Following the spate of longshot winners of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prep races this season, it might be a good idea to keep an eye on trainer Mike Puhich and That's an Outrage in Saturday's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
The beaten path to the Derby has been made with names like Baffert and Zito, who both have runners in the Blue Grass, but Mike Puhich? Who is this guy and who is his horse?
The lanky 41-year-old Puhich has been a licensed trainer since 1984 when he got his start at the old Longacres track in Washington state. A graduate of Renton High, where Longacres was located, Puhich trained at Emerald Downs until 2000 when he pulled up stakes and headed for the Southern California circuit.
He's also been down the Derby path before, saddling Stolen Gold to a third-place finish in the Blue Grass behind Pulpit in 1997.
He's back in Kentucky again for this year's Blue Grass with That's an Outrage, listed at 30-1 on the morning line. The son of Quiet American
out of the Known Fact mare Cable News has been "training awesome" for the $750,000 race according to Puhich and recently drilled five furlongs at Keeneland in :59 3/5, galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.
"I won't be shocked if he jumps up and wins the race," Puhich said Wednesday morning before the draw for the Blue Grass. "He deserves a shot."
That's an Outrage, who has but a maiden win to his credit in 10 career starts, ran fourth, beaten 3 1/4 lengths in his last start in the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park on March 20. He was coming off a two-month layoff and was making his first start outside Southern California. Last year, after breaking his maiden on Oct. 12, That's an Outrage ran seventh in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). He followed that up with a third-place effort behind Blue Grass favorite Lion Heart in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I).
"He had a license to get tired in the Lane's End," Puhich said. "He missed a little time and was a little short, but I liked the move he made down the backstretch."
That's an Outrage is owned by Bull Stick Stables and Mercedes Stable. Bull Stick Stable is the nom du course for Denise Moewes and Tim Dore, both of whom are bankruptcy attorneys in Seattle. Mercedes Stable the nom du course of Ernie Moody. Both stables own 50% of the horse. Moody also is a majority owner in Rock Hard Ten, who finished second in last weekend's Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) before being disqualified to third.
The bay colt was bred in Kentucky by Kip Elser, who recently sold the world-record $4.5 million Fusaichi Pegasus 2-year-old colt at the Fasig-Tipton Calder sale of 2-year-olds in training under his Kirkwood Stables consignment.
Puhich purchased That's an Outrage privately last year for $40,000 after he failed to meet his reserve at the Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds.
"I bought him from Bubba Werner," Puhich said. "His son's a trainer here, Ronny. He was a good-looking horse and I had faith in what Bubba said. He said, 'Take him with you and if you like him as much as I did, you can buy him.'"
While the Blue Grass runs deep in contention with the likes of Lion Heart, Action This Day, The Cliff's Edge, Birdstone, and Limehouse, Puhich said That's an Outrage "will have no excuses." After all, Friends Lake won the Florida Derby (gr. I) at 37-1; Sinister G took the Lane's End at 16-1; Hi Teck Man upset the WinStar Derby at 46-1; and Castledale won the Santa Anita Derby at 30-1.
Showing his sense of humor at the Blue Grass draw, Puhich said, after drawing post 5, "Last night after dinner, after a couple of bottles of red wine, this looked like an easy race."