When the March Madness picks are set each season, it's never surprising to see the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the shortlist of potential NCAA Tournament champions.
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The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course Picks
Blue Grass Stakes Preview
The Blue Grass offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale. The field saw a slight change when it was announced earlier that (G2) Tampa Bay Derby winner Quip - third choice in the morning line odds at 6-1 - would be scratched out of the race and instead make his final Derby prep in the (G1) Arkansas Derby next weekend. With the scratch, Determinant (20-1) draws into the field.
Of the 14 runners, four would likely make the Derby field with even a top-four finish and the minimum of 20 points that would mean. All the rest need to run at least in the top two. Last year, the cut off for making the Derby was 40 points.
Leading the Blue Grass field on the Derby leaderboard right now with 34 points and the morning line favorite for the race is Good Magic at odds of 2-1. The 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner broke his maiden in that race after starting his career with a pair of runner-up finishes, including the (G1) Champagne Stakes. He has made one start so far in 2018 in the (G2) Fountain of Youth Stakes, where he was not able to run down the leaders as they turned for home and ended a somewhat disappointing third.
That inability to close the deal is becoming a bit of a concern for his backers, and the pressure is on to show that he can win races when he has a chance and that he can keep pace with his peers that have improved from their two-year-old season.
Flameaway Has Been Piling Up Wins
Right behind him on the leaderboard and breaking outside him in the Blue Grass gate, Flameaway (6-1) has quietly put together one of the better resumes in the field. After winning his career debut last May on the synthetic at Woodbine, he next took a minor stake sprinting at Saratoga, and then finished up the track stretching out to 1 1/16 miles at Churchill. Trainer Mark Casse decided to try him on turf, but rain caused the (G3) Dixiana Bourbon to be switched to dirt, and he won anyway.
He was a non-factor in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, started 2018 with a win in the Kitten's Joy Stakes on turf, and since then he has been back on dirt, and has won two, including the (G3) Sam F. Davis Stakes, then ran second in the (G2) Tampa Bay Derby. Overall, he has five wins and a runner-up finish in eight lifetime starts. He's not the fastest horse around, but has shown an ability to sit off the top flight of horses and then make one strong run in the lane.
Similar to Good Magic, Free Drop Billy (5-1) showed a lot of promise in his juvenile season that he has not yet been able to match as a three-year-old. In 2017 he won two of four and ran second twice, the last three of those in graded-stakes, before a disappointing ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. In two starts in 2018 he's run second and third, the most recent of those in the (G3) Gotham Stakes where he was favored, but failed to make any impression as they came down the stretch. He's currently right at the cut off point to make the Derby field, in spot #20 with 20 points.
A bit of an upstart in the field, Kanthanka (10-1) ships in from southern California, where two starts back he won the (G2) San Vincente Stakes at Santa Anita, rallying behind a very fast early pace. He then went against current Derby favorites Bolt d'Oro and McKinzie in the (G2) San Felipe Stakes and was well-beaten by those two, but the best of the rest in the field. He's well down the Derby qualifying list with 10 points, and likely needs a top-two finish to have a chance at getting in.
The Blue Grass Stakes goes Saturday, April 7 from Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. It's race #10 of 11 on an excellent day of racing that includes the (G1) Madison Stakes and the (G1) Ashland Stakes, which is a qualifying race for the 2018 Kentucky Oaks. Expected post time for the Blue Grass is 6:23 PM Eastern.
Entries w/ ML Odds
- Zing Zang (30-1)
- Sporting Chance (10-1)
- California Night (30-1)
- Kanthaka (10-1)
- Quip (6-1)
- Marconi (15-1)
- Blended Citizen (15-1)
- Gotta Go (30-1)
- Tiz Mischief (30-1)
- Free Drop Billy (5-1)
- Good Magic (2-1)
- Flameaway (6-1)
- Machismo (20-1)
- Arawak (30-1)
- Determinant (20-1)
Blue Grass Derby Picks
- 1) #12 - Flameaway
- 2) #10 - Free Drop Billy
- 3) #11 - Good Magic
- 4) #4 - Kanthaka
The weather is supposed to be terrible at Keeneland on Saturday, but you can stay warm and dry and bet the Blue Grass and the full card of racing at home through Bovada or one of these other top-rated online racebooks.
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