With powerful closing strides, Dullahan
came from 10-lengths back, ran down 1.20-to-1 favorite Hansen
and cruised to a 1-1/4-length victory in the 88th running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1)
in front of a record crowd of 40,617 at Keeneland on Saturday, April 14, 2012.
The win for the Dale Romans
-trained Dullahan was a bit of redemption, as the three-year old colt had finished fourth behind Hansen in the 2011 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile last November at Churchill.
But, this day belonged to Dullahan, who is out of Even The Score-Mining My Own, by Smart Strike (Can) colt. Dullahan will now head to Churchill once again, this time for the Kentucky Derby
, which will be run May 5 at Churchill. Interestingly, Dullahan who is a half brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, Mine That Bird
"He did everything that a good horse has to do to win," said Romans, who had just won his first Blue Grass Stakes. "When it’s time to accelerate, (jockey Kent Desormeaux
) had enough horse to split through. He gets the job done. He’s just a special horse."
The race day began with a little rain early on Saturday afternoon, but turned to sunshine in time for the Blue Grass Stakes.
As expected, all eyes were on the beautiful, almost-white, two-year-old champion, Hansen, who was the race-day favorite for the Blue Grass, and is still one of the favorites for this year's Kentucky Derby.
The day itself began with a bit of drama at Hansen's stall, as his owner, Dr. Kendall Hansen , was back at his eccentric ways, dying the tip of his horse's tail blue. Why he wants to do that to a horse who is so beautiful to begin with is beyond reasoning. But, that's what he did.
When his trainer, Mike Maker, got wind of it, the two exchanged heated words in the barn area. The result, because Maker thought the stewards might scratch Hansen because of it, Maker dyed the horse's tail back to its original color.
According to reports, Dr. Hansen was called to the stewards office and, since Hansen's tail was "not blue" thanks to Maker, everything was okay and back to normal.
Even more lucky for everyone – Dr. Hansen, Maker and the horse's fans – none of this bothered Hansen, the horse, at all, which everyone found out at race time.
In the race, Hansen, who is out of Tapit-Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat, broke cleanly from post position four, took the lead under jockey Ramon Dominguez, and set the pace for the race.
He continued to lead into the first turn, down the entire backstretch, and around the final turn.
Meanwhile, Dullahan, who likes Keeneland, as he broke his maiden in the Breeders' Futurity Stakes (G1) at Keeneland last October 8, 2011, in just his fifth start, also broke cleanly and under hall of fame jockey Kent Desormeaux, settled near the back of the 13-horse field.
As the field came around the final turn, Hansen was still going strong in the lead, while Desormeaux was trying to guide Dullahan out from behind some horses. He finally found an opening and moved Dullahan out into the middle of the track as the horse's entered the stretch heading for home.
As they neared mid-stretch, the stride length of Hansen and Dullahan was visibly different, as Hansen's was shortening a little, while Dullahan had exploded into a powerful charge, his stride widening with every step he took.
Then, deep into the stretch, Dullahan passed Hansen as if he was standing still, and cruised to a 1-1/4-length victory over Hansen, who finished second. Gung Ho came in third, one length behind Hansen.
"He switched leads, and he just exploded," said Desormeaux, who, like Romans, had just won his first Blue Grass Stakes. "As soon as he straightened (turning for home), there was a hole. He ran through that and then he said, 'Now what (do) I do?' And I asked him to keep going. He was very strong all the way to the wire."
Dullahan finished the 1-1/8th mile race in 1:47.94, which was slightly better than Gemologist's 1:50.96 running time in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) last week at Aqueduct.
With his impressive win in the Blue Grass, Dullahan puts himself squarely in the conversation as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby, along with Hansen, Union Rags
, who was ridden by hall of famer Mike Smith and won the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park a few minutes after the Blue Grass for trainer Bob Baffert, who is still recovering from a heart attack he had a couple weeks ago while in Dubai.
Owned by Donegal Racing, Dullahan now has two wins, two seconds, two thirds and $872,091 in earnings in eight career starts.
Assuming both horses come out of the race healthy, Dullahan and Hansen will now begin preparation for the Kentucky Derby, which will be run just three weeks from now.