The first time for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on Polytrack has drawn not the largest field in its history but some horses who have come to Keeneland precisely for the artificial surface.
They include the juvenile champion Street Sense, 4-5 favorite and starting from post position No. 4 -- and 30-1 Love Dubai, an unexpected entrant who has three wins on Polytrack in England.
Love Dubai and a colt named Time Squared, who won his first career race last Friday on Keeneland's Polytrack, were both unexpected entries who enlarged the field from five confirmed starters to seven.
And like Time Squared, also 30-1, Love Dubai will have a fast turnaround from his most recent start when going postward in the Blue Grass. He raced last Saturday at Hawthorne, finishing ninth in the Illinois Derby behind the wire-to-wire winner, Cowtown Cat.
The two colts joined the Blue Grass lineup because:
Love Dubai was purchased last fall to run in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity on Polytrack but missed his shipping connections.
Time Squared's connections decided the night before entry day that "we're going to take a shot," trainer Patrick Biancone said.
One other late development yesterday was the answer to the question of who would ride 10-1 Teuflesberg.
The winner of the Sugar Bowl and Southwest stakes became riderless about 11 p.m. the previous night -- when trainer Jamie Sanders learned that Stewart Elliott would not ride him in the Blue Grass. Elliott had committed to ride the same day at Oaklawn Park.
Sanders did not firm up a rider commitment until mid-morning yesterday, when she got Edgar Prado. Elliott had ridden Teuflesberg in his last two starts, winning the Southwest, and thus was familiar with the colt. Though Prado has not ever ridden Teuflesberg, "I got a great rider," Sanders said. She got past her initial disappointment over losing Elliott.
Street Sense has been the long-awaited marquee colt to show up for the Blue Grass, after trainer Carl Nafzger committed to this race some time ago. He will have his customary rider, Calvin Borel, in the saddle.
Nafzger, fortunate to be able to follow his planned itinerary for this colt, said he chose the Blue Grass partly for the Polytrack.
He called it "a huge factor" in selecting the Blue Grass as the final prep for Street Sense.
"When they turn for home, we don't have to fight for a lane," Nafzger explained. "They'll be six, seven, eight horses wide, and every horse has a chance to win. It's a very fair race track. Last fall it was a bit closing-biased, but this spring it's a fair track."
Nafzger cited other reasons for choosing the Blue Grass Stakes, such as its position on the calendar, three weeks out from the Derby. It's also a race he has always wanted to win -- and a win he still lacks.
The Blue Grass will mark the third time Street Sense and Great Hunter, 9-5 second choice, have met. Street Sense defeated Great Hunter in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall at Churchill Downs. Great Hunter defeated Street Sense last October at Keeneland in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity.
"This is a very big race for both of us," said Great Hunter's trainer, Doug O'Neill.
"I hope both horses run dynamite races," he added, "and we meet each other again in the Kentucky Derby."When: 5:46 p.m. Saturday | TV: ESPN | Purse: $750,000 | Distance: 11/8 miles | Weight: 123 lbs.
Pp Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1 Zanjero Asmussen Gomez 8-1
2 Dominican Miller Bejarano 10-1
3 Love Dubai Maker Mena 30-1
4 Street Sense Nafzger Borel 4-5
5 Time Squared Biancone Leparoux 30-1
6 Teuflesberg Sanders Prado 10-1
7 Great Hunter O'Neill Nakatani 9-5
Dominican is a gelding; all others are colts
Time Squared was bred in New York; Great Hunter was bred in Pennsylvania; all others were bred in Kentucky