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Apr 15, 2011

Santiva looms large in Blue Grass Stakes


Lexington, KY (Sports Network) - Risen Star Stakes runner-up Santiva is the horse to beat in Saturday's 87th running of the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse. The 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Derby prep has attracted a field of 12 three-year-olds.

A Blue Grass Stakes winner has not captured the Kentucky Derby since Strike the Gold in 1991. Street Sense was second in the 2007 edition prior to winning the Run for the Roses.

Santiva, owned by Tom R. Walters, will be ridden by Julien Leparoux from post three. The colt is listed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite and has career earnings of $255,454 in five starts with one win, three seconds and a third.

Trained by Eddie Kenneally, Santiva broke his maiden with a victory last November in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. In his one other Keeneland start the colt was second in the Breeders' Futurity last October.

"It certainly was one of the reasons, the fact he has had experience over the surface," Kenneally said of the decision to run in the Blue Grass. "But it's also a very prestigious race in its own right.

"I think he could have a very good three-year-old year. He's matured, strengthened up and mentally he's very, very good."

Willcox Inn, 10-1 in the program, is set for his second 2011 start in the Blue Grass. Owned by All In Stable, Willcox Inn will break from post eight with Rosie Napravnik in the saddle. Napravnik won this year's Louisiana Derby aboard Pants On Fire.

The colt, trained by Mike Stidham, was second last month in the Grindstone Stakes at Fair Grounds Racecourse behind Great Mills, who was beaten a nose in the Transylvania last week.

"It is amazing that the horses he has been running against have come back to win stakes or run exceptionally well," Stidham said. "You go all the way back to his first start when he broke his maiden and see who he beat, Animal Kingdom."

The colt was third in both the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Breeders Futurity at Keeneland. He has earned $167,800 in four starts with a win, second and two thirds.

"He is a really nice horse and his race in the Breeders' Cup was very impressive," Napravnik said. "He has a really big late kick and the first time I rode him he closed a lot of ground. That race (the Grindstone) was only 7 1/2-furlongs and the mile and eighth should be to his advantage."

Champion trainer Todd Pletcher will send out a trio of colts for the race in Sensational Slam, Praetereo and Queen'splatekitten. Pletcher won the Blue Grass with Bandini (2005) and Momba (2008).

Here is the complete field from the rail out for the Blue Grass: Newsdad, 20-1, Jesus Castanon; King Congie, 5-1, Rajiv Maragh; Santiva, 3-1, Julien Leparoux; Joes Blazing Aaron, 12-1, Garrett Gomez; Brilliant Speed, 6-1, Joel Rosario; Sensational Slam, 10-1, Jose Lezcano; Twinspired, 12-1, Robby Albarado; Willcox Inn, 10-1, Rosie Napravnik; Wilkinson, 6-1, Jamie Theriot; Praetereo, 15-1, Edgar Prado; Crimson China, 10-1, Alan Garcia; Queen'splatekitten, 12-1, John Velazquez.

King Congie and Brilliant Speed are both trained by Tom Albertrani and Mike Maker has Joes Blazing Aaron and Twinspired entered. Maker won the event last year with 40-1 longshot Stately Victor.

Post-time for the Blue Grass is set for 5:45 p.m. (et).

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