The Grade 1 Apple Blossom, a showdown between Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta was supposed to be the match-up of the year, decade, or century—take your pick. Rachel will be a no-show, but still, a major crowd is expected to be on hand to witness the 6-year-old queen add some more jewels to her sparkling crown. Only four others (Be Fair, Taptam, War Echo and Just Jenda) have entered against Zenyatta despite the incentive of a $500,000 purse. The Apple Blossom is the 10th race (scheduled post time is 7:25 e.t.) of Oaklawn Park's Friday card which also features the G3 Count Fleet Handicap.
Friday's Keeneland card is highlighted by the G1 Maker's Mark Mile on the grass. Court Vision, from Rick Dutrow's barn, won last fall's Shadwell Turf Mile over this course before finishing a game fourth in the Breeders' Cup Mile. In his 2010 debut, he finished first via a disqualification in the G1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap. Society's Chairman, a recent G3 winner, is two-for-three over Keeneland's turf.
The last of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby preps will take place this Saturday—the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park and the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland, both at 1 1/8 miles. Drawing the rail in the Arkansas Derby is the slight favorite, Super Saver, a WinStar Farm homebred who comes off a close third in the G3 Tampa Bay Derby. Noble's Promise, from the two-hole, has finished behind Lookin At Lucky in his last trio of starts, going back to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Noble Promise's camp had to be happy when Bob Baffert took Lookin At Lucky back to his home base in Southern California to run in the Santa Anita Derby, where he finished an unlucky third. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will be saddling a pair; Dublin, who was third in the Rebel (G2), and Northern Giant, who has yet to score in stakes company. The Arkansas Derby has a scheduled post of 5:47 e.t.
Keeneland's impressive stakes line-up on Saturday begins in the sixth race with the G3 Shakertown, a 5 ½ furlong sprint on the turf for older horses. The Commonwealth is next; a G2 seven furlong affair on the Polytrack surface, also for older horses. The eighth race is the G2 Jenny Wiley, a 1 1/16-mile turf event which has drawn a field of eight with such familiar names as Stardom Bound, Quiet Harbor, and 2009 defending champ Forever Together.
The Blue Grass follows and has a probable post time of 5:30 e.t. Pleasant Prince, at 3-1, is the slight favorite over Odysseus (7-2). Pleasant Prince came up just a nose short in G1 Florida Derby, while Odysseus is exiting a winning effort in the Tampa Bay Derby. Todd Pletcher has entered both Aikenite and Interactif. And for you political wonks, Blue Grass entrant Stately Victor is co-owned by Democratic Senate nominee Jack Conway. Stately Victor is 30-1 on the morning line; Mr. Conway's chances are a little better.
The other tracks in the country have the good sense not to try to overshadow “Zee” and the big 3-year-old races this weekend—Aqueduct runs the G3 Comely for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on the dirt Saturday and Santa Anita will present the G3 Las Cienegas on Sunday, a downhill turf sprint for older fillies and mares.
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