05/07/2011 2:24PM

Humana Distaff: Sassy Image springs upset at 16-1

Tom Keyser
Sassy Image pays $34.20 after winning the Humana Distaff under Robby Albarado on Saturday at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Sassy Image swooped past heavily favored Hilda's Passion to give the local team of jockey Robby Albarado and trainer Dale Romans an upset score in the Grade 1, $345,600 Humana Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Hilda's Passion fought off a persistent challenge from Tidal Pool to maintain a slim lead as the fillies and mares passed the furlong pole, but she had nothing left when Sassy Image came rolling on the outside. The winner paid $34.20 as the longest shot in a field of seven after finishing the seven-furlong distance in 1:21.01 over a fast track.

"It's always incredible to win a race here on Derby Day," said Romans, who trains Sassy Image for his brother, Jerry Romans Jr. "But for it to be a Grade 1, and to have family involved like this . . . it's unreal."

Hilda's Passion, as expected, made the front as the 3-5 favorite under Javier Castellano, setting fractions of 22.29 and 44.68 seconds while pressed from the outside by Tidal Pool. The early pressure apparently took its toll, with Hilda's Passion holding second by three-quarters of a length from Amen Hallelujah. Completing the order were Tidal Pool, Shotgun Gulch, Evening Jewel, and Twelve Twenty Two. Stage Magic was an early scratch.

Albarado, a longtime Louisville resident who earlier in the week suffered a broken nose and other facial injuries in a pre-race accident and was taken off Derby starter Animal Kingdom, rode a masterful race. After leaving cleanly from post 1, Albarado got his mount to relax before angling her out for the drive, and with a sensational run, Sassy Image went on to prevail by two lengths.

Sassy Image, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred by Broken Vow, was quite precocious early in her career, particularly at Churchill, winning the Pocahontas and Golden Rod before also winning a small stakes race at Gulfstream Park early in her 3-year-old season. But an injury seemed to compromise her career, although Romans said her recent training suggested she was finally ready to return to form.

"She'd had three great works over this track since we got back from Florida," said Romans. "I didn't know if she could compete with these top fillies, but I thought with her best she might be able to."

Romans was born and raised in Louisville, where his father, Jerry Romans Sr., was a successful horseman on the Kentucky circuit before his death in 2000 at age 58.