McCraken, Tapwrit to battle in the Blue Grass

The Grade II, $1 million Blue Grass Stakes is the feature on the opening Saturday of the Keeneland spring meet. Seven Kentucky Derby hopefuls will line up in pursuit of valuable points toward the big race, with 100 to be awarded to the winner. Undefeated MCCRACKEN is among the entrants for the 1 1/8th-mile race, along with Tampa Bay Derby winner TAPWRIT, Gotham Stakes champ J BOYS ECHO, and juvenile stakes winner PRACTICAL JOKE. Post time for the Blue Grass, the 10th of 11 races on Saturday, is 6:17 p.m. EST. In addition to watching and wagering, feel free to try out FanXT’s Daily Fantasy Jockey game!

#2 MCCRACKEN (7-5, morning-line favorite) will be the top selection here as he attempts to rebound off a minor injury. The price will not be that appetizing, but he’s shown immense talent in his four career starts (all victories). He beat TAPWRIT handily despite a four-wide trip when matched against him in the Sam F. Davis last time out. It’s not ideal that MCCRAKEN had to defect from the Tampa Bay Derby to await this spot, but he’s training very well, so his minor ankle injury doesn’t appear to have affected him. Brian Hernandez Jr. will be in the saddle again.

#4 TAPWRIT (5-2) is one of several already in the Kentucky Derby for Todd Pletcher on the strength of his Tampa Bay Derby win. He’ll be looking to stay sharp and possibly settle the score with MCCRAKEN in the Blue Grass under Jose Ortiz. The speed figures are strong, but MCCRAKEN seems just a bit better on paper.

#3 J BOYS ECHO (4-1) and #7 PRACTICAL JOKE (7-2) both have questions to answer in this one. J BOYS ECHO is out to prove his Gotham victory was no fluke, while PRACTICAL JOKE will be looking to demonstrate that he can handle a two-turn race. Dale Romans trains the former while Chad Brown trains the latter. Atop the colts will be Robby Albarado and Joel Rosario, respectively.

#5 WILD SHOT and Corey Lanerie can sweeten the exotics at 15-1. His Tampa form suggests he’s a cut below the top two, but the fringe candidates appear vulnerable here.

The play: $8 exacta 2/4, $2 trifecta 2/4/5 ($10)

DFJ analysis: Jose Ortiz is the most expensive option in the Daily Fantasy Jockey game, but you should accommodate him this Saturday. Nine of his 11 mounts on the program are 6-1 or below in odds, and two of those are favored. Among his stakes mounts are TAPWRIT in the Blue Grass, Elate in the Ashland, Paulassilverlining in the Madison, Partly Mocha in the Shakertown and Limousine Liberal in the Commonwealth. Ortiz should compile mostly ITM finishes in those races.

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