Godolphin Racing's Footbridge attempt to overcome some serious history on Saturday when he makes his stakes debut in the 89th running of the Blue Grass Stakes. No horse has won this major Keeneland prep for the Kentucky Derby after breaking his maiden in his previous start, something Footbridge accomplished in his fourth start.
Footbridge, who will be ridden for the first time by Corey Lanerie, is the only 2013 Blue Grass entrant coming into the race off a maiden win. The Street Cry colt and did not make his debut until December 26, the latest starting point for any Blue Grass starter.
"I did not get him until September," trainer Eoin Harty said. "He was very straightforward and did things very easily. It was not like the light bulb just went on."
In his debut, going 6 1/2 furlongs, Footbridge finished third, beaten 5 1/2 lengths. Following two consecutive runner-up finishes going a mile, Footbridge reached the winner's circle with a victory by three-quarters of a length in a mile race at Santa Anita on March 17.
That victory put Footbridge into consideration for the Blue Grass, a race that awards the winner 100 qualifying points and a spot in the starting gate for the 139th Kentucky Derby.
"It's the nature of the beast," Harty said about making the jump to Grade 1 stakes company for a shot at the Run for the Roses. "It is not like he is coming in here off a 47 Beyer (speed figure) and the company line of who he has been running against is very strong."
In the race before he broke his maiden, Footbridge finished a neck behind Govenor Charlie, who won the Sunland Derby in his next start in track-record time.
On Friday morning, Footbridge visited the Keeneland starting gate and then galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Tim Neal.
"The gate this morning is part of my regular routine," Harty said, noting that Footbridge has not had any gate issues.
"He has been training on a synthetic surface (the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park) and he is improving every race."
In other Blue Grass activity at Keeneland Friday morning,Uncaptured and Dynamic Sky, both trained by Mark Casse, galloped 1 1/2 miles after the renovation break. Wayne Brown was on Uncaptured, the race's 7-2 morning-line favorite, and Juan Bernardini was on Dynamic Sky.
West Hills Giant galloped a little less than 1 1/2 miles with exercise rider Leo Garcia up before the break to the delight of trainer John Terranova.
"He has done well here," Terranova said of West Hills Giant, who arrived at Keeneland Tuesday morning. "He settled in nicely and has gotten over the track well."
Rydilluc made his usual morning stroll through the paddock and then stood trackside for about 15 minutes before jogging once around the main track with exercise rider Ricardo Orantes up.
"I blew him out yesterday (:37 2/5 for three furlongs) and this is all we are doing today," trainer Gary Contessa said.
Rydilluc had another paddock schooling session with Friday afternoon's 2ND race.
"He has been great in the paddock all week; no problems at all," said Contessa, who noted Rydilluc can sometimes be a handful in the paddock. "Of course, you never know what is going to happen on race day, but so far he has been great here."
The Ken McPeek-trained Java's War galloped 1 1/2 miles with exercise rider Danny Ramsey aboard.
For Baldo Hernandez and Sean Ryan, assistants to trainer Chad Brown, Balance the Books schooled in the paddock and galloped once around the main track under exercise rider Kriss Bon.
My Name Is Michael schooled in the paddock and galloped 1 1/8 miles with exercise rider Marnie Pacheco aboard for trainer Bill Mott.
"We are very happy," assistant trainer Rodolphe Brisset said. "He's moving very well."
Tesseron jogged a half-mile and galloped a half-mile under Ruth Schmidt, assistant to trainer Josie Carroll.