- Road to the Kentucky Derby
- Racing & Wagering
Dullahan, Hansen already back in Louisville
The top three finishers in Saturday's Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland did not stay in the 859 area code too long after their efforts, with winner Dullahan returning to Churchill Downs and the respective second- and third-place finishers, Hansen and Gung Ho, returning to trainer Mike Maker's barn at the Trackside Training Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
"He looks great this morning, like he hadn't run at all," trainer Dale Romans said of Dullahan, whose two career victories have come over Keeneland's Polytrack surface.
"I think he will run well on dirt," Romans said of the half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. "He ran a big race in the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile) last fall (when fourth) and he is better this year. He should handle the surface."
Trainer Mike Maker said all was well with Hansen and Gung Ho on Sunday morning.
"Both of them got back safe and sound and are fine this morning," Maker said.
Hansen, with $1,550,000 in graded stakes earnings, will be the top money earner in this year's Kentucky Derby. Gung Ho picked up $75,000 in the Blue Grass, but has only $76,000 in graded money that does not figure to be enough to make the Derby field that is limited to the top 20 horses entered by graded stakes earnings.
"We are just going to soak it all in for now," Maker said. "I'm not sure where he (Gung Ho) will run next but the American Turf (Grade 2 on May 4 at Churchill) is among the possibilities."
Holy Candy and Midnight Crooner, the fourth- and eighth-place finishers, respectively, left Keeneland shortly after 6 a.m. (EDT) for a flight back to their Southern California base.
Dave Rock, assistant to trainer Graham Motion, said that fifth-place finisher Howe Great came out of the race in good order but that plans for a next start had not been determined. Howe Great had won three starts on grass prior to the Blue Grass.
Norman Casse, assistant trainer of sixth-place finisher Prospective, said the John Oxley-owned colt "came out of the race in good order."
Stabled at Churchill Downs, Prospective added $1,875 in graded money to his bankroll and now has $367,327 in graded stakes earnings -- more than enough to rank among the top 20 of horses under consideration for the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
"Right now, we are kind of on the fence (about the Derby)," Casse said.
Whit Beckman, assistant to Todd Pletcher, said that seventh-place finisher Heavy Breathing came out of the race fine.
"I think they are going to back off and give him a little time," Beckman said of Heavy Breathing, who has run three times in six weeks. "They had the Derby dream."
Trainer Jonathan Sheppard said that Ever So Lucky came out of his 10th-place finish fine.
"We are going to regroup," Sheppard said. "We will get our heads together and come up with something."
Trainer Gennadi Dorochenko said that Russian Greek (11th) and Hero of Order (13th) came out of the race fine.
"They didn't like the Polytrack," said Dorochenko, who plans to race at Arlington Park, which also has Polytrack, this summer.
"There are plenty of other racetracks," Dorochenko said. "We will give it a couple of days and see (what's next)."
Saturday was the biggest day in Keeneland history, for the track shattered its single-day attendance and all-sources wagering records.
On-track attendance of 40,617 crushed the previous record of 33,821 set on April 21, 2007, the day of then-Grade 2 Lexington. The former record for a Blue Grass Day attendance was 33,727 set on April 10, 2010.
All-sources wagering of $21,647,378.17 broke the former record of $19,246,840 set on the 2007 Blue Grass Day, which fell on April 14 that year. Saturday's card, which included the Grade 1 Jenny Wiley, Grade 2 Commonwealth and Grade 3 Shakertown, was the first 12-race program in Keeneland history.
In other Kentucky Derby news:
Chadds Ford Stable's Union Rags, one of the leading contenders for the 138th Kentucky Derby, arrived at Keeneland on Sunday morning after vanning from his winter headquarters at Palm Meadows in South Florida.
At Oaklawn Park, the top three finishers in Saturday's Grade 1 Arkansas Derby were relaxing the morning after they each secured their place in the Kentucky Derby in three weeks in Louisville.
By 8 a.m. (CDT), a quartet of dynamite performers for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert were lazily munching breakfast -- super impressive Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister and runner-up Secret Circle, himself a dual stakes winner this season, as well as Wednesday's Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes winner Mamma Kimbo and third-place finisher Jemima's Pearl. The two fillies are both prospects for the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 4. All four are scheduled to fly to Churchill Downs Monday morning.
Baffert's assistant Jim Barnes returned to California early Sunday morning with Friday's Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap winner Plum Pretty and Saturday's Northern Spur Stakes runner-up Drill. Baffert shipped six horses to this year's Racing Festival of the South and came away with three graded stakes victories (including two Grade 1s), two runner-up finishes and a third-place result.
"We took some really nice horses there," Baffert said Saturday. "They all ran well and had been training well."
Arkansas Derby day is the traditional closing act of the Oaklawn season. Mild weather contributed to four purse increases over the course of the 14-week run and Arkansas fans responded, with 63,804 flowing through the turnstiles Saturday. Live racing in Hot Springs, Arkansas, resumes January 11, 2013, for a 56-day meet.