- Normally a key Kentucky Derby prep race in April, this year’s Blue Grass Stakes in July is equally important
- Swiss Skydiver, a filly who has won three straight races easily, is the favorite
- A large field provides betting value particularly if you want to wager against a girl facing the boys
Ten times the winner of the Blue Grass Stakes has gone on to cross the finish line first at the Kentucky Derby. This year the timing is different. Keeneland was closed until this week, and the race was postponed from April. However, with the Run for the Roses shifted from May to September, the Blue Grass still looms as a major prep.
In an effort to earn Kentucky Derby qualifying points trainer Kenny McPeek has entered filly Swiss Skydiver, who is likely to be the favorite. She would be among the top choices in the Kentucky Oaks, but there is a notion she might be as good as the boys this year. If she runs poorly in the Blue Grass, she has already qualified for the Oaks.
A filly has raced in the Bluegrass Stakes just once, Harriet Sue finished fifth in 1944. Fillies have tried the Kentucky Derby 40 times with three victories, the most recent being Winning Colors in 1988.
With a lot of attention focused on Swiss Skydiver, there is significant value on several of the boys entered against her. Let’s look at the whole field, analyze, and ponder a winning wager.
2020 Blue Grass Stakes Odds
|Mr. Big News||+1000|
|Finnick the Fierce||+1200|
|Man in the Can||+1200|
|Hunt the Front||+2000|
Odds taken Jul 8
The horses will go one-mile-and-an-eighth on the main track with the purse set at $600,000. Post time is scheduled for 5:30 pm EST.
Sports have been drastically changed by COVID-19, and while horse racing has largely continued, it is still a very weird year. A filly being a Kentucky Derby contender is unusual, multiple girls running against the boys is unheard of.
Swiss Skydiver is the favorite in the Blue Grass Stakes thanks to four wins in seven tries, all against girls, and three consecutive victories. The crazy thing is she may not be as good as fellow filly Gamine, who may or may not opt to face the boys. Regardless, Swiss Skydiver was at her best in last month’s Santa Anita Oaks.
Using Beyer Speed Figures, which try to help compare horses in apples-to-apples terms, upgrading or downgrading depending on track bias and level of competition, with the highest number being the strongest performances, Swiss Skydiver is a deserving favorite. Her 95 in the Santa Anita Oaks and 99 in the Fantasy Stakes are the best pair of figures for any horse in the Blue Grass field.
Only Art Collector’s 100 last time out is greater than any of Swiss Skydiver’s races, but his second-best performance registered only an 87. If you need more evidence Swiss Skydiver is a serious candidate, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has the mount.
In four races this year Rushie has won twice and lost to the upper echelon of Kentucky Derby contenders twice. She was second, but 10 lengths behind Charlatan in March, and last time out finished behind Honor A.P. and Authentic in the Santa Anita Derby.
Rushie does not face the A-team of Derby horses in this race, but his victories have not come against monster competition either. Javier Castellano, who won the Blue Grass on Vekoma last year, flies is in from New York to ride.
Prior to his last race, a victory in a $100,000 optional claiming race at Churchill Downs, Art Collector was a fringe Kentucky Derby prospect. That said, his 100 Beyer figure, and sure dominance against a decent field makes you think twice.
The win on June 13 was Art Collector’s first race around two turns. He may be maturing at the right time, and really like longer distances. That said, do you believe the results of one race, or was his mediocre sprint form telling?
Like Rushie, Basin gets a break in competition in the Blue Grass. In two of his last three races he ran into Nadal and then Charlatan. His effort in the Arkansas Derby was solid seeing as how he beat seven of eight opponents.
It is unclear what happened to Basin when he was fourth against Mr. Big News and several others in the Oaklawn Stakes, but he seems viable against this group.
Man in the Can doesn’t look like the type of horse who would be sniffing around the Kentucky Derby pool. He is an Arkansas bred who had only a maiden victory and wins over fellow Natural State competition prior to June 12. Last month in open competition at Churchill Downs he won an optional claimer. Interestingly, Dean Martini finished second. Dean Martini won the Ohio Derby a few weeks later.
Attachment Rate comes out of the uber difficult Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. He was fourth in that event which was won by Maxfield. In his prior try, he finished second against the talented Dr Post. You are getting a big price because Attachment Rate has only one victory, but he has hit the board against quality competition consistently.
What makes this a good betting race is there is no way to know whether Swiss Skydiver is good enough to beat the boys. She is stepping way up in competition level and is going to get bet. That creates value on everyone else. While Rushie and Art Collector make lots of sense, we think this is fairly wide open. A small bet on Attachment Rate at a huge price is justified.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.