Tapit Trice, Verifying Battle in 11-Horse Blue Grass

With Kingsbarns  and Forte  having delivered for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher in their final preps for the May 6 Kentucky Derby (G1)—winning the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Florida Derby (G1), respectively—now comes stablemate Tapit Trice ‘s opportunity to follow suit.

Coming off a late-rallying victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), the Pletcher trainee is the 5-2 morning-line favorite to win the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G1) April 8 at Keeneland. 

A 1 1/8-mile dirt race as part of Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Blue Grass offers qualifying points toward the Derby on a 100-40-30-20-10 scale to its top-five finishers. Churchill Downs officials use qualifying points as a preference system when the first leg of the Triple Crown is oversubscribed beyond its 20-horse maximum field size.

Ten rivals are lined up to face Tapit Trice, who breaks from the rail under Luis Saez. Other leading contenders include Verifying  (3-1), Raise Cain  (9-2), and Blazing Sevens  (6-1).

None of those runners bring a winning streak into the Blue Grass that matches that of Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s Tapit Trice. The gray son of Tapit  , third in his debut Nov. 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack, has rattled off three consecutive victories: a Dec. 17  maiden win at Aqueduct, a Feb. 4 first-level allowance optional claiming win at Gulfstream Park, and the March 11 Tampa Bay Derby.

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His inexperience and also his talent showed in the Tampa Bay Derby, when after a slow break and climbing early behind kickback, he found high gear in the stretch, passing seven horses in the final furlong en route to a two-length score over Classic Car Wash , a longshot Blue Grass competitor.

Video: Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G3)

Tapit Trice’s connections are looking for a more complete performance Saturday to potentially give him a valuable stallion-making grade 1 victory heading into the Run for the Roses in four weeks.

Pletcher called the inside draw in the Blue Grass “not exactly the draw we wanted, but he did win the allowance race at Gulfstream Park from post 1.”

Additionally, late-closing Tapit Trice may need to overcome what appears to be a relative shortage of pace in the race.

Pletcher aims for his fourth Blue Grass, having won it with Carpe Diem   (2015), Monba  (2008), and Bandini  (2005). Saez looks for his third after riding victorious Essential Quality   (2021) and Brody’s Cause   (2016), respectively, for trainers Brad Cox and Dale Romans.

Cox has a starter Saturday in the grade 1-placed Verifying, who races for the Coolmore Stud-affiliated Westerberg, Mrs. John Magnier, Jonathan Poulin, Derrick Smith, and Michael Tabor.

Photo: Coady Photography

Verifying wins an allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park

Verifying has raced twice this year, romping in an allowance optional claimer Jan. 14 at Oaklawn Park before running a troubled fourth over a sloppy track in the Feb. 25 Rebel Stakes (G2) there. Third and later fourth for the opening six furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile Rebel, he was shuffled back in heavy traffic leaving the second turn, falling back to sixth in midstretch before passing a couple of rivals to finish 5 1/4 lengths behind victorious Confidence Game .

“His Rebel was good. It just wasn’t the result we were looking for,” trainer Brad Cox told publicist Jennie Rees. “He’s not going to be the favorite or anything, but he is a horse that I do think is very talented that could step up and be effective in grade 1s.”


Cox indicated that his colt is still learning after five races. He raced three times last year at 2, winning on debut at Saratoga Race Course before finishing second in the Champagne Stakes (G1) behind Blazing Sevens at Aqueduct and sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland.

“He’ll need to step up on Saturday. I think he will just based on the way he is training,” Cox said.

Tyler Gaffalione rides the son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify  . The colt is also a half brother to Midnight Bisou , the champion older dirt female of 2019.

Verifying projects to have an up-close trip early in the Blue Grass, perhaps only behind customary frontrunner Major Blue , a longshot.

Rodeo Creek Racing’s Blazing Sevens defeated Verifying by 3 1/4 lengths in the slop in the one-mile Champagne last fall before finishing in front of him when fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Blazing Sevens will look to bounce back from a lackluster performance in his lone start at 3. The Chad Brown trainee ran eighth behind Forte  in the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2), never proving a factor.

Blazing Sevens at the Keeneland Race Course Thursday Nov. 3, 2022 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Skip Dickstein
Photo: Skip Dickstein

Blazing Sevens stands in during training last November at Keeneland

He is a son of Good Magic  , who in 2018 gave Brown the first of his two Blue Grass winners, followed by Zandon  in 2022. Good Magic would go on to run second to Justify in that year’s Kentucky Derby.

Irad Ortiz Jr. rides Blazing Sevens, who adds blinkers.

Andrew and Rania Warren’s Raise Cain, who has trained at Keeneland throughout the winter and spring, is back in Kentucky to race after shipping to Aqueduct and scoring a 7 1/2-length victory in the mile Gotham Stakes (G3) around one turn. The son of Violence   is 2-1-1 in six starts, and he broke his maiden over the Keeneland main track last fall for trainer Ben Colebrook. Earlier this winter, he ran second in the Gun Runner Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots and fifth in the Leonatus Stakes at Turfway Park on the synthetic Tapeta surface.

Joel Rosario is aboard Raise Cain.

Colebrook also entered Scoobie Quando  in the Blue Grass for the Warrens, with Luan Machado aboard.

Post time for Saturday’s Blue Grass, the card’s ninth race, is 5:15 p.m. ET. The race will be televised nationally on NBC with the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and other horse racing programming from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Entries: Toyota Blue Grass S. (G1)

Keeneland, Saturday, April 08, 2023, Race 9

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $1,000,000
  • 3 yo
  • 5:15 PM (local)