The Keeneland Association honored its contestants for Saturday's running of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) Thursday evening with a special dinner at the Keene Barn entertainment complex on the Keeneland grounds. The connections from most of the eight runners, Marylou Whitney Stable's Birdstone was scratched earlier in the day, were interviewed following the dinner, and following are some of the comments made by them.
The interviews were conducted by two-time Eclipse Award-winning radio journalist Tom Leach. Prior to each interview, video clips of the horses previous races were shown, along with an introduction.Richard Mandella
, trainer of last year's 2-year-old champion Action This Day, a 9-2 shot in the Blue Grass:
"I think he's settled back down. I think we have him back where we had him in October. I think that is where he needs to be.
"When he came to us at the end of March (last year), he was kind of a backward looking horse. We couldn't get two legs together at the same time. By the first of July he really started improving and by the time we got to Del Mar, and he made his first start, I thought he made quite an impression. He just moved very fast from there." Robert LaPenta
, owner of The Cliff's Edge, the 4-1 co-second choice:
"(Trainer) Nick (Zito) hates to hear this story, but we bought him as a yearling and we had him up for sale at Calder as a 2-year-old. I was in New York, and my racing manager was watching the workouts. I remember calling him, and saying 'How did the Gulch
horse do?' He said, 'You'll never believe it. A cat ran across the track. The horse had a horrible workout and nobody bid on the horse in the sale.' That's how smart we are. You've got to be lucky in this business."
Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell
, on his Limehouse, set at 6-1 on the morning line. Dogwood won the 1990 Blue Grass with Summer Squall:
"We're delighted to be here again with what we think is a 'live' horse.
"He was sort of an unwatched pot that boiled. He was not the class valedictorian when we broke him down in Aiken (S.C.), but he did everything satisfactory; had a nice attitude. He began to come along and we sent him up to (trainer) Todd (Pletcher) and put him in his wonderful, splendid hands and he hasn't done much wrong."Patrick Biancone
, trainer of 5-2 morning line favorite Lion Heart. Biancone sent out Brancusi to a second-place finish behind Peace Rules last year. Lion Heart is expected to dictate the pace on Saturday. He was asked if he could be rated:
"I talked to Demi O'Byrne, who is on his way to Australia, and he said to sit behind and be the last horse to come out (laughter)."
When asked about last year, Biancone, said tongue in cheek, "We were second. We're hoping we can do better this year."Rick Nichols
of Shadwell Stable, which will send out the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Mustanfar (15-1) in the Blue Grass:
"He's a lanky horse and he is a homebred. He's a third-generation horse. His grandmother is the great mare Height of Fashion, who is the dam of Nashwan, who won the Epsom Derby.
"He was the kind of horse that needed a lot of patience. Kiaran and Neil (McLaughlin) and his team did a very good job of taking their time with him. Hopefully he's going to mature at the right time.
"I think he likes to be back home in Kentucky. I think he wants to come over and stand in our stud barn one of these days."Mike Puhich
, trainer of 30-1 outsider That's an Outrage. Puhich left the dinner to pick up co-owners Denise Moewes
and Tim Dores
from the airport. When flying from Seattle to Cincinnati earlier in the day, an engine on the plane caught fire and the 757 had to return to Seattle. They caught a later flight to Cincinnati, then the flight to Lexington was delayed due to mechanical problems. They rented a car and drove to Lexington.
"Their plane caught on fire," Puhich told the audience. "That was a total outrage (laughter)."
"It was frightening for a lot of people on the plane," said Moewes.
"But I just said, 'Get me to the Blue Grass, baby.'"
"Since he's (That's an Outrage) gotten here, he's just completely filled out and developed like a lot of horses do," Puhich said. "He worked brilliantly over the race track. We're pretty excited. He's going to have to step up and improve quite a bit, but I think he's up to the challenge. Bill Farish
, son of William S. Farish, breeder and owner of Breakaway, a 12-1 hope in the Blue Grass:
"He was never a real big horse," Farish said of Breakaway's formative days at Lane's End Farm. "But he has grown and matured. He seems to be getting better every race. We're testing the waters at this point.
"(Trainer) Neil (Howard) is not sure he's up to this. I wish I hadn't seen all these videos. Maybe we'll scratch (laughter).
"He showed a lot of courage in his last start," Farish said. Breakaway was fourth in a roughly run Louisiana Derby (gr. II). "He kept coming at the end and bounced off the rail. He does come from way back, so he'll have his hands full."