Dance With Fate, coming in off a runner-up finish in the Feb. 15 El Camino Real Derby (gr. II) over the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields, started outside of California for the first time and earned 100 points—enough to get into the field for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"I don't know (if we'll go to the Derby); it's pretty quick three weeks back and I know he likes synthetic, I just don't know if he likes dirt," said Eurton, who trains the Blue Grass winner for Sharon Alesia, Michael Mellen's Bran Jam Stable, and Joseph Ciaglia's Ciaglia Racing.
Keeneland is replacing Polytrack with dirt after the 2013 spring meet. One of the goals officials expressed is to attract top-level dirt horses en route to the Derby and Breeders' Cup.
Dance With Fate now has three wins and three seconds from eight starts, with two of his victories coming on synthetic tracks and one earned over the turf. Last year, he was runner-up in the both the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) and the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park. In his biggest dirt test, the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), he fizzled to eighth after getting slammed coming out of the gate.
In the 90th edition of the Blue Grass, Dance With Fate had much better luck. Well back early in the pack of 14 3-year-olds, he bided his time under Corey Nakatani behind a :23.58 quarter and a half in :47.59 set by Pablo Del Monte, who held his advantage turning for home after three-quarters in 1:12.74.
"They were actually going a little slower than I anticipated, but being on the Polytrack you don't know what's going to happen," Nakatani said. "In talking with Peter (Eurton) about the race before, he said, 'If you can, get him to switch off and just have a target for him to run at, save a little and just make your best run when it counts,' and I said. 'OK, let's do it.' "
The front-runner's joy was short-lived as Dance With Fate reeled him through a 1:37.83 mile en route to a 1 3/4-length score. Spendthrift Farm's Transylvania Stakes (gr. III) winner Medal Count closed well to get up for second, an impressive finish just eight days after his Transylvania score. The 40 points he earned with his runner-up finish land him 18th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard for the 20-horse field.
"There was a lot of pressure coming back in eight days," Romans said, "and I was putting my neck on the line a little bit and open for some criticism. But my horse came through for me. If it's up to me, we're going. As long as he's healthy and doing well."
"He acted like a good horse today," jockey Robby Albarado said of Medal Count. "He ranged to (the leader) like a good horse. He had a wide trip both turns. With a field like this, you kind of expect that at Keeneland, with the Polytrack, whereas on traditional dirt they kind of stretch themselves out pretty good and you can kind of weave your way in and out. He's a grown-up horse now."
Pablo Del Monte held another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. It was 5 1/4 lengths further to the fourth-place finisher, Big Bazinga. The final time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:50.06 on a fast track before a sun-splashed crowd of 39,722.
The attendance is the second-largest in track history, surpassed only by the 2012 Toyota Blue Grass Day attendance of 40,617.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in the Blue Grass was the 12th-place finish of Ken and Sarah Ramsey's 7-2 favorite Bobby's Kitten, whose five previous starts came on turf. The son of Kitten's Joy pressed the pace early on but tired late.
"He ran a good race but unfortunately I don't think he liked the Polytrack," jockey Javier Castellano said.
"That was not what we were looking for, but we gave it a try," remarked trainer Chad Brown. "In the second half of the race, he lost (interest) and didn't seem to care for the track. He was a little keen down the backside, and I thought Javier did a good job to keep him relaxed as much as he could. (Bobby's Kitten) will be back on turf next time."
Off at odds of 6-1, Dance With Fate paid $14.80, $6.80, $5.80 while Medal Count paid $7.80 and $5.20. Pablo Del Monte brought $6.80. Following Big Bazinga came Coltimus Prime, Gala Award, So Lonesome, Asserting Bear, Casiguapo, Coastline, Extrasexyhippzster, Bobby's Kitten, Harry's Holiday, and Vinceremos. Divine Oath scratched.
Bred by Best A Luck Farm out of the Saint Ballado mare Flirting With Fate, Dance With Fate was a $120,000 purchase by Ciaglia at the 2013 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Dance With Fate became sire Two Step Salsa's first stakes winner. The Blue Grass purse improved his earnings to $680,050.
With 108 total points, Dance With Fate moved into third on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, behind Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner California Chrome and Louisiana Derby (gr. I) winner Vicar's In Trouble. Danza, who jumped up to win the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) on April 12 at Oaklawn Park, ranks sixth.