Dullahan rumbled down the Keeneland stretch on Saturday to collar Eclipse champion and race favorite Hansen to win the 88th running of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
Owned by Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing and trained by Dale Romans, Dullahan was sent off as the second choice in the race. He signaled his readiness with a bullet :57 2/5 workout over the synthetic surface at Keeneland on April 12.
“He did everything that a good horse has to do to win,” Romans told Keeneland Publicity following the win. “When it’s time to accelerate, (jockey Kent Desormeaux) had enough horse to split through. He gets the job done. He’s just a special horse.”
Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Dullahan closed from 11th position early to nail Hansen in deep stretch and crossed the wire 1 ¼ lengths clear of that rival who finished second. Dullahan covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.94. Gung Ho finished third and Holy Candy closed from last to finish fourth in his stakes debut.
“He switched leads, and he just exploded,” Desormeaux said. “As soon as he straightened (turning for home), there was a hole. He ran through that and then he said, ‘Now what I do?’ And I asked him to keep going. He was very strong all the way to the wire.”
In winning the Blue Grass, Dullahan became the first horse since Round Table (1956-57) to win both the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland as a 2-year-old and the Blue Grass Stakes the following year.
Dullahan is a chestnut colt by Even the Score—Mining My Own, by Smart Strike. The Keeneland sale graduate, a half-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, was bred by Phil Needham, Judy Needham and Bena Halecky. Dullahan finished fourth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) over the main track at Churchill Downs. Now it’s on to Louisville.
The Blue Grass wasn’t without some controversy.
Turf writer Jennie Rees reported through social media earlier in the day that Dr. Kendall Hansen had been called to the stewards’ office at Keeneland for coloring Hansen’s tail blue. Rees went on to report that Dr. Hansen and trainer Michael Maker will have a hearing before stewards on possible rules violations. By the time of the Blue Grass, Hansen’s tail was back to its natural color.
Hansen set all the pace in the Blue Grass. He turned for home with a clear advantage under Ramon Dominguez, but could not withstand the late charge of Dullahan.
“I know he broke really well. I was kinda hoping he’d tuck in. He went about three or four lengths faster than he should have; it (the half-mile time) was 46 and change. But what’s great is the last furlong he went about 12 and 2, and he finished strong,” said Dr. Hansen. “Dullahan was just sharp today. I heard Dale Romans loved him all week, so I wasn’t surprised. We have another chance in three weeks (in the Kentucky Derby).
“He ran great, great times,” he added. “He did all the work on the front end. It’s all right.”