Dullahan, with big strides down the center of the racetrack, ran down champion Hansen in the late stages to win the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) by 1 1/4 lengths April 14 at Keeneland (VIDEO).
Kent Desormeaux guided the son of Even the Score for trainer Dale Romans. He is owned by Donegal Racing.
The time of 1:47.94 for 1 1/8 miles was a stakes record on the Keeneland Polytrack.
When last seen at Keeneland, Dullahan won the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) in the fall of 2011, and his brilliant run in the Blue Grass was not all that different than that come-from-behind victory. The chestnut colt was near the back of the field for much of the way while saving ground under Desormeaux and angled out near the quarter pole. He charged through the center of stretch to collar Hansen, who had set the pace from the outset.
Dullahan, who made his season debut last month when running second to Howe Great in the Palm Beach (gr. IIIT) on the Gulfstream Park turf, will make his next stop at Churchill Downs for the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). A half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, he is out of the Smart Strike mare Mining My Own.
The winner was bred in Kentucky by Phil Needham, Judy Needham, and Bena Halecky. He was purchased for $250,000 by Donegal Racing’s president Jerry Crawford at the Keeneland September 2010 yearling sale. Bona Terra Stud, agent, consigned him.
Hansen, the champion 2-year-old colt from last year, entered the Blue Grass off a dominating victory in the March 3 Gotham (gr. III) at Aqueduct. In that race he rated off the early leader, but under Ramon Dominguez went straight to the front this time. And for the first mile it looked like a one-horse race, as Hansen strolled uncontested on an easy lead. The fractions were testing however; he posted splits of :23.10, :46.64, 1:11.32, and 1:35.46.
Politicallycorrect, Midnight Crooner, Gung Ho, and Hero of Order were all part of the early pack chasing the leader. Meanwhile, Dullahan was racing close to the inside while near the back of the field before making up ground on the turn. Approaching the quarter pole, Desormeaux decided it was time to make their move, and Dullahan split horses on his way into the lane. Gung Ho, sent off at 31-1, was closest to Hansen at the top of stretch, but the speedy son of Tapit had a 1 1/2–length lead at the eighth pole.
It was deep inside the sixteenth pole that Dullahan was finally able to run down Hansen, the 6-5 favorite in a field of 13. Dullahan was the 3-1 second choice.
Gung Ho finished third under Edgar Prado, giving trainer Mike Maker a two-three finish. Holy Candy was fourth after trailing.
Dullahan raced six times as a juvenile, winning just once but finishing on the board three other times including a third in the With Anticipation (gr. IIT) on the Saratoga turf. He was fourth to Hansen in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
The Blue Grass victory upped Dullahan’s earnings to $872,091.
Dullahan paid $8.40, $3.60, and $3. Hansen returned $3 and $2.60, and completed a $23.60 exacta. The trifecta (6-4-2) was worth $329.
Of Hansen's effort, Maker said: “The pace was too fast. I knew in the first quarter. It was quicker than we wanted. But he was fresh today. The next one is the big one.”
Dominguez said he didn't feel as though Hansen was a runaway train, even though he was carving out swift fractions: “I had not really made up my mind as far as where we were going to be. We all knew that the object was to get him to relax. He’s a very fast horse, came away from there very sharp, but believe it or not, although he was running very fast fractions, too fast to go 1 1/8 miles, he wasn’t rank.
"Today he came back to me to some extent, but that was about as slow as he was willing to go. I thought it was a very solid effort going the distance. He continued to keep a great pace and galloped out as he usually does.”