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The Blue Grass, and a Cure for Derby Fever?

You can (apparently) tear up any future wagers you may have had on Denis of Cork; I can’t decide whether this letter from his owner, William K. Warren, is a little too melodramatic (I didn’t really need the financial details on hotel rooms, for example) or a nice opportunity to see someone take some responsibility for a promising colt’s poor performance. In either instance, I hope we can look forward to seeing him well-prepared for good races later this summer. One might also hope that it gives those experiencing last-minute Derby Fever (notably Adriano’s connections) some pause.

Tomcito was working at Churchill Downs and still may or may not head to the Coolmore Lexington (since the earnings question is still that); I can understand why trainer Dante Zanelli would rather go straight to the Derby if possible, but Tomcito obviously needed his last race — I think it would be no bad thing for him in the end if he does end up in the race at Keeneland. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him, hopefully in the Derby.

The big story this weekend is the Blue Grass (or, more accurately, the Toyota Blue Grass, as we call these days). While Pyro (pictured) is the headliner (and I expect a good race from him), Visionaire is the horse I’m most intrigued by. He seems to be improving each time out and it’s nice to see Jose Lezcano get a legitimate Derby horse. Most importantly, I give many props to Michael Matz for being entirely realistic about the horse’s chances — he’s not counting him out, nor is he anointing him the second coming of Secretariat (or Barbaro, for that matter):

“What we’re really looking for is a race from where he can keep going in the same direction. It would certainly be nice to win (the Blue Grass). (But success would be) if he just has a race where he finishes well and that he can improve on that to go to the Derby.”

As the son of Grand Slam out of a French Deputy mare, Visionaire’s pedigree might suggest he’s cut out to be a miler rather than a Derby horse.

“But I think because his disposition is so good, he’s sort of outrunning his pedigree,” Matz said. “He has a very good late turn of foot, and the one thing you can’t judge is his heart. He’s a really nice horse, really competitive. Whether he’s good enough, I think there are just so many questions nobody can answer: How is your horse going to fare in a 20-horse field? How is your horse going to fare at a mile and a quarter? Not just for me, for everybody.”

Given the flare-ups over Denis of Cork and War Pass this season, tempering predictions with a little reality is no bad thing (especially given his outside post position for the Blue Grass). I’d like to see Visionaire do well since his connections have (actually) stayed classy.

Other entrants of note include Todd Pletcher’s Monba and Cowboy Cal who could make comebacks, and Cool Coal Man should not be ruled out. Barclay Tagg’s Big Truck is back too and has been working bullets – he’s obviously ready for something. Regardless of the outcome, if any of the big names fail here, they can always blame the Polytrack — it worked for Street Sense last year.

Bet on the Kentucky Derby

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