04/16/2011 7:08PM

Blue Grass: Brilliant Speed gives Weber second chance at Derby

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Brilliant Speed gets up in the last jump of the Blue Grass under Joel Rosario.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Live Oak Plantation of Charlotte Weber lost its major hope for the 137th Kentucky Derby when To Honor and Serve was declared from consideration earlier this month with a suspensory injury. But against the odds, Brilliant Speed gave Live Oak a brand new Derby prospect Saturday when the homebred colt rallied to nip Twinspired in leading a parade of longshots in a stunning 87th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

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Brilliant Speed, trained by Tom Albertrani, was dismissed at 19-1 and had just one rival beaten in the 12-horse field turning into the stretch of the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass. Wheeled out into the middle of the Polytrack for the drive, the Dynaformer colt launched a furious run that nailed Twinspired, a 24-1 shot, by an inch or two. King Congie, a 13-1 shot also trained by Albertrani, finished just another head behind the top two when situated between them on the wire.

Brilliant Speed probably will head to the May 7 Derby at Churchill Downs, Albertrani said afterward. “I think Mrs. Weber probably has an idea that we might want to go to the Derby,” he said.

To Honor and Serve, trained by Bill Mott for Live Oak, had been a leading Derby contender entering 2011 before running two subpar races at Gulfstream Park and ultimately being sidelined with his injury.

Brilliant Speed returned $40.20 after finishing in 1:50.92. Newsdad, at 17-1, was fourth, another length behind, while Santiva, the 2-1 favorite, faded down the stretch to be ninth.

Brilliant Speed trailed for much of the way before edging ahead of just one opponent, Sensational Slam, nearing the quarter pole. Asked afterward if he thought he might have waited too long, Rosario said with a smile: “You’ve got to be patient in all things, right?”

Brilliant Speed had raced primarily on turf before Albertrani chose to try synthetic in the Blue Grass. “The transition from turf to Poly, we thought maybe he’d run good,” said Albertrani. “That’s why we ran here.”

Albertrani spoke at length at a post-race media conference and said he thought the colt will handle the Churchill surface. “He’s trained over the dirt all winter just fine at Palm Meadows” in south Florida, said Albertrani. “We’ll work him a couple times over it at Churchill and see how he handles it. I don’t see why he wouldn’t like it.”

Albertrani smiled when reminded that Barbaro, also a Dynaformer colt who wintered at Palm Meadows, made a successful switch from from turf to dirt before winning the 2006 Kentucky Derby. “Oh, I know,” he said.

Brilliant Speed was winning for just the second time in eight career starts. He earned $450,000 after having banked just $65,750 beforehand.

On a cold, dank, very windy afternoon, and before an ontrack crowd of 24,990, Joes Blazing Aaron set the pace under Garrett Gomez, going in 25.14, 50.33, and 1:14.76 before the pack closed in. Twinspired, ridden by Robby Albarado, shot out of the pack to open a clear lead passing the furlong pole, and it appeared the colt would prevail until the final strides, when Brilliant Speed barely got past.

“I called on him, and he gave me what he had to the wire,” said Albarado. “It was unfortunate he came on the losing end of it.”

The excruciating defeat for Twinspired, most recently third in the Vinery Spiral at Turfway, denied trainer Mike Maker a second straight huge upset victory in the Blue Grass. Maker sent out Stately Victor to win last year at $82.20, the biggest win mutuel in race history.

“My first thought was I didn’t think we won,” said Maker, “and the second one, I thought we won for sure.”

Twinspired earned $150,000 and now has $197,500, putting him on the bubble for the 20-horse cutoff into the Derby field. Maker said he and the colt’s owners probably will want to run in the Derby if they can.

Besides Santiva, other notable also-rans included Crimson China, fifth as the 5-1 second choice, and Willcox Inn, eighth as the 7-1 third choice.

The longshot win continued a Blue Grass tradition since the race was first run on Polytrack in 2007. Prior winners were Dominican (8-1 in 2007), Momba (8-1, 2008), General Quarters (14-1, 2009) and Stately Victor (40-1, 2010).

Predictacly, $2 mutuel payoffs were huge in this Blue Grass: $655.20 on the exacta (5-7), $6,006.40 on the trifecta (5-7-2), and a whopping $129,093.60 on the superfecta (5-7-2-1).