Recipient of the 2016 Eclipse Award as North America's outstanding trainer, Chad Brown will send out two-time Grade 1 winner Practical Joke in Saturday's $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2). Brown had considered running the Into Mischief colt in the Xpressbet Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on April 1.
“I just felt in the end the horse would benefit from one extra week of training,” Brown said about the decision to race Practical Joke in the Toyota Blue Grass. “We were coming to Keeneland with some other horses. I like the Blue Grass. We had some success last year with My Man Sam running a good second. So it made sense for us.”
A graduate of two Keeneland sales, Practical Joke races for Seth Klarman's Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence. Last year, the colt won the Hopeful (G1) and Champagne (G1) in New York before he was third in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita. In his only start in 2017, Practical Joke was second in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth (G2) on March 4 at Gulfstream Park.
On Saturday at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, Practical Joke turned in his final work for the Toyota Blue Grass, covering 5 furlongs in 1:00.45. He arrived at Keeneland yesterday afternoon and jogged on the main track Monday morning. Brown said he would gallop tomorrow, depending on the weather.
Joel Rosario will ride Practical Joke in the Toyota Blue Grass and become Brown's fourth starter. In addition to My Man Sam, Brown was sixth in the race with Balance the Books – who raced for Practical Joke's owners – in 2013 and was 12th with Bobby's Kitten in 2014.
Brown's Keeneland string includes a number of standouts aiming to Keeneland stakes, including Grade 2 winners Paid Up Subscriber and Paulassilverlining in Saturday's Madison (G1); 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner New Money Honey in the April 13 Appalachian (G3) Presented by Japan Racing Association; and $2 million earner Lady Eli in the Coolmore Jenny Wiley (G1) two days later.
His first stakes contestant will be Woodford Racing's Ticonderoga, entered in Friday's opening-day Transylvania (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select.
The 3-year-old son of Tapit, second in Keeneland's Dixiana Bourbon (G3) in October, is coming off a win in the March 4 Palm Beach (G3) at Gulfstream.
“He was a little green last year, but at least he got a run over the turf course,” Brown said. “I see a stronger, more mature horse this time around. We're excited about him opening day.”
Ticonderoga, purchased by Woodford Racing for $850,000 at Keeneland's 2015 September Yearling Sale, is the first foal out of millionaire Keertana, winner of Keeneland's 2011 Grey Goose Bewitch (G3).
Brown, whose 2016 stable earnings of $23,134,394 led all North American trainers, enters Keeneland's 2017 Spring Meet with 17 stakes wins here since 2009, his third season of training.
“Respecting how difficult Keeneland is and trying to bring the right horses is really the key to have success here,” he said. “Everyone brings their best, so that's what we have to do. I feel like I picked some really good horses to run here. The races are so difficult we'll be fortunate to have any level of success here.”
Calumet Farm's homebred Wild Shot completed his major preparation for Saturday's $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) by working a half-mile in :48.20 Monday morning.
Working on his own over a fast main track shortly after 6 o'clock, Wild Shot posted fractions of :12.40, :24, :48.20 and galloped out 5 furlongs in 1:02 with Angel Cruz aboard.
“He did easy and in hand,” said Cruz, who was aboard Wild Shot for the first time. “He's a nice horse. The track is fast and he did it on his own.”
Wild Shot, trained by Rusty Arnold, is slated to be ridden Saturday by Corey Lanerie. Arnold is scheduled to arrive in Lexington Monday afternoon.
Cruz, who posted his first Grade 1 victory here last fall with Dancing Rags in the Darley Alcibiades, will be riding his first full Keeneland meet this spring. He is to ride Dancing Rags in Sunday's Adena Springs Beaumont (G3) for trainer Graham Motion.
In other Toyota Blue Grass news regarding horses at Keeneland, probable favorite McCraken jogged once around the main track alongside a pony and then returned to his barn through the Paddock. Regular exercise rider Yoni Orantes was up.
Because rain was forecast to begin early Monday, trainer Ian Wilkes moved McCraken's work to Sunday when the Whitham Thoroughbreds' homebred colt produced a :49.40 half-mile breeze.
“You could see him quicken at the wire,” Wilkes said. “He had his big work last week when he worked 6 furlongs (1:13.40) and galloped out a mile.”
Making his first appearance on the track was Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Tapwrit.
Trained by three-time Toyota Blue Grass winner Todd Pletcher, Tapwrit galloped 1¼ miles before the renovation break with exercise rider Romain Techer aboard.
The monsoon that was forecast never arrived Monday morning, but enough of a shower after 8 o'clock rerouted the morning activity of Reddam Racing's Irap to the five-furlong all-weather training track.
With exercise rider Antonio Romero aboard, Irap jogged once around and then galloped 1½ miles.
It's Your Nickel, owned by the partnership of Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, Scott Akman and Nehoc Stables, walked the shedrow at trainer Kenny McPeek's barn following a 5-furlong work in 1:01.60 on Sunday.
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