Bobby Zen

The GI Toyota Blue Grass S. at Keeneland, featuring a highly anticipated rematch between Dornoch (Good Magic) and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Sierra Leone (Gun Runner), is one of three GI Kentucky Derby prep races on tap on a fantastic day of racing Saturday.

Dornoch dug back gamely to defeat Sierra Leone in a heart-stopping renewal of the GII Remsen S. at a rain-soaked Aqueduct Dec. 2, then took care of business in a scratched-down GII Coolmore Fountain of Youth S. at Gulfstream Mar. 2. Sierra Leone, meanwhile, returned with an excellent come-from-behind victory over a sloppy surface at Fair Grounds in the GII Risen Star S. Feb. 17.

The Blue Grass field of 11 also includes the Brad Cox-trained duo of GIII Gotham S. Mar. 2 runner-up Just a Touch (Justify) and John Battaglia Memorial S. Mar. 2 winner Encino (Nyquist).

“Just at Touch is a very talented horse,” Cox said. “He’s shown talent from day one. He was a little late to get to the races, but it was by design. (Dornoch and Sierra Leone) got to the races a little bit earlier, so obviously they have more seasoning. I think this horse is one of our better 3-year-olds. I’m excited against running against these colts. It’s a Grade I with very talented horses. It looks to be one of the better Derby preps to date.”

A pair of unbeatens–‘TDN Rising Star’ Deterministic (Liam’s Map) and Tuscan Sky (Vino Rosso)–lead a field of 13 set for the GII Wood Memorial S. at Aqueduct.

Deterministic, an eye-catching debut winner going seven furlongs at Saratoga Aug. 12, showed no signs of rust resurfacing from the bench with an impressive victory in the slop over the aforementioned Just a Touch in the one-turn mile Gotham. Tuscan Sky makes his stakes debut after defeating the talented Nash (Medaglia d’Oro) in an optional claimer on the Risen Star program. Parx invader Uncle Heavy (Social Inclusion) returns to the Big Apple after upsetting the GIII Withers S. over track and trip Feb. 3.

“The Gotham was a very good race and a good field over a wet track–he handled the whole thing well,” trainer Christophe Clement said of the Wood Memorial 7-5 morning-line favorite Deterministic. “It will be interesting to see him going two turns. We’ll just go one step at a time. You never know until you try, but his style of racing and the way he trains makes you believe he should stay.”

A pair of last out graded winners–Imagination (Into Mischief) and Stronghold (Ghostzapper)–share top billing in the GI Santa Anita Derby. Imagination posted a career-best 96 Beyer Speed Figure for trainer Bob Baffert while gamely annexing the GII San Felipe S. Mar. 3. Stronghold, second in the GIII Bob Hope S. Nov. 19 and GII Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 16, broke through with a win in the GIII Sunland Park Derby Feb. 18. Both colts have finished no worse than second in five career starts.

The Blue Grass, Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial all offer qualifying points to its top five finishers (100-50-25-15-10) toward the GI Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs has barred Baffert’s trainees from participating in this year’s Kentucky Derby and GI Kentucky Oaks stemming in part from a well-documented medication positive found after Medina Spirit won the 2021 Derby.

There are also a pair of Kentucky Oaks preps on tap at Aqueduct at Santa Anita Saturday.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Kinza (Carpe Diem), winner of the GIII Las Virgenes S. Feb. 10 and GIII Santa Ysabel S. Mar. 9, will put her perfect record on the line for Baffert in the GII Santa Anita Oaks. The field of five also includes Kopion (Omaha Beach), who reported home second-best behind Kinza last time in the Las Virgenes.

Life Talk (Gun Runner) will look to get back on track in the GIII Gazelle S. at the Big A. The GII Demoiselle S. heroine was a disappointing sixth as the heavy favorite in Tampa’s Suncoast S. Feb. 10. Maiden of seven starts Where’s My Ring (Twirling Candy) makes the trip from Southern California for the Gazelle following a longshot second in the Santa Ysabel.

Saturday’s graded stakes also include a fantastic renewal of the GI Resolute Racing Madison S. The field of eight is led by standouts Alva Starr (Lord Nelson), Red Carpet Ready (Oscar Performance) and Vahva (Gun Runner). Keeneland’s stacked Blue Grass program also features the GII Appalachian S., GII Shakertown S. and GIII Commonwealth S., respectively.

Saturday’s graded action is rounded out by the GII Carter H. and GIII Distaff S. at Aqueduct and the GIII Monrovia S. at Santa Anita.

The post Led by Loaded Blue Grass, Trio of Derby Preps Highlight Saturday’s Graded Stakes Lineup appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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