Zulu the Deserving Blue Grass Stakes Favorite
Zulu the Deserving Blue Grass Stakes Favorite: Fans become excited for races such as the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (GI), scheduled for this Saturday at Keeneland Race Course. With 16 entries (two of them “also eligible”), the event will provide some betting value. Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) runner-up Zulu, trained by Todd Pletcher, merits the role as favorite.
Owned by a partnership including Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Stonestreet Stable, Zulu compiled a 2 for 3 record, with his sole loss coming in Florida against Mohaymen. As read in a Blood-Horse article, Pletcher decided to avoid facing Mohaymen again and Nyquist by waiting for Keeneland to open.
“We weren’t making any secrets about the fact we didn’t want to run against Nyquist and Mohaymen, so it just seemed like with those horses going in the Florida Derby (gr. I), we wanted to put ourselves in the position of instead of being third choice, being possibly the favorite,” Pletcher said.
Javier Castellano rides Zulu, which gives the colt a smart and tactical pilot right off the bat. The lightly-raced favorite also drew a favorable post position in the fourth slot, which offers Castellano options.
“We’re very happy with our spot, very happy with our draw,” said Charlie O’Conner, a representative of Zulu’s co-owners.
Now to discuss Zulu’s form more closely.
In the Fountain of Youth, he turned in a strong race for a horse making his third career start. When Mohaymen came on the far turn to challenge, Zulu stuck close by and made an effort to stay within range. Mohaymen only won by a margin of just over two lengths, and the third-place finisher Fellowship ended up six lengths behind Zulu.
Before his stakes debut, Zulu won by over seven lengths in an optional claimer. His successful career debut back in December came by a lesser margin of two lengths. With only three starts, the ceiling looks high.
The Dale Romans-trained Cherry Wine also generated hype while breaking his maiden by over nine lengths at Churchill Downs back in November. He then won a Gulfstream optional claimer by six lengths in January.
Romans tested Cherry Wine in the Rebel Stakes (GII) at Oaklawn Park, and he ran adequately from behind to finish fourth and five lengths behind Cupid. Corey Lanerie rides, which might worry those who criticized his decision-making on closer Mo Tom in the Louisiana Derby (GII). At least he draws well in the third post.
According to co-owner Frank Shoop, “We got a bad draw last time.”
Lanerie rode Brody’s Cause, the stablemate of Cherry Wine, in his last three starts as well. Brody’s Cause flopped badly in his previous start, finishing seventh in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII). Handicappers might downgrade him further since Lanerie chose to go with Cherry Wine, rather than give Brody’s Cause another chance.
Interestingly, Pletcher tops Romans in this race by running two more horses, and each of them won their previous start by 13 lengths. Of the two, Donegal Moon shows more experience, but it is fair be skeptical of his five-horse field victory at PARX. The other one, Cards of Stone, comes out of a state-bred optional claiming race at Aqueduct.
In addition, give the Chad Brown-trained My Man Sam consideration for underneath spots. He finished second in an Aqueduct optional claimer to Matt King Coal. Before the runner-up finish, he broke his maiden by eight lengths in January. Breaking from post 14 will be a challenge for this inexperienced horse. Even Brown admitted this.
“We are very disappointed with the post-position draw of the 14 hole. He will have his work cut out for him,” he said.
Before ending this article, it is important to point out Laoban and not for any positive reasons. He ran second in the Gotham Stakes when aided by a speed-favoring track at Aqueduct, and seems unlikely to duplicate the effort.
Bettors and fans win. Everyone complains about short fields in graded stakes races. Now, here is one with a boatload of choices. Zulu holds a slight edge, but do not be afraid to take a longshot. Maybe even go with an “All-Pletcher” exacta box and see what happens. Good luck to beautiful Keeneland in their opening weekend.
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes 2016 Post Positions & Odds
Race 10 6:00 PM ET
1 Lookin for a Kiss 50-1 Gaffalione/Tomlinson
2 Donegal Moon 5-1 Garcia/Pletcher
3 Cherry Wine 12-1 Lanerie/Romans
4 Zulu 5-2 Castellano/Pletcher
5 Crescent Drive 20-1 Graham/Amoss
6 Brody’s Cause 4-1 Saez/Romans
7 Laoban 12-1 Lezcano/Guillot
8 Twizz 30-1 Murrill/Maker
9 Goats Town 20-1 Albarado/Lukas
10 American Dubai 20-1 Landeros/Richards
11 Cards of Stone 20-1 Lopez/Pletcher
12 Zapperini 30-1 Torres/Foley
13 Star Hill 10-1 Jaramillo/Arnold, II
14 My Man Sam 10-1 Leparoux/Brown
15 Pinson 30-1 Bravo/Maker
16 Hint of Roses Geroux/Maker