBradley, Wayne Catalano, Casse, Brad Cox, Greg Foley, Neil Howard, D. Wayne Lukas, Kenny McPeek and Dale Romans.

 PAST PERFORMANCES & STAKES HISTORIES Triple Crown Past Performances Kentucky Oaks Past Performances Wood Memorial Past Performances Blue Grass Past Performances Santa Anita Derby Past Performances

 Wood Memorial History

 Blue Grass History

 Santa Anita Derby History


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