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Barn Notes: Undefeated McCraken, Practical Joke likely favorites for Toyota Blue Grass Stakes

Whitham Thoroughbreds’ homebred McCraken, undefeated in four starts, and Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s two-time Grade 1 winner Practical Joke headline a list of seven horses considered as likely starters for the 93rd running of the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) on April 8, opening Saturday of Keeneland’s 2017 Spring Meet.

Entries will be taken Tuesday for the 1 1/8-mile dirt race that offers 170 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1) with 100 points going to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.

Trained by Ian Wilkes, McCraken closed his 2016 campaign with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs and opened 2017 with a victory in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs. Stabled at Keeneland since the main stable area opened March 16, McCraken is set to have his third work here Sunday or Monday.

Practical Joke, trained by Chad Brown, won the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga and the Champagne (G1) at Belmont before closing 2016 with a third-place finish in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita. In his 2017 debut, Practical Joke finished second in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 4 at Gulfstream Park.

Other likely starters, according to Keeneland Stakes Coordinator Tiffany Bourque, include Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta’s Tapwrit, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2); Albaugh Family Stable’s J Boys Echo, winner of the Gotham (G3); Calumet Farm’s Wild Shot; Reddam Racing’s Irap; and Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Scott Akman and Nehoc Stables’ It’s Your Nickel.

NBC Sports Network will provide live coverage of the Toyota Blue Grass, along with the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct and Santa Anita Derby (G1), from 5:30-7:30 p.m. ET. Post time for the Toyota Blue Grass is 6:17 p.m.


The opening-day feature of Keeneland’s 2017 Spring Meet is the $150,000 Transylvania (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

The next day, the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1) for 3-year-old fillies anchor a blockbuster 11-race card that features five stakes worth $2.25 million. Joining the Toyota Blue Grass and Central Bank Ashland are the $300,000 Madison (G1) for fillies and mares at 7 furlongs on the dirt; $200,000 Shakertown (G2) for 3-year-olds and up at
5½ furlongs on turf; and the $250,000 Commonwealth (G3) for older horses at 7 furlongs on the dirt.

Opening weekend concludes with the $150,000 Adena Springs Beaumont (G3) for 3-year-old fillies racing the Beard Course distance of 7 furlongs, 184 feet.

$150,000 TRANSYLVANIA (G3) PRESENTED BY KEENELAND SELECT (Entries close Monday; Race Friday April 7) – Big Score, Bird Is the Word, Bird’s Eye View, Cowboy Culture, Oscar Performance, Sonic Boom, Ticonderoga.

$1,000,000 TOYOTA BLUE GRASS (G2) (Entries close Tuesday; Race Saturday, April 8) – Irap, It’s Your Nickel, J Boys Echo, McCraken, Practical Joke, Tapwrit, Wild Shot.

$500,000 CENTRAL BANK ASHLAND (G1) (Entries close Tuesday; Race Saturday, April 8) – Daddys Lil Darling, Elate, Pretty City Dancer, Valadorna. Possible: Princess Karen, Tapa Tapa Tapa.

$300,000 MADISON (G1) (Entries close Tuesday; Race Saturday, April 8) – Clothes Fall Off, Constellation, High Ridge Road, Paid Up Subscriber, Paulassilverlining, Wheatfield. Possible: Kathballu.

$250,000 COMMONWEALTH (G3) (Entries close Tuesday; Race Saturday, April 8) – A. P. Indian, Apprehender, Awesome Slew, Cautious Giant, Fish Trappe Road, Limousine Liberal, Redesdale, Riding in the Wind, Seeking the Soul, Tale of S’avall, Yockey’s Warrior.

$200,000 SHAKERTOWN (G2) (Entries close Tuesday; Race Saturday, April 8) – Green Mask, Hogy, Holding Gold, Mongolian Saturday, Rainbow Heir.

$150,000 ADENA SPRINGS BEAUMONT (G3) (Entries close Thursday, April 6; Race Sunday, April 9) – Dancing Rags, Ms Locust Point, My Miss Chiff, Promises Broken, Sounds Delicious, Sweet Loretta, Tapped. Possible: Tapa Tapa Tapa.

From Keeneland Communications

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