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Long-shot Irap holds off Practical Joke before 32,610 fans, becomes first maiden to win Toyota Blue Grass

Reddam Racing’s Irap became the first maiden to win the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) for 3-year-olds on Saturday, holding off Practical Joke by three-quarters of a length before a crowd of 32,610.

Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Julien Leparoux, Irap covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:50.39 in the 93rd running of the race. It was the second victory in the race for Leparoux, who won the race in 2013 with Java’s War.

“He’s a son of Tiznow, and he has a ton of ability. The fact he was still a maiden was kind of unfortunate, but he’s always been a talented horse,” said O’Neill. “(Jockey) Julien (Leparoux) gave him a great ride. Unbelievable.”

The victory was worth $600,000 to Irap, a Keeneland sales graduate, and also gave him 100 points toward the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) to be run May 6 at Churchill Downs (Keeneland Photo)

On whether Irap is continuing to the Kentucky Derby-G1, O’Neill said, “That’s the plan. As long as he stays injury free, that will be our next move.”

The victory was worth $600,000 to Irap, a Keeneland sales graduate, and also gave him 100 points toward the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) to be run May 6 at Churchill Downs.

Irap has 113 points and a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby that is limited to the top 20 point getters that pass the entry box. Wild Shot took the lead out of the gate and set fractions of :23.79 and :48.34 with Irap in closest pursuit.

On the turn, Irap took over and opened a daylight advantage with Practical Joke making his first move. However, through the stretch, Irap never wavered and held off the two-time Grade 1 winner. Favored and previously undefeated McCraken was another 3 lengths back in third and 2½ lengths in front of J Boys Echo.

Tapwrit finished fifth with It’s Your Nickel sixth and Wild Shot seventh.

Practical Joke picked up 40 Kentucky Derby points to give him 74, McCraken doubled his total from 20 to 40, and J Boys Echo added 10 points to give him 63.

Irap is a Kentucky-bred son of Tiznow out of the Storm Cat mare Silken Cat. Two times graded-stakes placed prior to his victory, Irap increased his earnings to $772,600 with a record of 8-1-3-1.

Irap returned $64.60, $22.40 and $6.80. Practical Joke, ridden by Joel Rosario, returned $5.60 and $3.20 with McCraken, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., paying $2.40 to show.

Racing resumes Sunday with a nine-race program beginning at 1:05 p.m. ET. Headlining the program is the $150,000 Adena Springs Beaumont (G3) for 3-year-old fillies that goes as the eighth race with a 4:57 p.m. post time.


Keeneland’s stellar Toyota Blue Grass (G2) card was extremely attractive to bettors. The All-Stakes Pick Five, encompassing the five stakes races, handled $633,000 to eclipse all previous non-carryover Pick Five pools. The All-Stakes Pick Four, which included the Shakertown (G2), Madison (G1), Central Bank Ashland (G1) and Toyota Blue Grass, handled an all-time Keeneland record $733,000. The late Pick Four, which ended in race 11, handled $546,000. Taken together, the three big multi-leg wagers handled $1.912 million, a 32 percent increase from 2016.


The Pick 6 carryover for Sunday is $67,281.15.

Sailor’s Valentine Pulls Shocker in $500,000 Central Bank Ashland

Semaphore Racing and Homewrecker Racing’s Sailor’s Valentine put away pacesetting Someday Soon in the upper stretch and then held off a late surge from Daddys Lil Darling by a half-length to win the 80th running of the $500,000 Central Bank Ashland (G1) for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday at Keeneland.

Trained by Eddie Kenneally and ridden by Corey Lanerie, Sailor’s Valentine covered the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main track in 1:45.54.

“We knew she liked the track. She won here in October very impressively (in her career debut on Oct. 8),” Kenneally said. “She came back here in late March and had a really good work over the track. We just decided we’d take a shot in the Ashland – mainly because she loves this track – and this is a very, very good track.”

On whether Sailor’s Valentine will race next in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Kenneally said, “Certainly, if everything goes well.”

It was the second Central Bank Ashland victory for Kenneally, who won with Bushfire in 2006 for Homewrecker Racing.

Lanerie became the second rider to win the Central Bank Ashland in consecutive years. Lanerie, who won last year on Weep No More, joins Bill Shoemaker as a back-to-back winner. Shoemaker won in 1981 on Truly Bound and 1982 with Blush With Pride.

Lanerie also won the race in 2009 with Hooh Why and joins Shoemaker, Don Brumfield, Randy Romero, Shane Sellers and Mike Smith as the only riders to win the race three times.

The victory was worth $300,000 and also gave Sailor’s Valentine 100 points toward the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) to be run May 5 at Churchill Downs.

Sailor’s Valentine has 100 points and a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Oaks that is limited to the top 14 point getters that pass the entry box. Daddys Lil Darling picked up 40 points for second to boost her total to 60 and a likely spot in the Oaks.

Someday Soon led the field of eight through fractions of :24.49, :49.32 and 1:14.06 with Sailor’s Valentine in closest pursuit. In the stretch, Sailor’s Valentine took over and had enough left to thwart the late bid of Daddys Lil Darling.

From Keeneland Communications

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