It’s Blue Grass Day at Keeneland on Saturday, as the running of the $600,000 Blue Grass Stakes will take place this afternoon. Along with the $600,000 purse, there are five other stakes races at Keeneland Race Course today. The Ashland Stakes is the next biggest stakes event of the day at Keeneland with a $400,000 purse on offer. There is a total of $2,196,000 available in ten races in Lexington this afternoon.
The winner of the Blue Grass Stakes will receive 100 points towards entry into the Kentucky Derby. That essentially guarantees a spot in the Derby on Labor Day Weekend. This is one of three races left on the schedule with 100 points available for the winner, the Haskell Invitational and Travers Stakes, the other two races. We have a bunch of picks at Keeneland today, so let’s get to it. Head below for our free Blue Grass Stakes and Keeneland picks for July 11, 2020.
Race 4 – Appalachian Stakes
Post Time: 2:45 p.m. EST
Distance: 1 Mile
Race 4 is the Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday. In one of the smallest stakes races of the day, there is still a nice purse of $150,000 on offer in this one, which will cover a mile of racing on the turf. Walk In Marrakesh and Alms are both going to be major players in the Appalachian Stakes. Irish bred Walk In Marrakesh is going to have an opportunity from the No 6 post position. She is looking for her first stakes win on North American soil after five events in Europe. Her biggest win to date is in the British Stallion Studs Star Stakes on July 25, 2019.
Walk In Marrakesh finished 2nd in the Natalma Stakes (Gr. 1) on September 15, 2019 at Woodbine. She followed up with another close in the Florida Oaks (Gr. 3) for 2nd on March 7. However, Walk In Marrakesh hasn’t been close in her previous two outings to finish 5th in the Sanibel Island Stakes on March 28 and 7th in the Tepin Stakes on May 23. Both of those races were for $100,000. The Florida Oaks was for $200,000 and the Natalma Stakes for $250,000, so we’ve seen Walk In Marrakesh weaker at smaller events. She is coming off a 49-second workout over 4 furlongs on July 4.
Alms was a runner in the Tepin Stakes as well. It was the first loss of her career after winning four straight to begin, which included three straight stakes events. She won the Matron Stakes (Gr. 2) on October 5, 2019 and then the Jimmy Durante Stakes (Gr. 2) in an impressive 2 ¾ length win over Laura’s Light. She followed it up with a win in the Shantel Lanerie Memorial Overnight Stakes (Black Type) by 4 ¼ lengths in February. The winning streak came to an end on May 23 at Churchill Downs, finishing 5th as the favorite in the Tepin Stakes.
The bad news is that Alms lost that one, the good news is that she beat Walk In Marrakesh by about a length. That wasn’t a good day and she still managed to beat her toughest opponent today by a length. She is coming off a crisp workout on July 3 at Fair Hill with a time of 1:00.00 over 5 furlongs. If everything goes accordingly, Alms should be back in the winner’s circle after a blip on the radar in the Tepin Stakes.
Race 5 – Madison Stakes
Post Time: 3:18 p.m. EST
The Madison Stakes will have a $250,000 purse on tap in Race 5. This event will have 7 furlongs of racing on the dirt. Mia Mischief and Guarana are likely going to be the horses to beat here. Mia Mischief is 10 for 22 in her career, but was denied four straight wins after finishing 3rd in the Winning Colors Stakes (Gr. 3). The highlight of Mia Mischief’s career was a win in the Distaff Stakes (Gr. 1) on May 4, 2019, though she hasn’t come close to a win of that caliber since.
In four graded events after that win, Mia Mischief finished 4th, 5th, 3rd, 3rd. In her most recent performance, Mia Mischief finished 3rd for a $100,000 purse in the Winning Colors Stakes (Gr. 3). Mia Mischief was the betting favorite so that was a disappointment. If Mia Mischief shows up in the same form as she did in the Distaff Stakes then she’s going to win. However, we haven’t seen that kind of form since last May. In any case, expect Mia Mischief to be hanging around the front in the stretch. Getting by Guarana at the wire is likely going to be her most difficult chore.
