A record crowd of 40,617 saw the late charging Dullahan win the Grade 1 $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, 1 1/4 lengths in front of favorite Hansen. The win gave Louisville favorite Dale Romans his first Blue Grass Stakes victory. Romans' best finish in the Blue Grass had been a second place finish with Paddy O'Prado in 2010.
Although the day ended with all eyes on Dullahan, as the day started for Keeneland's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, all eyes were on the favorite Hansen, but not because he was the two-year-old champion or the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner or even the Gotham Stakes winner. No, all eyes were on Hansen because owner, Dr. Kendall Hansen, had been rumored to have dyed the pale gray colt's tail blue. Dr. Hansen was seen leaving the stewards' room mid-afternoon muttering that "they weren't going to scratch him, but they weren't very happy with me."
In the end, the rumor proved true and the blue dye was removed. The only blue tails seen in the paddock before the race were on the models Dr. Hansen had enlisted to surround the horse and his connections.
The day belonged to Dullahan, and he earned it. Romans said after the race, "He did everything that a good horse has to do to 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."
Romans also noted that he thought the half-brother to Mine That Bird could go farther than the 1 1/8 mile distance of the Blue Grass and that the Kentucky Derby's 1 1/4 mile distance should be no problem.
Dullahan adds $450,000 to his previously accumulated $405,000 graded earnings. The $855,000 total moves him up from twelfth on the graded earnings list to fourth.
Hansen set sharp early fractions, taking the first quarter mile in :23.10 and the second in :46.64. In the end, that quick pace was the Tapit colt's undoing.
"The pace was too fast," said Hansen's trainer Mike Maker. "I knew in the first quarter. It was quicker than we wanted, but he was fresh today. The next one (race) is the big one."
Hansen's jockey Ramon Dominguez, who also rides Alpha--the second place finisher in the Wood Memorial, said of the fast fractions, "I knew he was running fast and I know he was really slowing down at the end. We all want to win these big races, and I hope to continue riding him because I think that distance is not an issue."
Gung Ho, Maker's forgotten longshot at 31-1, managed to keep pace with the leaders and held on for third. Holy Candy, the John Sadler shipper from California, closed late to finish fourth.
Dullahan paid $8.40, $3.60, and $3.00. Hansen returned $3.00 and $2.60 and completed the $2 exacta for $23.60. Gung Ho paid $9.20 and completed the $2 trifecta for $329.00. Holy Candy completed the $2 superfecta for $2,978.40. The final time for the 1 1/8 mile race on the fast polytrack was 1:47.94.