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Stakes races highlight Keeneland’s spring opening weekend

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are up for grabs this weekend as Keeneland begins its 16-day spring meet.

The historic, picturesque track opens Friday and will feature five of this month’s 16 stakes races worth $4.225 million on Saturday. The marquee events are the $1 million Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass and $500,000 Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland for fillies, both of which offer 170 points toward next month’s Derby and Oaks at Churchill Downs. The winners get 100 points.

Zulu, one of three Blue Grass entrants trained by three-time race winner Todd Pletcher, has 20 Derby points and is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the 14-horse field for 3-year-olds.

Pletcher’s other horses are Donegal Moon, a 5-1 choice starting from the No. 2 post, and Cards of Stone.

Zulu arrived at Keeneland on Tuesday from South Florida and galloped a second time Thursday with Donegal Moon in preparation for the 1 1/8-mile race on dirt.

“He had a nice gallop around the track, a mile and an eighth, and went back and stood in the gate,” assistant Tristan Barry said of Zulu’s workout. “Did that very well.”

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Unbeaten Cathryn Sophia is even money leading a five-horse field in the 1 1/16 mile Central Bank Ashland. She has been impressive in both Grade 2 starts this year, winning the Davona Dale Stakes by seven lengths and the Forward Gal Stakes by 5 1/2.

Trainer John Servis is just as encouraged about Cathryn Sophia’s chances after Sunday’s workout.

“She worked super here and likes the track,” he said. “This will be her first time going two turns and should she get the job done, it would give her a lot of confidence going into the Kentucky Oaks. And me, too.”

Rachel’s Valentina, another Pletcher pupil, is the 3-1 second choice; she was second in last fall’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland. Also entered are Carina Mia (7-5), Weep No More (20-1) and Banree (20-1).

Another notable Grade 1 stakes race is the $300,000 Madison for fillies and mares, which features Breeders’ Cup winners StopchargingMaria and Wavell Avenue.

“That’s an ungodly race,” oddsmaker Mike Battaglia said of the 13-horse Madison field. “You love to see a race like that.”

Keeneland will race Wednesdays through Sundays through April 29.

Green Gratto by a head in Aqueduct’s Toboggan Stakes

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NEW YORK — Green Gratto held on to win the $125,000 Toboggan Stakes by a head on Monday at Aqueduct.

The 7-year-old set the pace under persistent pressure from Story to Tell. Green Gratto finally put away that rival in deep stretch, and had enough in reserve to fend off a final challenge from All Star Red.

The victory capped a big weekend at Aqueduct for jockey Kendrick Carmouche, who got three stakes wins in a four-day span.

The New Jersey-bred Green Gratto, owned and trained by Gaston Grant, earned his eighth win in 51 starts. The time was 1:10.74 for the six furlongs.

Green Gratto paid $7.30, $4.50 and $2.40 as the 5-2 second choice.

All Star Red returned $11 and $3.40, and Stallwalkin’ Dude, the 4-5 favorite, paid $2.10 to show.

Lockdown wins by 2 1/2 lengths in Aqueduct’s Busanda Stakes

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NEW YORK (AP) Lockdown won her stakes debut Sunday, beating Libby’s Tail by 2+ lengths in the $100,000 Busanda for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct.

Libby’s Tail, the 3-5 favorite, set the pace with Lockdown right behind before taking charge and turning for home.

Kendrick Carmouche rode for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott as Lockdown got her second win in three starts.

“She has such a long stride, you just have to time her run and she’ll take you home from there,” Carmouche said.

The time was 1:44.75 for the one mile, 70 yards.

Lockdown, the 2-1 second choice, paid $6.60, $2.50 and $2.10. Libby’s Tail returned $2.30 and $2.10 and No Sweat paid $3.20 to show.