Guarana is 4 for 5 in her career with two stakes wins on her resume. She is the 2019 winner of the Acorn Stakes (Gr. 1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (Gr. 1). Guarana came a place short of winning the Cotillion Stakes (Gr. 1) or she’d be looking at a perfect 5 for 5 career right now. She finished 2 ¼ lengths behind Street Band who had a surprising run in that one. That event was for a million dollar purse.
Her biggest score was in the Acorn Stakes for $700,000. Guarana ran a tune-up race on June 4 to prepare for the Madison Stakes and was way too good for that field at Churchill Downs. Guarana won by 5 ¼ lengths in a yawner to take the top prize out of a $85,000 purse. Compared to what she’s accomplished in her career already, the Madison Stakes should be an easy afternoon for her. Chad Brown likely has the winner in Race 5.
Race 7 – Ashland Stakes
Post Time: 4:24 p.m. EST
Distance:1 1/16 Miles
The Ashland Stakes is one of the biggest events at Keeneland on Saturday. Next to the Blue Grass, the Ashland Stakes has the highest purse of the day, which features 1 1/16 miles of racing on the dirt. I’m all for Tonalist’s Shape, Speech, and Venetian Harbor in the Ashland Stakes.
Tonalist’s Shape is running well and in good form going into today. She is my upset selection in Race 7. Tonalist’s Shape is a winner in 6 of 7 races in her career, with graded wins in the Forward Gal Stakes (Gr. 3) and Davona Dale Stakes (Gr. 2). She’s coming off a win in the Hollywood Wildcat Stakes (Black Type) over Dream Marie by 3 ¾ lengths for a $75,000 purse.
This is by far the most difficult race Tonalist’s Shape has participated in. Her biggest win is the $200,000 Davona Dale Stakes (Gr. 2) on February 29. The Ashley Stakes’ purse is more than double that at $400,000. She is coming off a couple of really strong workouts and could bite as a dog in this one. There is a chance she gets scratched and goes to the Coaching Club at Saratoga, so pay attention to the board.
If Tonalist’s Shape gets scratched, then Speech and Venetian Harbor will be the horses to beat. Speech was pushed back to today after getting scratched yesterday. She is coming off an outing in the Santa Anita Oaks (Gr. 2) and ran strong for 2nd. In six career races, Speech has finished 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd. She has yet to win a stakes race, but placing in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (Gr. 3) and Santa Anita Oaks (Gr. 2) was impressive. Speech is coming off a really quick workout of 47 seconds on July 5.
Venetian Harbor is 2 for 4 in her career and already has a big stakes win on her resume. She won the Las Virgenes (Gr. 2) on February 8 in a blowout over Gingham by 9 ¼ lengths. Venetian Harbor followed up with another bold effort in the Fantasy Stakes (Gr. 3) on May 1, but came 2 ½ lengths short of Swiss Skydiver. A 5-furlong workout on June 27 with a time of 58.60 seconds was a head turner. There is value with Tonalist’s Shape at +600, but with it looking like a scratch is coming, I’m leaning towards Venetian Harbor.
Race 8 – Jenny Wiley Stakes
Post Time: 4:57 p.m. EST
Distance:1 1/16 Miles
The Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes will take us to Race 8 at Keeneland. There is a total of $350,000 available in Race 8, which covers 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Jolie Olimpica and Rushing Fall are both in excellent form and the class of the field going into Saturday. Jolie Olimpica is 5 for 6 in her career with four graded wins. She won a Grade 3 and Grade 1 event in Brazil, and then 1st, 2nd, 1st on US soil.
