04/15/2012 10:34AM

Keeneland: Romans gives Dullahan his nod as favorite for Kentucky Derby

Keeneland/Coady Photography
Blue Grass Stakes winner Dullahan earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Dullahan earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory Saturday in the Blue Grass Stakes, the Grade 1 race that highlighted a record-setting day at historic Keeneland.

Trainer Dale Romans said Sunday morning that Dullahan came out of his 1 1/4-length victory over Hansen in good shape and that his newest stable star most likely will have one breeze at his home track, Churchill Downs, on April 28, the Saturday before the colt runs back as one of the top contenders in the 138th Kentucky Derby.

The Blue Grass victory was one of the greatest victories for Romans since he began training horses in 1986 at age 19, and he said he was besieged with congratulations from friends and business associates.

“It got up to 85 text messages, and there were 40 phone messages I still haven’t been able to answer,” he said.

Dullahan’s triumph came on the biggest day of business in the 76-year history of Keeneland. Ontrack attendance of 40,617 smashed the old record of 33,821 set nearly five years ago on Lexington Stakes Day, while all-sources handle of $21,647,378 also easily broke the old record of $19.2 million, set five years ago on Blue Grass Day. The 12 races run Saturday were the most ever for a single card at Keeneland.

Romans said he believes three horses deserve consideration for favorite in this wide-open Derby: Dullahan, Gemologist, and Bodemeister.

“I give my horse the slight edge,” he said.

Dullahan was ridden by Kent Desormeaux, the Hall of Fame jockey who goes into the Derby with a chance to match the legendary Bill Shoemaker in the record books. Desormeaux already has won the Derby three times, with Real Quiet (1998), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000), and Big Brown (2008), and a fourth win would tie him with Shoemaker with four wins. Only Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack, both with five, have more Derby wins.

As for Hansen, he earned a 96 Beyer for his runner-up finish and returned in good shape to his home base at the Trackside training center just a few miles from Churchill. The nearly white colt incurred his second career defeat versus four victories in the Blue Grass.

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. The third-place finisher, Gung Ho, earned $75,000 from the $750,000 purse and surely will miss the earnings cutoff that governs eligibility.

Meanwhile, only one horse who runs next Saturday  in the $200,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes has a chance to make the Derby field: Reveron, the longshot runner-up in the Florida Derby. Reveron, trained by Agustin Bezara, is one of about 10 probables for the 1 1/16-mile Lexington, according to Keeneland stakes coordinator Scott Jones. Entries will be drawn Wednesday.