04/10/2013 3:25PM

Blue Grass Stakes: Several contenders have good connections


Longshots have fared particularly well in the Blue Grass Stakes in recent years, with favorites being blanked in the Keeneland showcase every year since Peace Rules won in 2003 for Bobby Frankel. In fact, the four biggest win mutuels in that span came in the last five runnings: Stately Victor ($82.20, the all-time race record, in 2010), Brilliant Speed ($40.20 in 2011), General Quarters ($30.60 in 2009), and Monba ($19.60) in 2008. The first Blue Grass on Polytrack was the 2007 renewal; all prior runnings were on dirt.

The longshot trend has to be an encouraging one to the connections of the numerous outsiders giving the Blue Grass a try Saturday. Among those are two colts from renowned stables: Channel Isle, listed at 30-1 morning line for Calumet Farm, and Footbridge, 20-1 for the Godolphin Racing powerhouse.

[BLUE GRASS STAKES: Get Keeneland PPs, watch video previews]

Channel Isle is by English Channel, a former turf champion whose young progeny are becoming known for their prowess on grass and synthetics. Calumet is the all-time leading owner in Blue Grass history with six wins, the latest coming 35 years ago with the great Alydar.

“We’re happy. Channel Isle is happy,” said John Stuart, representing Calumet owner Brad Kelley at the post draw.

Footbridge, a one-time winner from four maiden races, all at Santa Anita this winter, “has run well every race he’s had,” said Jimmy Bell, representing Godolphin at the draw. “This isn’t the way you draw it up on the chalkboard,” entering a Grade 1 with a horse still eligible for a first-level allowance, “but his race shapes have been very good, and he’s sound in the sheets-number department. We thought we’d take a shot.”

Another Blue Grass starter with a big morning line and notable connections is My Name is Michael, a 15-1 shot for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. My Name is Michael was eighth as the 3-1 favorite in the March 23 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.

“We are going to put blinkers back on him for this race,” said Mott assistant Rodolphe Brisset. “He has been breaking well but pulling himself back.”

Ramsey has faith in Pletcher

Prominent Kentucky owner-breeder Ken Ramsey has one of the fringe contenders for the Blue Grass in a homebred named Charming Kitten (10-1). Although Ramsey has most of his horses with Mike Maker, he also employs a handful of other trainers, including Wesley Ward, Chad Brown, and Christophe Clement.

Charming Kitten, a son of the Ramsey sire Kitten’s Joy, is a rare one that he has with Todd Pletcher, the future Hall of Famer who already has a number of possibilities for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, led by Verrazano and Revolutionary.

“My saying is ‘In Todd We Trust,’ ” Ramsey said before quickly noting that “there’s even a horse named that,” referring to a 3-year-old now racing in the claiming ranks in New York. “I wished I’d thought of it.”

Charming Kitten, the Palm Beach runner-up as an 8-5 favorite behind Rydilluc, also is trying to make a smooth turf-to-Poly transition. Ramsey has said that despite Charming Kitten never having raced on dirt, he will take a spot in the Derby gate any way he can get it.

“I’m 77 years old, and I’m not going to have that many more chances,” he said. “Winning the Derby is on the top of my bucket list.”

Pletcher already has won the Blue Grass twice, with Bandini in 2005 and Monba in 2008. He has a second horse Saturday in Palace Malice, a troubled seventh for Dogwood Stable in the Louisiana Derby two weeks ago at Fair Grounds.

Rahystrada getting ready

Rahystrada breezed three furlongs Saturday at the Thoroughbred training center in Lexington, marking the first published work for the 9-year-old gelding since he finished fourth here last fall in the Grade 3 Sycamore Stakes.

An earner of more than $1.2 million, Rahystrada is being pointed to a turf allowance during opening week at Churchill Downs, trainer Scooter Hughes said.

“He was training in Florida since the middle of January before he came back to me at the end of March,” Hughes said. “He’s showing me he’s very fit, so we’ll shoot for another comeback with him. After that, we’ll see what he wants to do.”