LEXINGTON, Ky. — Stately Victor stunned the field Saturday at the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes, surging to the front in the stretch then pulling away to beat Paddy O'Prado by 4¼ lengths and secure an unlikely spot in next month's Kentucky Derby.
The 3-year-old bay colt went off at 40-1, the longest shot in the nine-horse field filled with Derby hopefuls. He didn't look like an underdog as he recovered from a slow start to win the 1⅛-mile race in 1:48.69 over Polytrack at Keeneland and collect the $450,000 winner's check.
Tampa Bay Derby winner Odysseus finished last in the Grade I stakes race.
The race was supposed to be the last shot for Kentucky Derby prospects Odysseus, Interactif and Pleasant Prince to earn enough money to assure themselves a spot in the Run for the Roses.
While Interactif is almost guaranteed a spot in the Derby based on his graded stakes earnings, it looks like Odysseus and Pleasant Prince — seemingly locks a few weeks ago — will need help to run in the Derby on May 1.
Stately Victor was a late add to the field for trainer Mike Maker but hardly raced like an afterthought as he roared by his more accomplished competition. The horse ridden by jockey Alan Garcia paid $82.20, $30.40 and $12.80, the largest winning payoff in the 86 editions of the Blue Grass.
Paddy O'Prado and jockey Kent Desormeaux appeared to have things under control in the stretch before fading late to finish second, followed by First Dude.
Stately Victor, owned by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and his father, Tom, came into the race with just one win in seven lifetime starts and had finished a distant sixth in his only start in a graded stakes race: the Breeders' Futurity last fall.
When Tom Conway decided to enter the horse in the seemingly overmatched Blue Grass Stakes, his son's response was far from encouraging.
"Really?" Jack Conway recalled asking his father.
"I was not in on that decision," he added, laughing.
Conway is running as a Democrat vying for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jim Bunning.
"Derby week just got a heck of a lot busier," Conway said.
Arkansas Derby: Turns out Line of David digs the dirt.
The front-running colt won the $1 million race in Hot Springs by a neck, propelling the 17-1 long shot into Kentucky Derby consideration after his debut on dirt.
Line of David had never before run in a stakes race and his past two victories were on turf. His three races before those came on synthetic surfaces, although he has trained on dirt in Southern California.
Suddenly, trainer John Sadler has two prospects for the Derby, along with Sidney's Candy, who went gate-to-wire in winning last weekend's Santa Anita Derby. He's also aiming filly Crisp toward the Derby-eve Kentucky Oaks.
It was the biggest victory of veteran jockey Jon Court's career in his first time riding the colt.
Trainer Todd Pletcher's Super Saver, a third-place finisher in the Tampa Bay Derby, was second on Oaklawn's dirt.
"This ought to really set him up well," co-owner Bill Casner of WinStar Farm said. "You've got to hand it to the winner. He just ran a monster race."
Dublin was another neck back in third for four-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Line of David ran the 1⅛ miles in 1:49.37 and paid $36.60, $14.80 and $6.80 to win the richest Derby prep in the country. He's a son of 2004 Kentucky Derby runnerup Lion Heart.
Times correspondent Don Jensen contributed to this report.