Considering who Dullahan's family is, owner Jerry Crawford hoped a trip to Churchill Downs would eventually be the agenda for the half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
"Trust me, Churchill is on our radar, though we were thinking next year," Crawford laughed on Saturday.
That van ride to Louisville for the chestnut colt is likely to happen in the coming weeks now after he surged past Majestic City in late stretch to win the Grade I, $400,000 Breeders' Futurity for 2-year-olds by three-quarters of a length.
The Breeders' Futurity was one of five stakes races and three Grade I contests on the Keeneland card. As expected, the 11⁄16-mile test delivered a result that will produce a starter for the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4 and 5, but whether Dullahan goes in the $2 million Juvenile or $1 million Juvenile Turf is yet to be decided.
What Dullahan's connections do know is, like his brother, the son of Even the Score relishes running on the Polytrack. After the colt began his career with four losses — two on the dirt at Churchill and two on the Saratoga turf — Crawford reminded trainer Dale Romans that Mine That Bird was a Canadian juvenile champion running on the Polytrack at Woodbine.
"It's the reason I wanted to run in this race," Crawford said. "Mine That Bird became a monster on the Polytrack late in his 2-year-old year and after Saratoga, I said to Dale, why not give him a try on the Polytrack.
"The Juvenile Turf is a mile and he likes to go a little further than that and the Juvenile is on the dirt, so we'll see how he comes out and then make a decision."
Sent off at odds of 17-to-1, Dullahan had raced closer to the pace in his previous starts but was shuffled back to 11th in the 13-horse field around the first turn when he had to check up in traffic.
"The horse inside came out and I caught his hock actually," jockey Kent Desormeaux said. "I got clear of that and put him to work and he got the job done."
With Majestic City chasing Musical Flair through an opening half in :46.15, Desormeaux angled Dullahan out five wide on the backstretch and was closing up quick on the final turn. Majestic City held a 21/2-length advantage in the stretch but gave way late as Dullahan kicked in on the outside to cover the distance in 1:43.12.
"When you can overcome adversity and win a Grade I, you're a really good horse," Romans said.
Never Retreat topples all in First Lady Stakes
In what was likely the final start of her 31-race career, Team Block's Never Retreat became a Grade I winner when she overtook pacesetter Wasted Tears inside the final furlong to win the $350,000 First Lady Stakes by 11/2 lengths.
The 6-year-old daughter of Smart Strike had hit the board in 23 of her previous starts and came into the 1-mile First Lady off a score in the Grade II Canadian at Woodbine on Sept.18.
Though she was seventh in her previous try against Grade I company, the Beverly D. on Aug. 13, Never Retreat was much the best Saturday when she swept up four wide in the lane after rating in fourth through a half in :46.80.
"She couldn't be any better," said trainer Neil Pessin, who saddled Never Retreat for her trainer Chris Block, who was in Illinois for the Hawthorne Gold Cup. "She didn't have a Grade I and now she does. There is no good Breeders' Cup race for her so this could be her last race. My guess is this will be her swan song."
With the red-hot Julien Leparoux aboard, Never Retreat hit the wire in 1:34.08 over a turf rated firm. European invader Together was second by a nose over 3-to-1 favorite Daveron.