Dullahan is Derby-bound after big rally
Dullahan and his team stayed in the background all week while the attention centered on the near-white colt Hansen and his eccentric owner.
''This is the first chance I've had a chance to say much,'' Donegal Racing managing partner Jerry Crawford said. ''We decided all week long we'd let our horse do the talking today. I think he spoke pretty eloquently.''
Dullahan ran down Hansen in the final furlong to insert his own name among the Kentucky Derby favorites and win the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland.
''He did everything that a good horse has to do to win,'' trainer Dale L. Romans said. ''He gets the job done. He's just a special horse.''
Dullahan, who went off at 3-1 odds, ran 1-1/8 miles on Polytrack in 1 minute, 47.94 seconds under Kent Desormeaux to beat Hansen, who was the center of attention before the race when his tail was partially dyed blue on Saturday and later washed out at the order of racing officials.
Hansen went straight to the front from the No. 4 post, and Desormeaux positioned Dullahan outside a group of horses in the final stretch before finishing impressively, widening the margin of victory to 1-1/4 lengths.
''The next one is the big one,'' Hansen trainer Mike Maker said.
But Hansen likely will no longer be the favorite when the scene shifts to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
Desormeaux was content to keep Dullahan at the back of the field while Hansen sprinted ahead. As far back as 11th at the start of the 13-horse field, Desormeaux worked the chestnut colt through major traffic around the final turn before squeezing between the pack and finding an opening as Hansen began to slow.
''It was a little bit of panic situation,'' Desormeaux said. ''You're like, 'Oh God, I'm going to be stuck here forever.' ''
Instead, Dullahan found a small opening and took advantage of it.
''The hairy moments were around the final turn,'' Desormeaux said. ''It was tight. I mean, he had to suck himself up to get in-between one of the pockets.''
It was an impressive move by Desormeaux.
''Now we're going to go to Dale Romans' hometown and win the Kentucky Derby,'' Crawford said.
Now Hansen will attempt to follow the same path that Street Sense did in 2007 when he finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes before going on to win the Kentucky Derby.
''We all knew that the object was to get him to relax,'' Hansen jockey Ramon Dominguez said. ''He's a very fast horse.''
Dullahan returned $8.40 for a $2 win bet. Gung Ho finished third at 31-1 odds in front of a Keeneland single-day record crowd of 40,617.
Gung Ho was the first of owner Ken Ramsey's two horses in the field. The other, Holy Candy, was fourth. Team Valor International's Barry Irwin-owned Howe Great finished fifth after Irwin said he didn't think his horse had a chance to beat Hansen.
Prospective finished sixth, followed by Heavy Breathing, Midnight Crooner, Scatman, Ever So Lucky, Russian Greek, Ramsey's Politicallycorrect and Hero of Order, the Louisiana Derby winner who went off at 109-1 odds in that race.
In earlier stakes, Daisy Devine won the $300,000, Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, Lonesome Street won the $175,000, Grade 2 Commonwealth and Perfect Officer captured the $100,00,0 Grade 3 Shakertown.