04/05/2011 3:10PM

Breeders' Cup winner on hand for Keeneland opener

Barbara D. Livingston
Pluck, with Garrett Gomez up, wins the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Keeneland won’t waste any time showing off the caliber of horses that will compete during the 15-day spring meet that begins Friday: A Breeders’ Cup winner, Pluck, is among the 10 3-year-olds entered in the opening-day feature, the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes.

Pluck, winner of the BC Juvenile Turf last fall, will be making his second start of the year in the $100,000 Transylvania, the highlight of a 10-race opener for which entries were drawn Tuesday. The colt was a disappointing fourth in his seasonal debut, a March 12 allowance over a firm turf at Tampa Bay Downs, but trainer Graham Motion said he is expecting the colt to benefit from that outing. Pluck arrived at Keeneland on a very chilly Tuesday morning that necessitated the wearing of heavy jackets and gloves by many horsemen doing their work.

“I’m hoping some give in the ground will help him Friday,” said Motion.

Garrett Gomez has the call on Pluck, who was assigned the outside post in the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

The Transylvania is the first of 16 stakes, all but one of them graded, scheduled at a meet that runs through April 29. The first of four Grade 1 races, the $400,000 Ashland, will be run Saturday, with major Kentucky Oaks prospects Kathmanblu and Dancinginherdreams the likely favorites.

The annual meet showcase, as always, will be the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes, for which the prospective field seems to grow bigger by the day, with as many as 12 3-year-olds under serious consideration at this early juncture. Trainer Todd Pletcher said early this week that he intends to run two, and maybe three, of his Kentucky Derby hopefuls in the April 16 Blue Grass: Queen’splatekitten, Sensational Slam, and maybe Praetereo.

Sensational Slam, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, will be stretching out off a victory in the six-furlong Fred “Cappy” Capossela Stakes on March 5 at Aqueduct. The Grand Slam colt is 3 for 3 on synthetic surfaces, a fact that led Pletcher to try the Blue Grass, which goes at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack.

“We wanted to take one shot at a big race and see if we could get enough earnings to take a look at the Derby,” said Pletcher.

Despite the unseasonable cold here Tuesday, a warming trend was in the forecast for opening weekend. The Friday forecast calls for a high temperature of 73.

Besides the Transylvania, the Friday card also includes three allowances (races 5, 7, 8) and opens with the first 2-year-old race of the year in Kentucky. First post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

The Transylvania will be part of a 50-cent late pick four with a $200,000 pool guaranteed by TVG, a standard offering every Friday at the meet. A new 50-cent pick five replaces the traditional pick six.

Friday also will be college scholarship day, with 10 scholarships worth $1,000 being raffled off to registered students.

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