We’ll see if the weather cooperates but Saturday will be a big day for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders at Keeneland, with the Blue Grass (G1) and Ashland (G1) scheduled, and the undercard features an additional three stakes races including an exciting edition of the $300,000 Madison (G1) for female sprinters.
The 7-furlong test drew a couple of prominent contenders making their first start of 2018 including Ami’s Mesa, who recorded wins in the Seaway (G3) and Presque Isle Masters (G2) on synthetic tracks before switching to dirt with an outstanding nose second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) at Del Mar.
Trained by Josie Carroll, Ami’s Mesa shows the top last-out BRIS Speed rating (102) among 13 runners and the 5-year-old Sky Mesa mare will keep Luis Contreras in the saddle. She’s been installed at 6-1 on the morning line.
American Gal returns from a longer hiatus, making her last start a winning one in the Test (G1) at Saratoga, and the 4-year-old has recorded convincing graded tallies in her last two outings for Simon Callaghan. Jose Ortiz retains the mount and American Gal is listed as the 4-1 co-second choice.
Multiple Grade 2 queen Lewis Bay has been pegged as the 7-2 morning line choice. Winner of the Rampart (G3) two back, the 5-year-old mare exits a runner-up in the February 19 Royal Delta (G3) at Gulfstream Park and regular rider Irad Ortiz has the call.
Finley’sluckycharm, second most recently in a Fair Grounds turf stakes, captured the Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) at Keeneland last October and Brian Hernandez Jr. will pilot the early 4-1 co-second choice. Miss Sunset has also shown an affinity for Keeneland, winning the Raven Run (G2) for sophomore fillies in the fall, and returns to California for Jeff Bonde off a couple of victories over state-bred foes. Julien Leparoux will retake the reins.
Limousine Liberal, unraced since a stakes win at Churchill Downs in mid-November, will open his 6-year-old campaign in the $250,000 Commonwealth (G3). The Grade 2 hero recorded four stakes tallies last season, registering BRIS Speed numbers as high as 105, and the Ben Colebrook-trained gelding has been installed as the 6-5 favorite among 10 rivals with Corey Lanerie.
Conquest Windycity exits a Gulfstream allowance tally over subsequent Golden Shaheen (G1) winner Mind Your Biscuits and Westwood will make his stakes debut in the 7-furlong test with a two-race win streak.
The $200,000 Shakertown (G3) drew an overflow field of 16, including a pair of also-eligibles, but there is concern the 5 ½-furlong turf affair could be moved to the main track due to expected snowfall.
Five-time stakes victor Disco Partner, a rallying third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), is scheduled to return for Christophe Clement. Other contenders include Bucchero, winner of the Woodford (G2) last October and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint; Canadian sprinter Commute; and Will Call and Flashaway, the second- and third-place finishers from the recent Colonel Power at Fair Grounds.