The jovial tone from trainer Dale Romans as he picked up his phone Sunday morning answered the question before it could be asked.
“Everybody’s good, everyone came out of the race in good shape,” Romans said from Churchill Downs, referring to Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Brody’s Cause and his stablemate, Cherry Wine, who came home third.
There was good news to report on several fronts less than 24 hours after Keeneland’s outstanding Saturday lineup of graded stakes races produced winners worthy of the hype. In addition to the Romans duo, Grade I Madison Stakes winner Sheer Drama was happy and bright as trainer David Fawkes led her out of her stall Sunday, while the Rusty Arnold barn was still beaming over Weep No More’s upset triumph at 30-to-1 odds in the Grade I Central Bank Ashland Stakes.
The celebration Brody’s Cause inspired after his 1¾-length victory in the Blue Grass was as hearty as any that took place before the crowd of 20,828 Saturday as the son of Giant’s Causeway locked down his status as one of the top threats to claim Kentucky Derby glory on May 7.
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Owned by Albaugh Family Stable, Brody’s Cause redeemed himself off a seventh-place effort in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby in his season debut on March 12. Though the bay colt had his trademark trip of rallying from near the back of the pack in the Blue Grass, the move he made around the turn and the kick he displayed in late stretch showed he is not just a one-paced closer.
“He’s not a grinder in any way, he has an acceleration that you don’t see in many horses,” Romans said Sunday. “You don’t come home the last 16th of a mile in the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile where he finished third) in under six seconds by being a grinder.”
Brody’s Cause was ridden by Luis Saez in the 1 1/8 -mile Blue Grass Stakes and Romans said post-race the mount was Saez’s to keep in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Cherry Wine was beaten just a nose by My Man Sam for second at the wire, and those few inches could mean the difference between the son of Paddy O’Prado making the Kentucky Derby field as he is currently 23rd on the leaderboard with 25 points.
“There will be some changes next week (after the Arkansas Derby) but I think he’ll get in,” Romans said.
Laoban, who ran fourth in the Blue Grass and is currently 21st on the Kentucky Derby points list, is likely to bypass the Kentucky Derby and be pointed toward a possible run in the Preakness Stakes, trainer Eric Guillot said Sunday.
Both Sheer Drama and Weep No More are certain to be Churchill Downs-bound.
A start in the Grade I La Troienne Stakes going 1 1/16 miles on the undercard of the Kentucky Oaks on May 6 has been tabbed as the next goal for Sheer Drama after the 6-year-old mare ran arguably the best race of her multiple Grade I-winning career in the Madison.
The daughter of Burning Roma turned back Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Stopchargingmaria in a fantastic stretch battle to earn her first Grade I win at the 7-furlong distance having previously won the Grade I Delaware Handicap at 1¼ miles and the Grade I Personal Ensign going 1 1/8 miles last summer.
“That was her best effort, that was as good as I can ask,” Fawkes said Sunday. “If she had run that race in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (where she finished fourth) with that much determination, she wins. She’s very ratable, she can do whatever you want. She just doesn’t like a whole ton of dirt in her face.”
Weep No More pulled off the day’s stunner in the Ashland when she blew by previously unbeaten Cathryn Sophia and Grade I winner Rachel’s Valentina in late stretch to earn a place in the Kentucky Oaks field. The buzzsaw that is unbeaten champion Songbird will tower over all Oaks contenders. Still, Arnold is confident the added ground of going 1 1/8 miles will put his filly in the mix.
“She goes to Churchill (Monday) and she came back very well,” Arnold said. “More distance will help her and we have to give it (the Oaks) a try. You’re going to get them all, but it’s going to be fun and that’s what it’s all about.”
Prior to her third-place finish in the Ashland, Cathryn Sophia was a filly some thought capable of providing Songbird a challenge given that she had won her previous four starts by a combined 41½ lengths. Trainer John Servis said Sunday the daughter of Street Boss will now likely bypass the Oaks and point for the Grade II Eight Belles Stakes at Churchill Downs going 7 furlongs on May 6.
“I think we’re just going to shorten her up a little bit,” Servis said. “It’s a little easier spot and hopefully that will get her back on track. She made her move yesterday but as (jockey) Javier (Castellano) said, she gave him a little run and then just kind of hung. I was always a little suspect of (the distance) with her because she doesn’t look like the type. She’s not a big, rangy filly where you think she would relish the two turns.”