Tapit Trice ensured he will be among the leading fancies for the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) with a hard-fought victory in the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland April 8.
Todd Pletcher’s son of Tapit was a clear 8-5 favorite for the Blue Grass after winning his previous three starts, most notably the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) March 11.
Unlike at Tampa Bay, Tapit Trice got out of the gates fairly well and settled midfield as second-favorite Verifying stalked the pace set by longshot Clear the Air. Verifying took over around the final turn and as he reached the top of the stretch, only the rallying Tapit Trice was close enough to be a threat.
In a grinding finish it was Tapit Trice that got the better of the fight, crossing the line a neck ahead of Verifying.
Tapit Trice was already assured a Kentucky Derby start after the Tampa Bay Derby, but his victory took him to 150 points on the table, fourth overall behind Forte, Practical Move, and Angel of Empire.
The result was, however, important for the next three home in terms of a Derby start. Verifying’s 40 points for finishing second took him to 54 points, Blazing Sevens went up to 46 points after earning 30 points for his third placing, and Sun Thunder’s fourth-place finish earned him 20 points and took his tally to 54. All three would have missed the Derby cutoff without their points from this race.
Raise Cain, who earned 10 points for finishing fifth, also has enough points to race at Churchill Downs, though his Gotham (G3) victory meant he was already assured of a start.
A $1.3 million yearling, Tapit Trice is by Tapit out of a Dunkirk mare and races as though he will have no trouble with 1 1⁄4 miles.
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Few Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races can boast as long and rich a history as the Blue Grass Stakes (G2), a tried-and-true local steppingstone toward the Run for the Roses.
The Blue Grass was first run in 1911 at the long-gone Kentucky Association racetrack in Lexington, and the race quickly established its prominence when inaugural runner-up Meridian returned to win the Kentucky Derby. Donerail (1913), Behave Yourself (1921), and Bubbling Over (1926) likewise used the original Blue Grass as a springboard to success under the Twin Spires.
Following a 10-year hiatus, the Blue Grass was resurrected in 1937 at Keeneland, where it remains a prestigious spring fixture to this day. Through 2019, 19 horses have parlayed a run in Keeneland’s Blue Grass into victory at Churchill Downs, including 10 runners who won both races: Shut Out (1942), Tomy Lee (1959), Chateaugay (1963), Northern Dancer (1964), Lucky Debonair (1965), Forward Pass (1968), Dust Commander (1970), Riva Ridge (1972), Spectacular Bid (1979), and Strike the Gold (1991).
Historic Calumet Farm has won the Blue Grass half a dozen times, though arguably their most talented participant—1942 Triple Crown champion Whirlaway—was beaten to second place at Keeneland. The record for the fastest winning time belongs to Skip Away, a future Horse of the Year who blazed 1 1⁄8 miles in 1:47.29 to win the 1996 renewal.
The Blue Grass endured a dry spell between 2007 and 2014, when the race was conducted over a synthetic track; during that timeframe, only 2007 runner-up Street Sense managed to prevail in the Kentucky Derby. But Keeneland’s return to dirt is already triggering a turnaround, with 2018 Blue Grass winner Good Magic recording a runner-up finish in the Run for the Roses. Continued success seems inevitable for Kentucky’s signature Derby prep race.
By J. Keeler Johnson
|1||Tapit Trice 8-5||$5.28||$3.12||$2.64|
|8||Blazing Sevens 6-1||$3.74|
|7||Sun Thunder 13-1|