04/08/2008 11:00PM

Blue Grass draws biggest field in 25 years


LEXINGTON, Ky. - With several unexpected entries turning up for the Blue Grass Stakes, the field of 12 will be the largest in the Keeneland showcase since Play Fellow won the 1983 running, assuming all start Saturday.

One of the horses that had not been fully committed to the Blue Grass was Big Truck, a colt heretofore best known for winning the race in which War Pass finished last at 1-20. Trainer Barclay Tagg said after Big Truck won that race, the March 15 Tampa Bay Derby, that he was unsure what might be next for the colt, and only until after Big Truck breezed a quick half-mile here Tuesday did Tagg say to deal him in.

"I had it on my radar screen, but nothing was carved in stone yet," he said at the Wednesday post position draw for the 84th Blue Grass.

Tagg already has one top Derby prospect in Tale of Ekati, winner of the Wood Memorial last Saturday at Aqueduct. With Big Truck, he stands to double his chances in trying to emulate what he did five years ago, when he saddled Funny Cide to win the Kentucky Derby.

Big Truck, owned by Eric Fein, is a New York-bred with a pedigree slanted toward speed (by Hook and Ladder), so comparisons invariably arise with Funny Cide, a New York-bred who also was believed to have distance limitations.

"They're both fast horses," Tagg said to laughs, fully knowing that Big Truck hasn't even come close to accomplishing what Funny Cide did. "Funny Cide was pretty explosive. This horse is more laid back."

Big Truck is one of four horses that Keeneland officials weren't necessarily counting on to enter the Blue Grass. A prospective core of eight starters held firm, with Big Truck, Monba, Stevil, and Stone Bird joining them.

Meanwhile, Tagg said earlier in the day that Elysium Fields has been taken off the Derby trail. After finishing second in the Fountain of Youth, the colt faltered when 11th in the Florida Derby, and although Tagg had considered the Coolmore Lexington Stakes a week from Saturday for him, that plan is off the table.

"I'm going to freshen him up and wait to run him when I get back to New York," he said.

Desormeaux praises War Monger

When War Monger finished third as the 11-10 favorite in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile six weeks ago at Santa Anita, it was with a legitimate excuse, jockey Kent Desormeaux said. "He's built like a giraffe, and he slipped twice getting around there that day," he said. "There was a misty rain all day, and he just didn't handle it."

War Monger is part of a sensational field entered Friday in the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile. Before the Kilroe Mile, the Bill Mott-trained colt had become one of the hottest turf horses in the country - winning the Rutgers during Breeders' Cup Week at Monmouth Park, then the Sunshine Millions Turf.

"I'm really looking forward to him proving his worth Friday," said Desormeaux, who has assumed early command of the Keeneland jockey standings. "He's better than that last race."

Commandeered has it 'figured out'

Desormeaux was among those who were highly impressed with the way Commandeered won the fifth race on Wednesday for him and Mott. After breaking 12th and last in the six-furlong maiden race, the Deputy Commander colt simply passed every one of his rivals in winning by 6 1/4 lengths.

"He'd been kind of a quirky horse last year," said Desormeaux, "but today he acted like he's really got it figured out. Sometimes they just take some time, like this one. When they win like he did, you know they're enjoying the ground and enjoying racing."

Two other graded stakes Saturday

Besides the Blue Grass (race 9), two other graded stakes are on tap here Saturday. Ten fillies and mares are scheduled to clash in the Grade 2, $200,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes (race 6), and 10 older horses are entered in the Grade 2, $400,000 Commonwealth (race 8).

Sealy Hill, the 2007 horse of the year in Canada, will make her 4-year-old debut as one of the favorites in a rugged cast in the Jenny Wiley, a 1 1/16-mile turf race. Other top contenders include Rutherienne, Bit of Whimsy, Precious Kitten, and Lady of Venice.

The Commonwealth is not as top-heavy but does look like an excellent top-to-bottom race. Storm Military, switching over from turf for trainer Bobby Frankel, looks intriguing in a seven-furlong Polytrack race that also drew Xchanger, Buffalo Man, Elite Squadron, Forefathers, and Doppio.

TVG going all out for Blue Grass coverage

TVG, which will show the Blue Grass live, will have many more cameras than usual Saturday in giving viewers what network officials are calling "unprecedented" coverage in TVG history. Jockeys in the Blue Grass will wear wireless microphones, and the high-tech Trakus and TrackVision systems will be in use.

"The production team is going all-out in an effort to provide this historic race with the coverage and distribution it deserves," said TVG executive producer Tony Allevato.

ESPN also will televise the Blue Grass, albeit on a delayed basis. The Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby will highlight a 90-minute show that starts at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

Curlin gallops again

Curlin went to the track again Wednesday, marking the third straight day the 2007 Horse of the Year was out for a routine gallop since returning from Dubai by way of New York.

For the time being, Curlin's routine will be to come out with the third set from trainer Steve Asmussen's local string at about 7 a.m. "You've got to treat him like a horse, let him do what he wants to do," said assistant Scott Blasi. "He just likes to go to the track."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman