In a dramatic finish to the first Bluegrass contested on Polytrack, Zanjero was a head behind in third with the front-running Teuflesberg another head back in fourth.
Dominican, who is nominated to the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was coming off a five-length win in the Rushaway Stakes on the Turfway Park Polytrack March 24 and has won all three of his starts on synthetic surface. He completed the 1 1/18-mile test for 3-year-olds in a slow 1:51 1/5.
Rafael Bejarano, who rode Dominican, an El Corredor gelding for the first time in the Rushaway, was aboard once again for trainer Darrin Miller. The chestnut registered his first graded win.
"We needed to test him," Miller said. "We wanted to go the Derby and we needed to see if he could hook them.”
The pace was dawdling as Teuflesberg and Edgar Prado led the seven-horse field while clear through fractions of :26, :51 2/5 and 1:16 3/5. Great Hunter found himself in an unusual spot, tracking the leader in second while four paths wide for Corey Nakatani, with Zanjero and Garrett Gomez stalking from the rail. Street Sense, the 11-10 favorite ridden by Calvin Borel, settled into fourth while Dominican hopped at the break and chased the field from fifth.
In the stretch, the picture changed when Teuflesberg floated out and forced Nakatani to take up on second choice Great Hunter. It appeared Teuflesberg impeded Great Hunter in the stretch scramble, but no foul was claimed. Street Sense, though taken wide as well, kept charging and grabbed the lead in the final sixteenth as Zanjero and Teuflesberg kept fighting. Meanwhile, Bejarano, on Dominican, angled seven paths wide in the stretch to find racing room and closed with determination to reach the wire first in a final lunge.
"When they left there in 26 and change, I thought, 'Uh-oh, we're in trouble,'" Miller admitted.
"I knew (Street Sense) was going to be tough, so I tried to stay right behind him and wait," Bejarano said. "When I saw him moving at the quarter pole, I moved to the outside. My horse just gave me everything he had to win.”
"It was a very strangely run race," Street Sense trainer Carl Nafzger said. "He ran a really good race. I actually thought we had it won."
Just as Street Sense went ahead, he quickly ducked in and gave Dominican an opportunity to pull a huge upset.
"He made too many mistakes," Nafzger said. "He got the lead, he ducked in ... and if he doesn't make those mistakes he wins. I don't know why he did that."
“He ducked in a couple of times in the lane," Borel agreed.
Barak Farm bred Dominican, a $150,000 Ocala sale in March 2006, in Kentucky. The winner is out of the Dixieland Band mare First Violin.
Dominican earned $465,000 to easily qualify for the Derby on graded earnings. His third win in seven starts improved his bankroll to $596,259.
Sent off as the fourth choice, he paid $18, $5.60 and $3.80.
Street Sense, who won a nose decision last out in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) in his 3-year-old debut March 17, returned $3.40 and $2.60. Zanjero, recording his fourth consecutive graded stakes placing, was $3.60 to show.
“He ran a winning race," Gomez said of Zanjero. "The rail wasn’t the place you wanted to be, but that’s how things worked out.”
Teuflesberg was followed by an unlucky Great Hunter, with Time Squared and Love Dubai trailing.
Trainer Doug O'Neill said Great Hunter would go to the Kentucky Derby if he checks out well.
“It’s a bummer," he said of the result. "I thought we’d have been right there if not for that incident in the stretch. From that standpoint, I think he ran a good race. But his lane completely got taken away from him. Hopefully, he came out of it okay.”
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