Eleven 3-year-olds, including several with serious intentions of slaying Seattle Slew in the Kentucky Derby, are entered in the $119,320 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland Thursday.
Trainer Smiley Adams' entry of Run Dusty Run and Bob's Dusty is the overnight favorite at 8 to 5, followed by Canadian owner J. Louie Levesque's entry of Giboulee and Fort Prevel at 2 to 1. Completing the lineup for the 1 1/8-mile event in which all starters carry 126 pounds are For The Moment, 4 to 1; Western Wind, 10 to 1; John Washington, 10 to 1; Ruthie's Native, 12 to 1; Get The Axe, 15 to 1; Rodiack, 30 to 1, and Cathy's Reject, 30 to 1.
Adams' duo drew the outside. Western Wind is on the rail, with Giboulee in post nine and For The Moment leaving the starting gate from the No. 4 hole.
There are those who have been teasing Adams recently as to the continued presence of Bob's Dusty among the candidates for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs May 7. They swear Adams had Run Dusty Run stabled in a stall her while Bob's Busty is quartered in a hutch, the implication being that the trainer plans to employ Bob's Dusty as a "rabbit" on the pace against Seattle Slew.
"That's not so," Adams replies. "The two horses have different owners. Each horse will be in there on his own, if both run."
Still, Adams did change his plan for Bob's Dusty after Cormorant was pronounced out of the Derby because of a virus. Bobs Dusty originally was to run in last Saturday's Illinois Derby. Instead, he was kept here for the seven-furlong Forerunner Purse and finished second to John Washington.
Run Dusty Run is Adams' stronger colt and is the second choice in the early betting figures for the Derby Run Dusty Run was an outstanding 2 year-old last season, pegged only one pound below Seattle Slew in the Experimental Free Handicap. He lost to Clev Er tell, however, in the Louisiana Derby last winter, and then dropped a nose decision to Giboulee last week in the Calumet Purse here.
The Calumet produced a frantic stretch duel that may have taken a toll on both horses.
"That's what concerns me," says Jacques Dumas, Giboulee's trainer. "That is where Seattle Slew has an edge. He had an easy race in the Wood Memorial last Saturday. It took nothing out of him. He probably is the best anyway, but now he has that edge. Still, I'm pleased with Giboulee. Run Dusty Run is probably the second best of this year's 3-year-olds and we beat him."
Seattle Slew defeated Giboulee by four lenghts in the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah late last month. Slew's performance in the Wood did not overwhelm most horsemen, however. Those who were undecided about challenging the odds-on favorite in Louisville have kept their colts going at least until the Blue Grass or one of the two prep races at Churchill Downs are run.
"We're all pretty much in the same situation," trainer Jimmy Picou commented today. "We're all hoping our horse will show enough to go ahead in the big one. Seattle Slew's time (1:49 2/5) was nothing spectacular in the Wood but it's tough to get a line on the main track at Aqueduct because there has been so little racing over it."
Picou trains Western Wind, which is unbeaten this season through three starts. Western Wind will bear watching here Thursday, along with another colt certain to be a liberal price in the wagering, John Washington. The later captured the Forerunner in 1:21 2/5, one-fifth of a second off the track record.
Cathy's reject, the runner-up in the California Derby last month, drilled a dandy half-mile in :46-1/5 here yesterday, as though determined to set the pace Thursday. Kodiack, second in the Arkansas Derby to the unfortunate Clev Er Tell worked five furlongs in 1:100.
For The Moment ran credibly in the Santa Anita Derby, then disappointed in the Hollywood Derby. He is trained by LeRoy Jolley, who knows the way to the Derby, having been successful with Foolish Pleasure in 1975 and second to Bold Forbes with Honest Pleasure last year.
For The Moment does not appear to have either the quality of Foolish Pleasure or the speed of Honest Pleasure, although he is a full brother to the latter.
For many years, the Blue Grass Stakes was considered the best race leading to the derby. Chateau Gay, Northern Dancer, Lucky Debonair, Forward Pass, Dust Commander and Riva Ridge all won here, then repeated 10 days later at Churchill Downs.
Foolish Pleasure and Bold Forbes, like Seattle Slew, used the Wood Memorial as their final tuncup, however, Seattle Slew, incidentally, arrived at the Downs from long Island today shortly after 10 a.m. Stable hands applauded as he was led into Barn 42.