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LEXINGTON, Ky. — Sierra Leone rebounded from a testy entry to the gate and a tail-end run through the backstretch to overtake Just A Touch down the stretch and win the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths on Saturday at Keeneland to qualify for next month’s 150th Kentucky Derby.

The 8-5 favorite, one of three Chad Brown-trained entries in the 10-horse field, overcame several challenges — starting when he entered the No. 10 far outside post. Sierra Leone appeared to be in position after resisting, then backed out a second time before finally settling.

He lagged behind for much of the race as 15-1 long shot Top Conor, another Brown pupil, and Just A Touch set the pace through the backstretch.

The bay colt then surged through the final turn to catch the leaders and added more space from Just A Touch to earn 100 points in the qualifying standings for the Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs. Epic Ride was third.

With Tyler Gaffalione aboard, Sierra Leone covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.08 and paid $5.32, $3.28 and $3.06.

Just A Touch returned $4.24 and $3.71 and earned 50 Derby points, while Epic Ride paid $9.12 and picked up 25 points.

Encino, one of two Brad Cox-trained entries, was scratched Saturday morning after drawing 12-1 odds from the far No. 11 post.


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