04/16/2012 12:38PM

Keeneland: Maker continues to impress in Blue Grass

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Coady Photography/Keeneland
Hansen (left) runs second to Dullahan in the Blue Grass.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The respective second- and third-place finishes in the Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday by Hansen and Gung Ho (31-1) added to an impressive recent record that trainer Mike Maker has compiled in the Keeneland showcase, particularly with longshots. Maker won the Blue Grass in 2010 with Stately Victor (40-1) and was beaten just a nose last year with Twinspired (24-1).

Meanwhile, Maker said a perceived tiff with Dr. Kendall Hansen, the majority owner of Hansen, has been smoothed over amid a misunderstanding regarding the blue dye that Hansen had ordered to be used to color the nearly-white colt’s tail hours before the race Saturday. After several hours, the dye was taken out of the tail, and the colt walked into the paddock as if nothing had happened.

Maker said the Keeneland stewards told him they were not going to let the colt run with the dyed tail, but later in the afternoon, the stewards said they were going to allow it. In the walking ring before the race, Maker and Hansen appeared to be angry with one another when they finally had the opportunity to discuss the matter. Maker said cell-phone communications had been nearly impossible Saturday because of the big crowd and that he and Hansen talked things out Sunday.

“We’re good,” he said. “Now it’s on to the Derby.”

Maker pulled off a noteworthy feat on the Sunday card when he sent out a 5-year-old first-time starter named Kathy’s Kitten to an eight-length, front-running victory at 1 1/8 miles over the Polytrack. “He’d had some problems earlier in his career but obviously he’s over them now,” said Maker. Ken and Sarah Ramsey own and bred Kathy’s Kitten, by Kitten’s Joy.

Leparoux on top

As the spring meet hits its exact midpoint Wednesday with the eighth of 15 programs, Julien Leparoux has assumed his familiar spot atop the jockey standings after winning with 11 of a meet-high 49 mounts. Jimmy Graham is second with six wins.

Leparoux started the meet somewhat slowly by going 1 for 13 but since has enjoyed three multiple-win days, including a four-win day here Friday. The 28-year-old Frenchman will ride in Kentucky through the Derby before moving to Belmont Park for the rest of the spring.

New arrivals in town

Horsemen coming from the Oaklawn Park meet that ended Saturday will start being active here this week. Among the jockeys on the Thursday overnight are Jon Court, Ramon Vazquez, and Greta Kuntzweiler, along with trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Tim Ice.

Meanwhile, three-time Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel can be expected to begin riding Saturday at Keeneland after serving a three-day suspension Wednesday-through-Friday for an infraction at the Oaklawn meet, according to agent Jerry Hissam.

◗ The combined three-day attendance over Blue Grass weekend was a Keeneland record, which is no surprise, considering how the 40,617 crowd here Saturday smashed the old record. The three days drew 79,718, surpassing the former mark of 73,187 set on Lexington weekend of the 2007 spring meet.

◗ Derby contender Daddy Nose Best followed the familiar Steve Asmussen pattern of working every Monday morning when he went five furlongs in company at Churchill Downs. Working outside of stablemate Hierro, Daddy Nose Best breezed in 1:00.20 before galloping out in 1:13.80 and 1:29.20. Daddy Nose Best won the Sunland Park Derby to assure himself a Derby spot and will be ridden by Garrett Gomez.