Blue Grass Stakes Photos: Irap & Sailor’s Valentine Deliver Surprises
It doesn’t truly feel like spring has arrived until Keeneland’s opening weekend. Lexington was once again blessed with beautiful weather on this important weekend, and very lucky, as the area was pummeled by severe storms two days prior.
The 7-furlong Commonwealth Stakes (G3) shaped itself as an exciting race. Entrants included 2016 Commonwealth winner Ami’s Flatter and A.P. Indian, winner of five in a row last year, including the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1), Forego Stakes (G1), and Phoenix Stakes (G2), before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). The Commonwealth was A.P. Indian’s seasonal debut.
With Joe Bravo up, A.P. Indian stalked the pace and went four wide around the turn to take the lead over Limousine Liberal. In the meantime, in a late closing move, Awesome Slew and Joel Rosario swept by the field on the outside and passed A.P. Indian in the stretch. The Commonwealth was the fourth win in 11 starts for the four-year-old Awesome Again colt.
Unraced since a seventh-place finish in the Woodford Stakes (G3) at Keeneland last October, Holding Gold proved he was ready for the Shakertown Stakes (G2), a 5–½ furlong sprint on the turf. With Joel Rosario up, the Lonhro colt hung back and saved ground along the inside path to take the race by a neck over Green Mask, with favored Hogy a length and a half back in third.
In the seven-furlong Madison Stakes (G1), Paulassilverlining was the first — and only — favorite of the day to find their way to the winner’s circle. With Jose Ortiz up, the five-year-old Ghostzapper mare dug in deep to hold off Constellation by a neck.
At 22–1, Sailor’s Valentine was a gift to Keeneland. The finely-sculpted Mizzen Mast filly captured her first stakes win in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1). With Corey Lanerie up, she broke strongly and sat just off the pace before taking charge in the homestretch. Daddys Lil Darling finished a half length back in second, with Someday Soon third.
The Kentucky Derby picture was stirred ever further in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2). Guided by Julien Leparoux, Irap — winless in seven starts — humbled a deep and talented Blue Grass field, which included the likes of Champagne Stakes (G1) and Hopeful Stakes (G1) winner Practical Joke, Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Tapwrit, Gotham Stakes (G3) winner J Boys Echo, and the undefeated McCraken.
The 2017 edition of the Blue Grass was a fitting nod to Man o’ War, whose 100th birthday was two weeks ago, as Irap is a son of Tiznow, a direct male descendant of the legendary horse.
This was originally published on Horse Racing Nation.