LEXINGTON, Ky. — Java’s War rallied from last to edge Dogwood Stable’s Palace Malice by a neck Saturday to win the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and solidify his credentials for the Kentucky Derby.
Ridden by Julien Leparoux, Java’s War trailed the 14-horse field as late as the three-quarter pole, then came on to challenge Palace Malice down the stretch and pulled ahead.
Java’s War earned 100 points and is fourth in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings with 122, placing him in the mix for the 139th running on May 4.
Java’s War covered 1⅛ miles in 1:50.27 and paid $11.20, $5.60 and $4. Palace Malice returned $6 and $4.60, and Charming Kitten paid $11.20 to show. Rydilluc set the early pace before fading to fourth.
Asked about running Java’s War with the Derby just three weeks away, trainer Kenneth McPeek said, “it was a no-brainer.
“Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the next three weeks go well.”
Palace Malice might also be headed to the Derby.
“I will talk to (owner) Mr. (Cothran) Campbell first (about going to the Derby with Palace Malice), but that was our game plan coming in,’’ said Todd Pletcher, who trains the colt.
The runner-up earned 40 points and has 50 total toward the Derby.
ARKANSAS DERBY: In Hot Springs, Ark., Overanalyze made a three-time winner out of Pletcher in the Kentucky Derby prep race, storming down the home stretch and pulling away to win the $1 million race by 4¼ lengths.
Overanalyze overcame the lead pack after the final turn in the 1⅛-mile race and earned Pletcher his first win in the event since winning back-to-back races in 2000 and 2001.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Overanalyze paid $9.40, $5.60 and $4.60. Frac Daddy paid $16.80 and $11 for finishing second, while Carve paid $8.60 in third.
Pre-race favorite War Academy pulled up but walked off the Oaklawn Park track under his own power.
Overanalyze earned 100 points for a spot in the Kentucky Derby.
Frac Daddy earned 40 and Carve 20.
The colt had raced only once previously this year after a stellar 2-year-old campaign that included three wins in five starts. He finished fifth at the Gotham Stakes on March 2, opening that race as the favorite before fading late.
The Repole Stable-owned 3-year-old had no such problems on Saturday in front of 66,158 in attendance at Oaklawn <0x2014> running in 1:51.94 and holding off a field that included two Baffert horses.
Baffert’s first horse, War Academy, garnered much of the pre-race focus after two wins in three races, but the colt backed out of the gate before the race and broke stride on the back stretch.
The Hall of Fame trainer’s other horse, Den’s Legacy, also generated plenty of attention as Baffert attempted to win his second straight Arkansas Derby after Bodemesiter’s win a year ago.
It was Pletcher, however, who stole the show with Overanalyze. The former assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and 2010 Kentucky Derby winner with Super Saver, won his first Arkansas Derby since Graeme Hall in 2000 and Balto Star in 2001.
Overanalyze earned $600,000 with the win, while Frac Daddy <0x2014> at 24-1 <0x2014> won $200,000 and Carve $100,000.
The race’s other favorite, Oxbow, never threatened. The Lukas-trained colt, second in the Rebel Stakes, finished a disappointing fifth.