The 3-year-old homebred son of Dynaformer punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in three weeks with his first stakes victory. It was the third consecutive blanket photo that Brilliant Speed was involved in, as he settled for runner-up in the previous two, both of them on turf.
Brilliant Speed was ridden to victory by Joel Rosario for trainer Tom Albertani. The final time for 1 1/8 miles on Polytrack was 1:50.92. King Congie, who was between horses in a thrilling finish, was just a head back in third.
“I was just glad to win a photo for a change," Albertrani said. "I’ve been beaten in a lot of photos lately. He ran great. I saw him far back, and I thought maybe he doesn’t handle the track. I saw him coming down
the lane, and he was just making big strides.”
It was a heartbreaking loss for 24-1 longshot Twinspired, who took over at the top of the stretch and seemed to be headed for victory for trainer Mike Maker, who upset last year’s Blue Grass with 40-1 Stately Victor. With Robby Albarado aboard, Twinspired led every inch of the stretch until the final jump.
“I had a great trip, nice rail trip. At the three-eighths pole, I got out about where I wanted to be," Albarado said. "I called on him, and he gave me what he had to the wire. It was unfortunate he came on the
losing end of it.”
Twinspired may still have enough earnings to get into the May 7 Kentucky Derby, as his $150,000 second-place check coupled with his $47,500 earned from last month’s Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park puts him in graded earnings contention. He is owned by Alpha Stables, Skychai Racing, and Sand Dollar Stable.
King Congie, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and also trained by Albertrani, suffered his second straight crushing defeat. The Badge of Silvercolt crossed the wire first in the Feb. 6 Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park but was placed third, ironically for interfering with stablemate Brilliant Speed in deep stretch.
“I saw them both coming, and I thought they were going to be in a dead heat for a moment," Albertrani said. "They both ran terrific. (Brilliant Speed) just got the nose down."
Twinspired was never far off the pace in the Blue Grass, which saw Joes Blazing Aaron take the lead while running through easy fractions of :25.14, :50.33, and 1:14.76 under Garrett Gomez. Maiden winner Praetereo pressed the pace, while Twinspired and Queen'splatekitten raced alongside each other in the next group. Santiva, the 5-2 favorite, wasn’t too far off the pace in the early going but was never a serious factor while finishing ninth.
Twinspired took over coming off the far turn and opened up a 1 1/2-length advantage at the top of the lane. He was still going well in deep stretch, but his main threats were King Congie with Rajiv Maragh aboard, and Brilliant Speed—both of them having rallied from far off the pace. Brilliant Speed was still last after three-quarters of a mile before being angled outside for his bid.
Racing along the inside, Twinspired was still traveling well in deep stretch and all out to hold off his two rivals, but Brilliant Speed collared him in the final stride.
“He broke well and I found myself in behind," Rosario said. "I just let him relax and make a big run on the outside. That was close."
Bred in Florida and out of the Gone West mare Speed Succeeds, Brilliant Speed took five tries to break his maiden as a 2-year-old, finally doing so on the Tampa Bay Downs turf course Dec. 26 going two turns. The dark bay/brown colt lost by a nose in the Jan. 19 Dania Beach Stakes on the Gulfstream turf before missing by a neck in the Hallandale Beach. He shipped into Keeneland earlier this week after preparing at Palm Meadows in South Florida.
With his win, Brilliant Speed improved to 2-2-2 from eight starts and has earned $515,750.
The winner paid $40.20, $20.20, and $13. The exacta (5-7) with Twinspired ($21.20 and $11.80) returned $655.20 and the trifecta (5-7-2) was worth a tidy $6,006.40.