2008 Blue Grass Stakes Recap

Monba takes advantage of Polytrack to win Blue Grass at Keeneland as Pyro fails to pick up feet
by Kenneth Strong of Predictem.com

April 12, 2008 Monba came from just off the pace to wear down stable mate Cowboy Cal in a long drive over the Keeneland Polytrack to win the 84th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes-G1 by a neck on Saturday. Even-money favorite Pyro finished a dismal tenth.

How good was Monbas performance with regards to the Kentucky Derby? Well, considering that even-money favorite Pyro failed to run a jump, and the fact that the winning jockey aboard Monba in the Blue Grass, Edgar Prado, chose to ride Lanes End winner Adriano in the Kentucky Derby, not very.

Polytrack has once again thrown the Kentucky Derby picture into disarray. Monba broke his maiden over the surface as a 2-year-old. Pyro on the other hand, had never run over it. Did Pyro dislike the track or did he just have an off race? Did he peak too early or has he been testing weak opposition. Or was he just out for a fitness-maintaining gallop in a race that didnt count?

In the Bluegrass, Monba stalked fractions of 24.96, 49.01 1:13.17 and 1:37.27 from the outside before collaring pacesetting stablemate Cowboy Cal and wearing that one down in the drive. The final time for the 1 1/8- miles over a track listed as fast was 1:49.71. Kentucky Bear was 1 -lengths back in third, followed by Stevil and Visionaire, both of whom had wide trips but did nothing to convince anyone they could win the Kentucky Derby. Tampa Bay Derby winner Big Truck ran even worse than Pyro, finishing a neck behind that one in eleventh.

If there was one remote bright spot in the Blue Grass it was third-place finisher Kentucky Bear, a talented son of Mr. Greely who was moving up in class once again after being bet down to 4-1 in the Fountain of Youth-G2 and finishing seventh. He looked great breaking his maiden by 6 -lengths going a mile at Gulfstream on Jan. 21 before being thrown to the wolves in the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 24. His subsequent good performance in the Blue Grass indicates he has some upside. Still, its debatable whether hell be fit enough to go 1 -miles on Derby Day.

Trained by Todd Pletcher for Starlight, Lucarelli and Saylor, Monba is a 3-year-old roan colt by Marias Mon-Hamba by Easy Goer. Coming into the Blue Grass he was 2-for-4, having won his first two starts as a 2-year-old at Keeneland and Churchill Downs respectively, before finishing fourth beaten 2 -lengths in the Cash Call Futurity-G1 at Hollywood Park. He had an excuse in his only start as a 3-year-old, the Fountain of Youth, when he was squeezed back on the first turn and basically galloped around after that to finish 12th beaten 39 3/4-lengths.

A return to top form was expected from Monba in the Blue Grass which he did and rewarded his backers with a payoff of $19.60. Still. Its hard to imagine Monba being a match for Big Brown, Colonel John, Gayego or anyone even remotely close to those three on talent, when it comes to the Kentucky Derby. Even Pyro, whom we suspected was beating up on weak competition before the Blue Grass, is not 12 lengths inferior to Monba on his worst day.

Were calling the Blue Grass a total throw out as far as the Kentucky Derby is concerned.

Blue Grass Stakes Results and Payoffs

April 12, 2008 9th Race Keeneland

5 Monba $19.60 $8.60 $6.60

3 Cowboy Cal $8.80 $6.60

2 Kentucky Bear $8.20

4 Stevil

$2 Exacta 5-3 paid $139.00

$0.50 Trifecta paid 5-3-2 paid $828.45

$2 Superfecta 5-3-2-4 paid $44,821.60