Vekoma can punch his Kentucky Derby ticket in Blue Grass Stakes

The Grade II, $1 million Blue Grass Stakes highlights opening Saturday at Kentucky’s historic Keeneland racecourse. The 1 1/8-mile event for three-year-olds attracted a field of 14. Going as Race 10 of 11, post time for the Blue Grass is 6:23 p.m. EST. The winner is virtually assured a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, as first place is awarded 100 points. Second place will earn 40 points, third 20, and fourth 10.

#2 VEKOMA (9-5, morning-line favorite) will get the call in the Blue Grass. He made his first start of the year in the Fountain of Youth last time out, making late headway to grab third. However, he did not close as well as Code of Honor and Bourbon War, who returned with disappointing efforts in the Florida Derby last Saturday. If VEKOMA can get back to his Nashua effort from last November with the rust shaken off, he has a good chance at taking the Blue Grass Stakes. He gets a positive rider change to Javier Castellano.

#3 SIGNALMAN (5-1) was a no-show when last seen in the Fountain of Youth. Perhaps he needed that start after not racing since last November. It’s also possible he didn’t care for the surface at Gulfstream. SIGNALMAN has one prior start at Keeneland; a second-place performance in the Breeders’ Futurity. Ken McPeek has the son of General Quarters working extremely well for the Blue Grass. Brian Hernandez maintains the assignment.

#1 SOMELIKEITHOTBROWN (10-1) is eligible to improve on his lacking speed figures in his first start on fast dirt. He made his debut in the slop at Saratoga last summer before campaigning on turf and synthetic, where he has hit the board in his last six efforts, including a convincing victory in the Jeff Ruby Steaks last time out. Tyler Gaffalione will be aboard once more.

The play: $4 exacta 2/1,3, $2 exacta 3/2 ($10)

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