Stately Victor, the longest shot on the board at 40-1, roared past Paddy O'Prado in the stretch to record a shocking 4 1/4-length win in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) April 10 at Keeneland.
Entered belatedly by trainer Mike Maker on the morning of the draw, Stately Victor came into the Blue Grass with five consecutive off-the-board finishes, the last four coming against allowance company. He had only one win in seven lifetime starts, that a maiden special weight score last September at Saratoga.
The son of Ghostzapper left Keeneland as the biggest longshot winner in the 86-year history of the Blue Grass, paying $82.20. Dust Commander paid $72.80 in 1970.
Stately Victor is owned by the father-son combination of F. Thomas Conway and Jack Conway. Jack Conway, a Democrat, is the current Kentucky Attorney General.
Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, Stately Victor is out of the Dynaformer mare Collect the Cash. Collect the Cash won Keeneland's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Stakes (gr. IT) in the fall of 2000. The bay colt was purchased from the Adena Spring March 2009 2-year-olds in training sale for $250,000.
Breaking from post 3 under Alan Garcia, Stately Victor bumped with First Dude at the start of the nine-furlong Polytrack event and was near the back of the field of nine for three-quarters of a mile while Odysseus and Paddy O’Prado led their rivals through splits of :23.89, :47.96, and 1:12.33. First Dude was also close up, as was Pleasant Prince. Interactif, the 3-1 favorite, was within striking distance all the way around but never seriously challenged for the top spot.
By the time they came off the turn, Paddy O’Prado took control from a tiring Odysseus and the Dale Romans trainee was going well under Kent Desormeaux while holding the lead into the stretch. The only threat now was Stately Victor, who had advanced along the inside on the second turn, was moved five-wide into the stretch, and had his sights set on the leader with a furlong remaining. The outsider sprinted past Paddy O’Prado with ease in mid-stretch en route to his stunning win. The final time was 1:48.69.
Paddy O’Prado held on well for runner-up, a length in front of third-place First Dude, who is also trained by Romans and was ridden by Ramon Dominguez. Interactif finished fourth under Rafael Bejarano.
"I was very impressed with him," said Garcia, who rode the colt for the first time. "I think he had a good trip. What can I say? He broke a little slow. I went ahead and let him settle, and made a late run. I think Mike Maker did a great job. He was very confident in the horse."
Stately Victor earned $450,000 for his win and catapulted himself into the field for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 1 at Churchill Downs. He has now banked $493,218 overall.
In his only other try in stakes company, Stately Victor finished sixth in last year's Dixiana Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland. Maker also trains Dean's Kitten, who won the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) last month and is also on his way to the Derby.
"I've always been high on this horse," Maker said. "After awhile when a horse underachieves, you kind of forget about them. But I never quit believeing in this horse. Gulfstream Park wasn't to his liking on the turf course (unplaced in his last two starts there) and so forth; bad trips. He was one of those horses you made excuses for every time."
Conway is running as a Democrat vying for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jim Bunning. Conway is a direct descendant of the first European settler in Kentucky, Dr. Thomas Walker, and grew up in the western part of the state. His campaign Web site says he can name every Kentucky Derby winner and its jockey.
He shouldn't have a problem remembering the 2010 winner if his horse can duplicate his Blue Grass upset.
"Derby week just got a heck of a lot busier," Conway said.
Paddy O’Prado, who broke his maiden on turf in the Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Gulfstream Park last month, earned $150,000 for second and also likely has enough graded earnings ($250,950) to get into the Derby, which is limited to 20 starters.
"I couldn't be happier with Paddy O'Prado," Romans said. "When Kent put (Odysseus) away, I thought we were gone. I think he got a little lackadaisical once he made the lead.
"I'd like to take a shot at the Derby and if he runs on dirt as well as he trains on it, I think he'll be a factor."
Stately Victor, who also paid $30.40 to place and $12.80 to show, keyed an exacta (3-7) worth $572.60. The trifecta (3-7-2) returned $4,291.
Codoy finished fifth, followed by Make Music for Me, Pleasant Prince, Aikenite, and Odysseus.
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