04/05/2010 11:00PM

Paddy O'Prado's dirt ability unknown


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The synthetic era has altered the Kentucky Derby landscape in recent years, for better or worse, with big-money races at California and Kentucky tracks affording virtually automatic entry into the Derby to horses whose dirt form is questionable at best.

At least three of the seven 3-year-olds expected to race Saturday over Polytrack in the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland fit a turf/synthetic profile and could advance to the Derby with a victory or runner-up finish - Make Music for Me, Interactif, and Paddy O'Prado. They would join the likes of Sidney's Candy and Dean's Kitten, who already are bound for the May 1 Derby with no one having an accurate gauge of their abilities on dirt.

Dale Romans, who trains Paddy O'Prado for Donegal Racing, said he will make no apologies about this turf/synthetic loophole of sorts if his colt wins the Blue Grass. "We'll run in the Derby," he said flatly.

Paddy O'Prado blossomed this winter into an excellent turf runner. A son of El Prado, he won the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes last month at Gulfstream Park for his first career victory, and as most every serious handicapper knows, turf horses tend to run well over synthetics.

"He only has one dirt race, and that was sprinting as a 2-year-old," said Romans. "This horse wants to run far. He trains well on the dirt, and distance is important to him. We wouldn't go in the Derby gate knowing for sure he'd run well, but we'd be hoping. It seems like he's figured racing out."

Romans said he gives Paddy O'Prado "a very good chance Saturday. He's had two good breezes over the Polytrack and seems to like it a lot."

Entries for the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass were scheduled to be drawn Wednesday. In addition to Paddy O'Prado, Make Music for Me, and Interactif, the other probable starters are Aikenite, Codoy, Odysseus, and Pleasant Prince. Codoy also has specialized in turf and synthetics, but his connections have said they doubt they would go in the Derby even with a big effort Saturday.