For 15 horses who will take to the track for the 2013 Bluegrass Stakes this weekend, the pressure will be piled a little higher than usual.
The reason? The Kentucky Derby, the biggest race in all of horse racing, and the most exciting two minutes in sports. A first or second place finish in the Bluegrass will guarantee a horse a spot in the 20-horse field on the first Saturday in May.
For a couple of horses, including the jockey, trainers and owners who are involved with the horse, a little less than two minutes of time could change their lives forever. With the weak crop of three-year olds this season, there has been no clear standout thus far.
The Bluegrass has a field of 15, and aside from the two horses who will be running first and second, any other entrants finishing third or worse will more than likely not be able to take part in the Derby, due to the new points system in place. Although there is no clear favorite in Saturday’s race, the three horses who figure out as the best are three lowest-priced horses in the race: Uncaptured, Java’s War and Rydilluc.
A key factor in this years Bluegrass will be whether or not the 1-2 runners will able to make the transition from Keeneland’s Polytrack surface to the conventional dirt at Churchill Downs. Prior to Keeneland’s installation of the Polytrack surface in 2006 there had been 23 runners who made the transition straight from the Bluegrass to the Derby and won. Since then, there have been zero.
The Polytrack surface is a very odd one, and only a few racetracks nationwide have them. It is the type of surface that either a horse absolutely loves, or flat out hates. The lack of Derby prowess coming from the Bluegrass can, in my opinion, be attributed greatly to this reason. With the implementation of the synthetic surface, one never truly knows just how well a horse will transition from the poly to the dirt.
But if the Bluegrass Stakes since 2006 is any indicator, the transition won’t be an easy one.
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