Updated on 04/12/2013 10:03AM

Keeneland: Java's War looks like legit Blue Grass contender

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Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography
Java's War, shown winning the Sunday Silence last fall, ran second in the Tampa Bay Derby despite a poor start.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – If Verrazano is the consensus favorite for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, then shouldn’t Java’s War be taken pretty seriously, too?

Despite a ragged start last month in the March 9 Tampa Bay Derby, Java’s War rallied from last to finish second by three lengths behind Verrazano, who remained unbeaten last week in capturing the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Java’s War “broke in a tangle” at Tampa, noted his trainer, Ken McPeek, adding that he is excited about seeing Java’s War take his place in a full gate Saturday at Keeneland in the 89th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes. The 14-horse maximum was expected Wednesday when entries were to be drawn for the Keeneland showcase, which is run at 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack.

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

“I think he’s going to like the Poly even more than he liked the dirt at Tampa,” said McPeek, who will remain here Saturday while also being represented by Frac Daddy in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. “He really has been doing well. I think the Blue Grass is a really good spot for him.”

Java’s War, by War Pass, is a stretch-running homebred owned by Charles Fipke. The colt had his final work Sunday before shipping out of Gulfstream Park in Florida, breezing five furlongs in 1:00.40 in company with Frac Daddy.

Favoritism appears uncertain in this wide-open renewal of the Blue Grass, with Java’s War likely to be among those well backed, along with Uncaptured, Rydilluc, and the uncoupled Todd Pletcher duo of Charming Kitten and Palace Malice.

The Blue Grass, which offers 100 points to the winner (and 170 overall) on the new eligibility system in use toward the Kentucky Derby, is one of five graded stakes to be run here Saturday. It will be featured along with the Arkansas Derby on a 90-minute broadcast (4:30 p.m. Eastern) on the NBC Sports Network.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Correction: In a previous version of this article, a photo caption misstated the finish position of Java's War in the Tampa Bay Derby. He was second, not third.