Updated on 04/17/2012 1:21PM

Blue Grass: Dullahan uses powerful late kick to reel in Hansen; Kentucky Derby is next

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Dullahan, with Kent Desormeaux riding, goes past the favored Hansen to win the Blue Grass.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Dullahan stamped himself as one of the favorites for the 138th Kentucky Derby and put himself in the record books by rolling past favored Hansen to win the 88th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes on a warm Saturday afternoon at Keeneland.

With Kent Desormeaux aboard for the Donegal Racing partnership and trainer Dale Romans, Dullahan prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths over front-running Hansen, returning $8.40 as the second choice in a field of 13 3-year-olds. The chestnut colt became the first horse to win the Breeders' Futurity at 2 and the Blue Grass at 3 since the great Round Table did it in 1956-57.

"I'm absolutely thrilled," said Romans, a Louisville native and resident who, like most trainers, has made winning the Derby his Number 1 goal. "We're going home with a major threat to win the Kentucky Derby."

Hansen, the 6-5 choice, finished 2 1/2 lengths before third-place Gung Ho, a 31-1 shot, with Holy Candy (11-1) another length back in fourth.

Dullahan and Hansen already were assured spots in the field for the May 5 Derby because of their prior earnings, so the race brought no major shakeups in the pecking order in that regard.

In front of a record-breaking crowd of 40,617, Hansen broke swiftly under Ramon Dominguez to make a solo lead into the first turn and did not take any pressure going in fractions of 23.10 seconds, 46.64, and 1:11.32 while Dullahan bided his time in 10th. On the far turn, Desormeaux began passing horses along the rail, then swung his mount out for the drive without incurring any traffic trouble. Down the stretch, Dullahan came flying down the middle of the Polytrack surface, going past Hansen with surprising ease for his second victory from eight career starts, finishing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:47.94. His triumph in the Breeders' Futurity here last fall came as a maiden and makes him a rarity in that his first two career wins both came in Grade 1 events.

"Right at the quarter pole he switched leads, and as soon as he straightened up, there was a big hole that he ran right through," said Desormeaux, the Hall of Fame jockey who already has won the Derby three times. He was very strong all the way to the wire."

Regarding how his horse rated kindly through the early stages, Desormeaux added, "I didn't care where he was, as long as he was floating. He was in the bridle and floating -- which was too good to be true. That horse was trained to the minute. Do it again Dale -- one more time."

Dullahan is by Even the Score out of the mare Mining My Own, which makes him a half-brother to 2009 Derby winner Mine That Bird. He was a $250,000 purchase at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sales. The colt was coming off a second-place finish in the Palm Beach Stakes on the Gulfstream Park turf in his only prior start this year.

Donegal, Romans, and Desormeaux teamed two years ago with Paddy O'Prado, third in the Derby.

After the top four, the order was Howe Great, Prospective, Heavy Breathing, Midnight Crooner, Scatman, Ever So Lucky, Russian Greek, Politicallycorrect, and Hero of Order. All carried 123 pounds.

The day's attendance easily broke the previous mark of 33,821, set on Lexington Stakes Day in April 2007.

Great fanfare was part of the prerace story for the Blue Grass when Hansen, the 2-year-old champion of 2011, was supposed to show up in the paddock with his tail dyed blue. The stewards said several hours before the race that they would permit the spectacle to happen, but when the nearly white colt walked in the saddling area, the color had been washed out of the tail.

Meanwhile, Dr. Kendall Hansen, who named the star colt for himself, surrounded himself all day with a bevy of young ladies, including a trio dressed in flashy white dresses with fake blue horse tails and the word "Hansen" lettered across their backs.

Hansen's loss marks the 10th straight year that the favorite has been defeated in the Blue Grass. It also means the last juvenile champion to win the Blue Grass was Rockhill Native in 1980.

The $2 exacta (6-4) paid $23.60, the $1 trifecta (6-4-2) returned $164.50, and the dime superfecta (6-4-2-9) was worth $148.92.