04/09/2016 7:38PM

Brody's Cause rebounds strongly in Blue Grass Stakes

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Jockey Luis Saez celebrates after Brody's Cause, second choice at 4-1, wins the Blue Grass Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Brody’s Cause took lengthy strides toward the Kentucky Derby when rebounding off a poor 3-year-old debut and posting an emphatic 1 3/4-length victory Saturday under Luis Saez in the 92nd running of the Grade 1, $1 million Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

My Man Sam was along late to get second by a head over Cherry Wine in the Keeneland spring showcase, while Laoban finished fourth and Zulu, the 2-1 favorite, faded to 12th in a field of 14 3-year-olds. The first- and third-place  finishers are trained by Dale Romans.

Brody’s Cause returned $10.40 to win as second choice after finishing the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:50.20 over a fast track.

The triumph by Brody’s Cause not only marked the second time in four years that Romans has completed a sweep of the Breeders’ Futurity and Blue Grass with the same horse – he did it in 2011-12 with Dullahan – but more importantly, put Romans squarely in the picture for the May 7 Derby at Churchill Downs with Brody’s Cause, a colt with an affinity for distance.

“We’re on to the Kentucky Derby with a real chance,” said Romans.

Brody’s Cause was the only previous stakes winner in the Blue Grass lineup. A son of Giant’s Causeway, Brody’s Cause won a maiden race last September at Churchill before winning the Breeders’ Futurity in his next start. He then finished third behind Nyquist and Swipe in the Oct. 31 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland.

On an unseasonably cold spring day, and with 20,848 in attendance, Laoban set fractions of 23.44 and 46.75 seconds over a fast track while Brody’s Cause and Saez lagged near the back of the pack. Nearing the quarter pole, Star Hill went to a momentary lead after a sustained run through the final turn, but then the closers unleashed their rallies.

Brody’s Cause swung out and was swiftest of all, clearing off inside the eighth pole en route to earning 100 Derby qualifying points and a $600,000 check for his owners, the Albaugh Family Stable of Dennis Albaugh.

“When I put him outside, he kept going,” said Saez.

Brody’s Cause was coming off a weak race in his lone start since the Breeders’ Cup, a seventh-place finish in the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby.

“He’s a horse that needs a race,” said Romans. “The Tampa race did him a lot of good. We got him back where he needed to be, and he showed what he can do. This is the second biggest race in Kentucky, in my opinion, and it feels great to win it.”

Bred in Kentucky by the partnership of Gabriel Duignan, William Arvin Jr., and Petaluma Bloodstock, Brody’s Cause was a $350,000 purchase at the 2014 Keeneland yearling sale.

My Man Sam, who broke from the 14-hole with Julien Leparoux up, closed resolutely on the far outside after being rank on the first turn. He had three prior starts, all on the inner track at Aqueduct.

“For him to go as wide as he did from as far back as he did and still
get up for second shows what a remarkable race he ran,” trainer Chad Brown said from New York. “Hats off to the winner;  the winner ran terrific, but I think everyone would agree that My Man Sam ran the best race.”

With a points distribution of 100-40-20-10, the top four Blue Grass finishers all could make the Derby field – including the Eric Guillot-trained Laoban, still a maiden after five starts.

After the top four, the full order was Star Hill, Goats Town, Lookin for a Kiss, Donegal Moon, Crescent Drive, Cards of Stone, Zapperini, Zulu, American Dubai, and Twizz. The two also-eligibles, Pinson and Hint of Roses, were early scratches.

The $2 exacta (6-14) paid $67, the $1 trifecta (6-14-3) returned $153.10, and the 10-cent superfecta (6-14-3-7) was worth $152.01.

Attendance clearly was compromised by the frigid weather, as temperatures never got out of the 40s. The Keeneland record crowd of 40,617 showed up four years ago for the Blue Grass.

The Blue Grass, the last of five graded stakes on an 11-race card, ended a two-track wager that combined stakes from Aqueduct and Keeneland and attracted handle of $423,679. A winning 50-cent ticket in the Big Apple-Blue Grass pick four (5-2-8-6) was worth $322.10.