It’s a big horse racing day on Saturday, as the Road to the Kentucky Derby heats up with three prep races. All are worth the same with 170 points on the line. Keeneland, Aqueduct, and Santa Anita park are all hosting these big time events. The most interesting race of the day that I’m looking forward to the most is the $800,000 Blue Grass Stakes (Gr. 2) at Keeneland in Lexington.
The Wood Memorial (Gr. 2) and Santa Anita Derby (Gr. 1) both come with purses of $750,000. The Blue Grass at Keeneland isn’t the only big race in Lexington on Saturday. There are five other stakes races, with all of them graded events. The $400,000 Ashland Stakes (Gr. 1) is the next biggest event at Keeneland on Saturday.
There are a total of 11 races on the schedule worth $2,458,000 in prize money at Keeneland this afternoon. The main attraction at Keeneland on Saturday is Essential Quality. Essential Quality is highly regarded as a contender for the Kentucky Derby crown. Head below for our free Keeneland selections and Blue Grass Stakes pick for April 3, 2021.
Race 2 – Commonwealth Stakes
Post Time: 4:24 p.m. EST
The $200,000 Commonwealth Stakes (Gr. 3) is a 7-furlong event on the dirt. Hidden Scroll and Flagstaff should have a bold bid down the stretch in this contest. Hidden Scroll is a three-time winner through 10 races in his career. He has stakes and graded experience, but has yet to win one of them. The best he’s done in a stakes race was in 2019 in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (Gr. 2), finishing 4th in the $400,000 event.
Since then, Hidden Scroll has finished 6th in the Florida Derby (Gr. 1), 7th in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (Gr. 3), and most recently 8th in the Jaipur Stakes (Gr. 1). Hidden Scroll came back to finish 5th in a $76,000 race on August 1. He finally got back on track in his most recent showing on January 24.
Hidden Scroll topped Royal Daaher by 2 ¼ lengths for a $85,000 purse. That was an impressive effort from Hidden Scroll to regain some confidence. He’s a threat with Flagstaff to win the Commonwealth on Saturday. Flagstaff is 5 for 17 in his career and has consistently been in the money since 2019. Note that Flagstaff has been in the top-3 in 11 of his previous 13 performances, the majority Grade 2 events.
He showed 3rd in his latest outing on March 13 in the $200,000 Hot Spring Stakes. Flagstaff was close, though, finishing 1 ½ lengths and a head away from a win. He placed 2nd in the $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (Gr. 2) on September 27 in his most recent graded event. Flagstaff has seen much tougher than this field before.
Race 9 – Central Bank Ashland Stakes
Post Time: 5:30 p.m. EST
Distance:1 1/16 Miles
The $400,000 Ashland Stakes is a $400,000 event covering 1 1/16 miles on the dirt for the girls. Simply Ravishing and Malathaat should have nice bids for the top prize in Race 9. Simply Ravishing was on fire to open her career with three straight wins.
To complete the hat-trick, Simply Ravishing won the $350,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes (Gr. 1) by 6 ¼ lengths. However, since then, she faltered in the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (Gr. 1) for 4th on November 6, and then 4th in the $200,000 Golden Rod Stakes (Gr. 2) on November 18.
The effort in the Golden Rod Stakes was disappointing for Simply Ravishing. The class drop from a $2,000,000 to a $200,000 race didn’t help any and she has since been on a layoff. Simply Ravishing was timed in workouts recently at 4 furlongs in 46.53 and 49.03 seconds, and 5 furlongs in 1:01.31. We will see if the layoff helped much.
Malathaat is on a hat-trick and looking for another win to make it four straight to open her career. In her most recent outing, she was a winner of the $150,000 Demoiselle Stakes (Gr. 2) as a big favorite. A Todd Pletcher trainee, Malathaat was purchased for $1,050,000 in September of 2019. This is going to be the biggest test of her career so far, but should be another winnable race for her.
Race 11 – Blue Grass Stakes
Post Time: 6:35 p.m. EST
Distance:1 ⅛ Miles
The biggest race of the year has arrived at Keeneland on Saturday. The 2021 Blue Grass Stakes (Gr. 2) features a nine-horse field for a $800,000 purse. The Blue Grass likely comes down to Highly Motivated and Essential Quality. If Essential Quality is in top form, he’s going to be tough to beat, but Highly Motivated may have something to say in this one.
Highly Motivated has been a fine runner so far in his career. The young colt has gone 2nd, 1st, 1st, 3rd in his career. He broke through for the first stakes win of his career on November 6 in the $125,000 Nyquist Stakes. Highly Motivated defeated Quick Tempo by 4 ¼ lengths for an impressive win, but struggled up in class as a first-time starter in a graded event.
Highly Motivated showed 3rd on March 6 in the $300,000 Gotham Stakes (Gr. 3). He bobbled the start and had some mild kick down the stretch. Without the bobble, Highly Motivated may have done better there. He was the favorite, but had to settle for show money. Way up to the $800,000 Blue Grass (Gr. 2) on Saturday, a tougher challenge awaits versus Essential Quality. Essential Quality is a four-time winner, with no blemishes through four entries in his career.
He is a three-time graded winner, with wins in the $400,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (Gr. 1), $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Gr. 1), and most recently in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (Gr. 3) on February 27. That was an easy win, with Essential Quality drawing clear in the stretch by 4 ¼ lengths. He enters off a couple of textbook workouts in March. At 5 furlongs, he was timed at 59 seconds and 1:00.40. As long as Essential Quality wants to play on Saturday, a win shouldn’t be too tough for 100 points.