04/14/2007 12:00AM

It's Dominican at the wire in Blue Grass

Harold Roth/Horsephotos
Dominican (2) beats Street Sense (4) by a nose in the Blue Grass, with Zanjero (rail) a head back in third.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - When the field for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland began to thin out last week, trainer Darrin Miller decided to reroute Dominican from his intended start in Saturday's Arkansas Derby, reasoning a race over Polytrack would give his 3-year-old his best chance.

He was proven right, as Dominican, who had won two previous races on Polytrack at Keeneland and Turfway Park, overcame a dawdling pace to run down Street Sense, the Kentucky Derby favorite, and score an upset victory in a thrilling race that saw the first four finishers separated by less than a half-length.

Dominican beat Street Sense, the even-money favorite, by a nose, with Zanjero another head back in third, a head in front of fourth-place Teuflesberg, who nearly stole the race by setting a lethargic pace. Great Hunter, the second choice, finished fifth after checking between horses with a sixteenth of a mile to run.

The first five are all expected to come back May 5 in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Dominican completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.33 in a race that was slow early and blazing late, much like a turf race.

This was the first Blue Grass run over Keeneland's Polytrack surface, the all-weather track that proved its worth Saturday. A steady, soaking rain lasted much of the day and forced the day's scheduled grass races off the turf. Combined with the temperature in the low 40's, it was a raw, wintry day. The attendance of 18,056 was the smallest since Keeneland switched the Blue Grass to a Saturday in 1989.

It was too cold to drink beer, but that didn't stop it from being Miller time.

"The day he stepped on the Keeneland track, he was fine," said Miller, who trains Dominican, a gelding, for the Silverton Hill stable of Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton.

Dominican ($18), under jockey Rafael Bejarano, was fifth in the seven-horse field the first half of the race as Teuflesberg, under Edgar Prado, crawled along with fractions of 26.12 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 51.46 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:16.65 for six furlongs.

As the field went around the far turn, Dominican began to advance while wide, in the part of the track jockeys seemed to favor all day. He was widest of all into the stretch.

Great Hunter and Zanjero, who had been stalking Teuflesberg the first part of the race, made their bids, with Zanjero on the rail, and Great Hunter in the middle of the track. Street Sense then ranged up wider still, with Dominican on the far outside.

With 110 yards to go, Teuflesberg ducked out, and Street Sense drifted in, squeezing Great Hunter. But jockey Corey Nakatani said he did not claim foul because "I was beat."

The first four finishers bounded to the wire together, with Dominican getting the nod.

Carl Nafzger, the trainer of Street Sense, said his colt was erratic down the stretch.

"You don't duck in three times and win," Nafzger said. Nafzger said he would not add blinkers to Street Sense for the Derby.