By Dick Downey
Dance With Fate, pointed to the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes since before finishing a close second in the El Camino Real Derby in February, got the job done with a closing, going-away move under Corey Nakatani on the Polytrack at Keeneland.
It was the final Blue Grass Stakes on the synthetic track in Lexington. Trainer Peter Eurton said earlier this week that Dance With Fate is a synthetic-track horse but didn’t rule out a run in the Kentucky Derby should he pick up the needed points. With the 100 points gained in the Blue Grass, Dance With Fate now has a total of 108.
“Maybe when he gets bigger and stronger he will be better on dirt, but I think he is better on Polytrack,” Eurton said. “He’s a wonderful turf horse. He relaxes on grass and he has a great turn of foot.”
The win is the culmination of hopes long in the making.
“This race has been in the plans since the Breeders’ Cup,” Eurton said. “The Blue Grass is a destination more than anything, and not just a prep for the Derby.”
Dance With Fate wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown initially but was late-nominated with a payment of $6,000 by the March 22 deadline.
Medal Count also closed to get second place, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, after winning the Transylvania Stakes eight days earlier when the race was moved off the turf. The 40 points he earned will be enough to make the Kentucky Derby as well, and trainer Dale Romans is expected to move in that direction.
Pablo Del Monte, who led the field through fractions of :23.58, :47.59 and 1:12.74, faded to third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Medal Count. He earned 20 Derby points.
Big Bazinga was fourth, another 5 1/4 lengths back, after being placed last at the first call. He was awarded 10 Derby points.
The final time was 1:50.06.
The top finishers were followed by Coltimus Prime, Gala Award, So Lonesome, Asserting Bear, Casiguapo, Coastline, Extrasexyhippzster, Bobby’s Kitten, Harry’s Holiday and Vinceremos.
Bobby’s Kitten was the biggest disappointment in the race after being sent off as the 7-2 favorite, and Vinceremos was next, having been the horse with the most Derby points prior to the race. He has 20.
Dance With Fate paid $14.80 to win, $6.80 to place and $5.80 to show in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass.
In his only two starts on dirt, both in 2013, Dance With Fate finished second in the FrontRunner Stakes and eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after being squeezed at the start.
“He made the lead and then hung in the FrontRunner and I don’t think he saw (Bond Holder),” Eurton said earlier this week. “Then he had problems in the Breeders’ Cup.”
It was the third win in eight starts for Dance With Fate – and his first stakes win. Last year, he finished second in the Del Mar Futurity, on run on synthetic. He’s finished second three times as well. His maiden win came on synthetic, and an allowance win came on turf at Santa Anita.
A son of Two Step Salsa, Dance With Fate is out of Flirting With Fate, by Saint Ballado. He was bred in Florida by Best A Luck Farm LLC.
Owned by Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing LLC, Dance With Fate was purchased for $120,000 in the Ocala April 2013 sale.
Peter Eurton: Will you go to the Derby? "I don't know; it's pretty quick three weeks back, and I know he likes synthetic, I just don't know if he likes dirt.
"(Rafael Bejarano) tells me when the dirt hits him in the face, it changes his way of going. Maybe he’ll grow out of that as he matures, but I don’t know.”
Corey Nakatani: “They were actually going a little slower than I anticipated, but you never really know with Polytrack. Peter had told me before the race, ‘Make your best run when you can,’ and so I said, okay, let’s do it. All I needed was to get him switched off and in a rhythm. Robby was one of the others I had my eye on. I had all the confidence we could win if we could just get the right trip.
“I don’t have any doubt he can (get 1 1/4 mile). It’s just a matter of whether he’ll handle the Churchill Downs surface at this point. He’s done things right. He seems to do well on the grass, and at Churchill, I’ve won the Oaks on a filly that won on the grass, so hopefully we’ll get him there after this race.”
Robby Albarado (rider of runner-up Medal Count): “He acted like a good horse today. He ranged to (the leader) like a good horse. He had a wide trip both turns. With a field like this, you kind of expect that at Keeneland, with the Polytrack, whereas on traditional dirt they kind of stretch themselves out pretty good and you can kind of weave your way in and out. He’s a grown-up horse now. He’s got a lot of hair on his chest, all the trouble he’s been in in his career. He’s a man now.”
