LOUISVILLE —Blame the Polytrack at Keeneland for Pyro's 10th-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
Blame hurt feelings, as trainer Steve Asmussen did, for Pyro finishing eighth in the Kentucky Derby.
Credit a more relaxed attitude and better training ethic for Pyro's victory in the Grade III Northern Dancer Stakes, his first post-Derby chance for redemption, at Churchill Downs Saturday.
Pyro, a leading Derby contender before the Blue Grass, had been “agitated and flat nervous” before the Derby, “goofing around,” according to Asmussen.
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan noticed a change in the paddock Saturday. It translated to the track.
“He was fabulous today,” the rider said. “He's been a temperamental horse. The work they've put into him paid off.”
Bridgmohan got a clean but tight break, raced third with Pyro for the first 6 furlongs then took over in the stretch, winning by 13/4 lengths over My Pal Charlie, who was second at every call in the 11⁄16-mile race.
“Hopefully, this is the first step to a very good second half of the year,” Asmussen said.
Jamie Theriot, who rode My Pal Charlie, said, “We ran all winter long with (Pyro), and we were second-best to him then.”
Pyro, at $1.80-to-$1, was the second choice to fellow Derby starter Recapturetheglory ($1.10-to-$1), who finished fifth.
Jockey Garrett Gomez also shared the spotlight on Stephen Foster Day with three stakes victories. He won aboard Hystericalady, Tizdejavu and Dreaming of Anna.
Hystericalady got the stakes card started with an overwhelming victory in the Grade II Fleur de Lis Handicap.
Hysterical Lady, runner-up in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Distaff, led from the gate and stretched out her winning margin to 71/2 lengths.
Gomez made his move with a half-mile left. “At the head of the stretch, she gave me a little more kick than I was expecting,” he said.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the 1-2 favorite sailed home in 1:50.88 for the 11⁄8 miles. The 5-year-old mare is 9-for-19 lifetime and 9-for-14 on dirt surfaces.
Hystericalady was third in the Grade I Humana Distaff here on Kentucky Derby Day.
Hollendorfer is hoping Hystericalady will be ready for the Breeders' Cup on the synthetic surface at Santa Anita.
“I can say that it is not her best surface, but she still has run well on it,” Hollendorfer said.
Jockey Julien Leparoux was back in the saddle to guide even-money favorite Pure Clan to victory in the Grade III Regret over 11⁄8 miles on the turf.
Pure Clan was third with jockey Edgar Prado in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks May 2.
Under the direction of Louisville trainer Bob Holthus, Pure Clan was trapped on the hedge leaving the backstretch.
“It was a little tight,” Leparoux said. “But when you are inside and have the good horse and the gas to go, you can do whatever you want.”
Never off the board in eight starts, Pure Cane is 3-for-3 on the grass.
“We felt all along that her action was better suited for the grass than the dirt,” Holthus said.
Tizdejavu led all the way to a 4-length victory over Golden Yank in the Grade II Jefferson Cup.
Gomez easily recorded his second stakes win of the day with the 3-1 second choice. Old Man Buck, at 2-1, was third.
Dreaming of Anna got her 10th victory in 15 starts by taking the Grade III Mint Julep Handicap, giving Gomez his third stakes victory.
A 1-2 favorite, Dreaming of Anna led from the start.