04/07/2011 2:47PM

Blue Grass Stakes looking at Santiva as favorite

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Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs
Santiva, Shaun Bridgmohan up, wins the Kentucky Jockey Club.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes already is being touted as wide-open, and there is a possibility a full gate of 14 could contest the annual spring showcase at Keeneland next Saturday, April 16.

But if past performances and company kept and many of the other factors that go into determining a rough pecking order among Kentucky Derby contenders are to be considered, there is little doubt that Santiva deserves to be the favorite for the $750,000 Blue Grass.

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“He’s run against some nice horses, and that form seems to be holding up quite well, which is good to see,” said Eddie Kenneally, who trains Santiva for Tom Walters.

Santiva ended his 2-year-old season by winning the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, a race that Super Saver, the 2010 Derby winner, captured as a 2-year-old. In his only start so far at 3, Santiva was a respectable second in the Feb. 19 Risen Star at Fair Grounds behind Mucho Macho Man, a colt on most everyone’s top 10 Derby list.

“Our colt ran well in the Risen Star, and we thought about going back in the Louisiana Derby,” a Grade 2 race, said Kenneally. “But the Grade 1 for the Blue Grass moved us that way.”

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

Santiva is scheduled to have a final pre-race workout Saturday at five furlongs at the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida before arriving here by van Sunday or Monday.

Among the other 3-year-olds likely for the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass are Crimson China, Wilkinson, King Congie, Swift Warrior, Data Link, Newsdad, Joes Blazing Aaron, and the Todd Pletcher trio of Queen’splatekitten, Sensational Slam, and Praetereo. Entries will be drawn Wednesday.

Top-notch cast in allowance

The third race Saturday at Keeneland is an allowance, but by name only. Four of the six starters in the $67,000, 1 1/8-mile turf race are graded stakes winners, including Battle of Hastings, an earner of more than $1.36 million, and Al Khali, whose victory over Winchester in the Grade 2 Bowling Green last September made him one of the hottest turf horses in North America at the time.

Battle of Hastings, trained by Greg Fox, was scratched as the 5-2 morning-line favorite from the $400,000 Muniz Memorial on March 26 at Fair Grounds. Rosie Napravnik has the mount Saturday.

“Just a few hours after we got the horse to New Orleans, he had an awful skin reaction and was really, really quiet, which is nothing like him,” said Fox. “We took care of him and got him back here to Keeneland right after that, and he hasn’t looked back since.”

Battle of Hastings, Al Khali, and another of the favorites, Grassy, all spent the winter at Payson Park in Florida.

Catalano feels the pride

Animal Kingdom, projected to run next in the Kentucky Derby after winning the March 26 Vinery Spiral at Turfway Park, will have at least one knowing fan in his corner: Wayne Catalano, who trained the colt until Team Valor International turned him over this winter to Graham Motion, who officially became the private North American trainer for Team Valor on April 1.

“I’m proud of the colt,” said Catalano, who won nine races here last fall, including a maiden race with Animal Kingdom. “He came to me a big green 2-year-old, a Baby Huey. I’m happy for the connections, and I’m proud of what I did in getting the horse to develop the way he has.”

Animal Kingdom would be the second Spiral – formerly the Lane’s End – winner for Motion to run back in the Derby. Adriano finished 19th of 20 in 2008.

Crypto Star, fifth in 1997, remains the only Derby starter for Catalano.

Successful Dan’s comeback delayed

Successful Dan, first in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill last fall before being disqualified to third, has had his season delayed by what trainer Charlie Lopresti described as a strain of a suspensory ligament.

“I lost six weeks with him,” said Lopresti. “He starts back next week and hopefully he can make the Stephen Foster” on June 18 at Churchill.

The two other standouts in the Lopresti barn both may run on the Blue Grass undercard, with Wise Dan running in the $175,000 Commonwealth Stakes and Here Comes Ben going in an allowance race.

Carroll ailing but able

Kim Carroll, the wife of and longtime assistant to trainer David Carroll, continues to battle acute promyelocytic leukemia after having been diagnosed with the disease last fall.

“Kim is doing well, out and about doing stuff,” said David Carroll, who now has his stable split between Keeneland and Churchill after his top horses were stabled at Fair Grounds for the winter. “She has been going into the hospital as an outpatient, and her chemotherapy is done Friday. All in all, she’s been remarkable.”

Top owners send out starter

The leading owners in 2011 wins in North America will have their first starter of the Keeneland meet when Cape Hatchet goes for his third straight victory in the last race Saturday.

Through Wednesday, the Louisville family of Billy, Donna, and Justin Hays already had won 86 races this year, while the 2010 leader, Midwest Thoroughbreds, was second with 65. The Hayses were the leading owner again at the recently ended Turfway Park winter-spring meet.

Name not what you might think

Kingpost will make his career debut in the seventh race Saturday for owners Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton and trainer Darrin Miller. Of course, the 3-year-old colt is not to be confused with the Kingpost who won the 1988 Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway and ran 14th in the Derby for trainer Dianne Carpenter.

“I’m interested in architecture, and a kingpost is a means of support for a large structure, and this is a large horse,” said Bonnie Hamilton. “I thought I was being original. I had no idea about the other horse from way back when.”

◗ Tickets for $375 apiece are on sale for the first Night of Silk party on Kentucky Derby night at the Galt House in downtown Louisville. Many top jockeys, both retired and active, are scheduled to attend. More information is available at (800) 843-4258.

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