More than Dominican's five-wide move in the stretch and more than the sight of the gelding running down champion Street Sense, what trainer Darrin Miller recalls most about his triumph in the 2007 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes is the look he received from Silverton Hill owner Tom Hamilton.
"I think Tom Hamilton's absolute disbelief is what stands out," Miller said Wednesday morning. "It was an unbelievable race, and it was a real overwhelming stretch run, but what sticks out the most is his reaction."
If Miller's best laid plans come to fruition this Saturday, expect Hamilton's memorable expression to reappear.
Two years after Dominican upset eventual Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in the Blue Grass Stakes, Miller is looking to again claim Keeneland's signature race Saturday with Cliffy's Future, who was installed at 20-1 on the morning line on Wednesday.
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That Miller has been able to launch Cliffy's Future into the Blue Grass picture is an accomplishment in itself. He has only had the dark bay colt for two starts since Tom and Bonnie Hamilton — who also own Dominican — purchased him privately.
Although Cliffy's Future finished a dull eighth in his first start for Miller, the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 14, the son of The Cliff's Edge was much improved his next time out in a 21/2-length win in the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park on March 21.
"I think for the Sam F. Davis I learned a lot about him as an individual and physically, sort of what ails him, what doesn't, how he might like to run," said Miller, who worked Cliffy's Future three furlongs in :36.40 Wednesday morning. "He seemed to come out of (the Rushaway) good and I think he will be very consistent. It doesn't look like an overwhelming cast (for the Blue Grass) so it looked like a good spot."
Though he boasts just two wins from nine career starts, Cliffy's Future has hit the board in six of those outings and run against such top company as graded stakes winners Beethoven, General Quarters, Hold Me Back, and Musket Man.
In his lone previous start at Keeneland last October, Cliffy's Future ran a solid third behind Hold Me Back, who is coming off a win in the Lane's End Stakes and is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the 11-horse field.
Cliffy's Future will need another good performance Saturday if he's to go on to Churchill Downs.
"He's got to prove that he certainly belongs, but if he were to run well, sure we would (think about the Kentucky Derby)," Miller said. "That doesn't come around very often so you take a shot."
Dominican went on to finish 11th in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, but — aside from their shared connections — Miller is quick to downplay any similarities between that gelding and his current Derby hopeful.
"They're completely different horses," he said.
Of course, after Saturday, Miller hopes Cliffy's Future does have one more thing in common with his past Blue Grass Stakes winner.
"I'm not looking at it as lightning striking twice, I'm looking at it as just another opportunity," Miller said. "However, if it did strike twice, great. This is a great race to win."
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Hold Me Back