LEXINGTON, KY – Charles Fipke’s homebred JAVA’S WAR rallied from a slow start in dead last to edge out PALICE MALACE by a neck in Saturday’s $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland. Sent off as the 9-2 second choice under jockey Julien Leparoux, the Kenny McPeek trainee completed the 1 1/8-mile contest in 1:50 1/5 over the Polytrack. The son of the late War Pass earned 100 points in the new Kentucky Derby ‘points system’ and captured his first graded stakes score. This was the second win in the Blue Grass for McPeek, who conditioned Harlan’s Holiday to a victory back in 2002. For Leparoux, it marked his first win in the Blue Grass, and his third win on the Keeneland card Saturday, which also included another Grade 1 as he led CENTRE COURT to take the $300,000 Jenny Wiley S. (G1) just a race before the Blue Grass.
While I technically watched the race on the Keeneland grounds, my fellow America’s Best Racing Brand Ambassadors and I were physically about a half-mile from the actual race track at “The Hill,” Keeneland’s new tailgate experience. We parked the ABRV on top of the hill next to a huge jumbo tron, which stood next to a large betting tent. Beyond the betting tent was a portable restroom that was definitely more than a few steps above your average porta-potties. Along one side also sat various food trucks. Our team of ambassadors set up our tent outside of our bus where we signed people up for our Ultimate Kentucky Derby Sweepstakes and we also gave patrons lessons on reading a program and wagering 101.
(Watch the ABRV “Tailgating on the Hill at Keeneland” Video)
The weather was a perfect sunny and a little over 60 degrees by the time the big races started. The food was great, people were still dressed up nicely all the way out on “The Hill” which made for an overall success. The total on-track attendance was the second most in Keeneland history with 37,161, but if you include those who stayed at the tailgate on “The Hill” then we probably set some records. I was the emcee for the day, where I basically made everyone in the lot aware of all the “Hill happenings” throughout the day.
I looked to fellow ambassador and friend Jose Contreras to give out some picks before every race. In our broadcast of “Race Day USA” that we released earlier on, Jose picked Palice Malace to win the Blue Grass and OVERANALYZE to take the other big Kentucky Derby prep race in the day, the $1 Million Arkansas Derby (G1). Jose picked the right one in the Arkansas Derby as OVERANALYZE ran huge for trainer Todd Pletcher, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, while I gave OXBOW as my Arkansas Derby winner, who finished a disappointing fourth. I did give out JAVA’S WAR, so we both went 1-for-2 on the day.
The Blue Grass was broadcast live from 4:30-6pm EST on NBC which was awesome exposure for the sport. The ambiance of Keeneland is second to none. Whether you’re on the Hill, in the Grandstand or in the Clubhouse, there is no greater place to experience thoroughbred racing. It was an honor to be part of such a historic day, and we are looking forward to our next trip which will be to Louisville for the $2 Million Kentucky Derby (G1) from Churchill Downs on May 4. (See Kentucky Derby updated point standings)