Dale Romans (trainer of Medal Count): “The 13 hole’s not the best and he was a bit wide on both turns, but I think that’s better for this horse than being stuck inside and having to stop and start. So everything went well. I didn’t see a real problem with (the trip). In a 14-horse field, you can’t expect to have a perfect trip unless you’re just going to be on the lead.”
Victor Espinoza (jockey of third-place finisher Pablo Del Monte): "He broke OK and I was able to take the lead easy. He was nice and comfortable and was just loping around. Turning for home, he spooked a little bit and it cost him a few strides. I still thought he had enough because he was going so easy. When he lost his stride, it kind of cost me but he was able to recover. I thought I would at least get second.”
Wesley Ward (trainer of Pablo Del Monte): “The plan was, I told Victor, to ride him just like he rode (California Chrome) in the Santa Anita Derby, and he was only two spots away. Very happy with how he ran. We’re ecstatic and very proud of him.”
Brian Hernandez Jr. (rider of fourth-place finisher Big Bazinga): “He ran a big race. We had a great trip up until about the three-eighths pole when we had to wait a little while for a little clearing. Once he got through, he came running again.”
Alan Garcia (rider of fifth-place finisher Coltimus Prime): “We had a great trip. He finished very strong and I was very happy with his performance. He’s a very nice horse and he’s going to improve a lot off this.”
John Velazquez (rider of sixth-place finisher Gala Award): “We were far out there (in the 14 post position) and I couldn’t get to where I wanted to so I dropped in as far as I could. I don’t think he liked the track. He kept bouncing up and down the whole way around and was never comfortable and couldn’t get in any good rhythm.”
Joe Rocco Jr. (rider of seventh-place finisher So Lonesome): “Nice colt. He didn't get off too good, and I think that really compromised his start, because he was too far back from where we wanted to be."
Emma-Jayne Wilson (rider of eighth-place finisher Asserting Bear): “The one hole wasn't something we were too concerned about, but he was in there quite a while and balled up on us and didn't break as sharply as we would've liked, which put us in a pocket. The rail’s not that good right now, trying to give him an opportunity to get out and by the time I got out, he doesn't kick the way those horses kick. He’s a steady gain and by the time we got a run, it was too little, too late.
Rajiv Maragh (rider of ninth-place finisher Casiguapo): “My horse tried hard. He just couldn’t match strides with the top horses at the end. He was running good early on. He made me think I had a great shot at winning but then they picked it up strong at the finish and they left him.”
Stewart Elliott (rider of 10th-place finisher Coastline): “Well, I thought we had good position and he was running along nice and comfortable and then at the end of the race he just stopped.”
Julian Pimentel (rider of 11th-place finisher Extrasexyhippzster): “I had a perfect trip. I was lying on the rail and saving some ground around the turn. I thought I had some horse left but they just ran away from me.”
Javier Castellano (rider of 12th-place finisher and 7-2 favorite Bobby’s Kitten): “He ran a good race but unfortunately I don’t think he liked the Polytrack. He was (strong) in the beginning, but he relaxed on the backside. That was not a problem.”
Chad Brown (trainer of Bobby’s Kitten): “That was not what we were looking for, but we gave it a try. In the second half of the race, he lost (interest) and didn’t seem to care for the track. He was a little keen down the backside, and I thought Javier did a good job to keep him relaxed as much as he could. He will be back on turf next time.”
Rosie Napravnik (rider of 13th-place finisher Harry’s Holiday): “I had to run for position into the first turn, and there were a couple of us in pretty tight. But I ended up in a great spot. We didn’t really have an excuse from there.”
Julien Leparoux (rider of 14th-place finisher Vinceremos): “It set up like we thought. He broke good and I put him in the race – a little wider at the turn but the number 12, there is nothing we can do. He sat there very nice and relaxed but when the race started to get going at the three-eighths pole he just didn’t really kick at the end.”