04/11/2013 5:15PM

Keeneland sales graduates return for Blue Grass

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Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Uncaptured, the morning-line favorite for Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes, sold for $290,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling auction.

Before the horses entered in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course line up in the starting gate Saturday afternoon, several of them crossed paths once before.

Seven of the 15 horses entered for the major Kentucky Derby prep were offered at Keeneland sales. Five of the 14 runners in the main body of the field, including morning-line favorite Uncaptured, are graduates of the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale; My Name Is Michael and also-eligible Divine Ambition were also entered in that auction but failed to meet their reserves. Two yearling graduates went on to be re-sold at the 2012 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale, both fetching a profit.

The Keeneland sales division has maintained a high profile on the Triple Crown trail this year. Also among the 2011 September sales graduates is unbeaten Verrazano, who sold for $250,000 to Kevin Scatuorchio and Bryan Sullivan’s Let’s Go Stable and is likely to be the Kentucky Derby favorite after his victory in the Wood Memorial.

Since 1945, 19 Keeneland sales graduates have won the Kentucky Derby, including three in the last five runnings—Big Brown (2008), Animal Kingdom (2011), and I’ll Have Another (2012). The last Keeneland sales graduate to win the Blue Grass before going on to capture the Kentucky Derby was Dust Commander in 1970.

Uncaptured was the most expensive of the Blue Grass entrants to be purchased at the 2011 September sale, as trainer Mark Casse, acting as agent, picked the Lion Heart colt out of the Four Star Sales consignment for $290,000. Casse conditions the colt for owner John Oxley, who also has Dynamic Sky in the Blue Grass field.

“I'm a numbers guy,” Mark Casse’s son and assistant Norm Casse said. “This is the third 14-horse field in Blue Grass history and the morning-line favorite has won [the first two]. That's a nice little stat that's in our favor. To be the favorite in a race like this, it's exciting. It's what you want to do.”

September sale graduates Palace Malice and Balance the Books were both consigned to the 2012 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale by Niall Brennan, acting as agent. Palace Malice, from the first crop of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, sold for $25,000 as a yearling, and then went to Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stable for $200,000 as a juvenile. Meanwhile, Balance the Books, a $37,000 yearling, was a $160,000 purchase by Klaravich Stables, which runs the Lemon Drop Kid colt in partnership with William Lawrence.

Undrafted, a $50,000 September purchase by Cromwell Bloodstock, as agent, has already displayed his continued affinity for Keeneland by breaking his maiden at first asking during last year’s fall meeting at the track.

“He loves it here,” said bloodstock agent Gatewood Bell, representing owner and NFL wide receiver Wes Welker. “He loves it at Keeneland, in Kentucky. He always thrives when he comes back here. He ran really well first time out here.”

Rydilluc was purchased by Straightaway Farm for $55,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. He was consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training the following spring, where trainer Gary Contessa picked him out for $150,000.

My Name Is Michael twice failed to fetch his reserve at Keeneland, as a weanling and as a yearling, while also-eligible Divine Ambition—who is cross-entered in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park—also did not meet his reserve as a yearling.

Two other entrants in the Blue Grass field were also sold at public auctions. Tesseron was a $357,000 purchase by Donver Stable at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale, while Mark Casse signed the $25,243 ($25,000 Canadian) ticket for Dynamic Sky at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society’s Canadian-bred select yearling sale.

Blue Grass entrant Fear the Kitten, bred and originally owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, was claimed out of his maiden victory at Keeneland last fall by Frank Irvin.

Java’s War, Charming Kitten, Footbridge and Channel Isle all race for their breeders, while West Hills Giant runs for a partnership that includes his breeder.