Jolie Olimpica is a winner of the Las Cienegas Stakes (Gr. 3) on January 11 by 1 ¼ lengths over Kentan Road for a $100,000 purse. She followed up for 2nd in the Buena Vista Stakes (Gr. 2) for a $200,000 purse, and then got back on the winning trail in the Monrovia Stakes (Gr. 2) on May 25. That was a $200,000 win for the biggest win of her career.
Can Jolie Olimpica do it again and win the biggest race of her life on Saturday? It’s very possible. She has been working hard in the morning, including a 7-furlong workout on July 1 with a time of 1:25.60. If there’s anyone beating Julie Olimpica, it’s likely going to be Rushing Fall. Rushing Fall has been a juggernaut throughout her career and is the defending Jenny Wiley Stakes winner.
Rushing Fall is 9 for 12 in her career with eight wins in graded events. That includes big wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Gr. 1), Appalachian Stakes (Gr. 2), Lake Placid Stakes (Gr. 2), Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (Gr. 1), Jenny Wiley Stakes (Gr. 1), Just a Game Stakes (Gr. 1), and Beauguey Stakes (Gr. 3).
That’s a wildly successful resume, which has resulted in $2,069,000 in earnings. In her most recent outing, Rushing Fall won the Beauguey Stakes over Call Me Love by 2 lengths. Compared to some of the horses that she has torched in the past, the Jenny Wiley Stakes is a winnable event. Expect Rushing Fall to repeat as the Jenny Wiley Stakes on Saturday.
Race 9 – Blue Grass Stakes
Post Time: 5:30 p.m. EST
Distance:1 ⅛ Miles
The feature race of the day is Race 9 on Saturday at Keeneland. 1 ⅛ miles of racing on the dirt will decide a winner in the 2020 Blue Grass Stakes. With 100 points to the winner and 40 points to 2nd place, there’s a lot on the line in this race. Swiss Skydiver is going to try to bring down the boys in the Blue Grass Stakes. There has been talk of Bob Baffert possibly putting Gamine, a filly, in the Kentucky Derby on Labor Day Weeked.
It’s likely going to be Cezanne for Baffert. On a side note, Gamine recently tested positive for a banned substance. That’s a story for another time, though. In any case, Swiss Skydiver might go on to be the filly of the Kentucky Derby. Swiss Skydiver is 4 for 7 in her career with three straight wins in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (Gr. 2), Fantasy Stakes (Gr. 3), and Santa Anita Oaks (Gr. 2).
She has two losses in the Gasparilla Stakes (Black Type) and Rachel Alexandra Stakes (Gr. 2) in 2020, but has been a winner ever since then. In her most recent outing, Swiss Skydiver won by 4 lengths over Speech in the Santa Anita Oaks for a win in a $200,000 event. A victory in the Blue Grass Stakes would be the biggest win of Swiss Skydiver’s career. Swiss Skydiver is most recently coming off a 4-furlong workout of 50.60 seconds and 5-furlong workout completed in 59.20 seconds.
Art Collector from the No. 3 post position is going to be a difficult opponent for Swiss Skydiver. He is a +1400 horse to win the Kentucky Derby at BetOnline, which puts him in a tie with Cezanne and behind Uncle Chuck, Authentic, Honor A. P, and Derby favorite, Tiz the Law. With that in mind, winning the Kentucky Derby isn’t unreachable for Art Collector. He heads into the Blue Grass Stakes with no points, so a solid showing here to win or place would put him into contention. Despite no points and still a top-5 horse to win the Kentucky Derby says something.
Art Collector is 3 for 7 in his career and hasn’t raced against a field of this caliber, but his form has been incredibly impressive recently. Art Collector is a winner in two straight races, with wins of 2 ¾ lengths over Toledo on May 17, and then more impressively a 6 ½ length win over Shared Sense at Churchill Downs on June 13 as the favorite. He is coming off two solid workouts of 48.480 seconds. The way I see it, this is between Swiss Skydiver and Art Collector. Look for Art Collector to deny history and prevent the filly from winning the Blue Grass in 2020.