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Contestants in the Blue Grass Stakes could turn heads in the 2024 Kentucky Derby

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It remains to be seen whether Keeneland's 100thTh The Blue Grass Stakes run will be remembered as one of the best, but Saturday's excellent field offers plenty of hope.

“It’s a Grade 1, a true Grade 1,” coach Brad Cox said. “It's a very, very good race, it looks to be one of the best Derby preparation runs so far.” Or could be.”

An 11-horse field is entered for the $1 million, Class 1 Blue Grass, which takes place Saturday at 5:52 p.m. The Blue Grass awards 200 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs, with 100 for the winner and 50 for the runner-up.

While Florida Derby winner and champion 2-year-old Fierceness is the current favorite in the Kentucky Derby, there are three Blue Grass contenders who rank among the top 10 or 12 3-year-olds in the country.

Here's a look at each of them:

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone, the 2-1 morning favorite in the Blue Grass, is ranked No. 2 behind Fierceness on most lists of top Kentucky Derby contenders.

The Chad Brown-trained Sierra Leone has had just three career starts and just one as a three-year-old, winning the Grade 2 Risen Star by half a length over Track Phantom at Fair Grounds on February 17.

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione was impressed after Risen Star's win.

“When he took the lead on the track, I felt underneath me that he just wanted to drive longer after that,” Gaffalione said. “He is an incredible horse and Chad Brown and his team have done an incredible job with him. You always dream of big races like the Derby and horses like this help you keep that dream alive.”

Sierra Leone, a son of Gun Runner, was purchased for $2.3 million at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. Of the 346 horses nominated for the Triple Crown, Sierra Leone was the most expensive.

Dornoch

Dornoch is the second choice in the Blue Grass morning series at 3-1 and enters on a three-race winning streak after winning the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on March 2.

Leaders Dornoch took the No.4 for the Blue Grass and will use Luis Saez as driver.

“This is a good place,” Gargan said. “He came from the 3rd hole in the Fountain of Youth and the Remsen. He’ll come out of there running and fighting his way through.”

Dornoch is the only horse to beat Sierra Leone, narrowly winning the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct last December.

Through Good Magic out of the Big Brown mare Puca, Dornoch is a full brother to Mage, last year's Kentucky Derby winner.

Just a touch

Just a Touch, the 7-2 third choice in the Blue Grass, is the new kid on the block and only has two races under his belt.

The Blue Grass will be his debut on the field but Cox is keen to see how his precocious colt performs against Sierra Leone and Dornoch.

“Obviously they have a little more experience and got to the races a little earlier,” Cox said. “But this horse is, in my opinion, one of our better three-year-olds and I’m looking forward to competing against these stallions. Hopefully we can keep up with them.”

Just a Touch, a son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, did not race as a two-year-old. He debuted with a 4 ¼-length win at Fair Grounds on January 27 before finishing second to Deterministic in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct on March 2.

“He showed talent from day one,” Cox said. “A little late to get to the races, but kind of. He covers a lot of terrain and is an active horse with a corresponding class. I think we’re in a good place.”

Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; [email protected]; Twitter: @KentuckyDerbyCJ.

Blue grass stakes

Post time: 5:52 p.m. Saturday at Keeneland in Lexington. Wallet: 1 million dollars. Degree: 1. Distance: 1 1/8 miles. Jockey weight: 123 pounds. TV: FanDuel TV. Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100 for first place, 50 for second place, 25 for third place, 15 for fourth place, 10 for fifth place.

PP horse, jockey, trainer, opportunities

1. Top Conor, Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown, 15-1

2. Be You, Irad Ortiz Jr., Todd Pletcher, 8-1

3. Seize the Gray, Nik Juarez, D Wayne Lukas, 20-1

4. Dornoch, Luis Saez, Danny Gargan, 3-1

5. Good Money, Javier Castellano, Chad Brown, 20-1

6. Just a Touch, Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 7-2

7. Lat Long, Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek, 30-1

8. Epic Ride, Adam Beschizza, John Ennis, 20-1

9. Mugatu, Joe Talamo, Jeff Engler, 30-1

10. Sierra Leone, Tyler Gaffalione, Chad Brown, 2-1

11. Encino, Flavien Prat, Brad Cox, 12-1

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