LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Dance With Fate gave trainer Peter Eurton and the colt's owners a nice dilemma Saturday in the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes, charging past Pablo Del Monte for the victory and a spot in the Kentucky Derby field - if the brain trust wants it.
The decision isn't that simple, even though the Florida-bred colt made a convincing case toward being in the 140th Run for the Roses on May 3 at Churchill Downs.
"I just don't know," Eurton said. "It's three weeks (away) and kind of quick back. I know he loves synthetic better, (likes) turf. I just don't know if he likes dirt.
"I know I'm going to hear it from everybody, though."
Pablo Del Monte and race favorite Bobby's Kitten set the pace nearing the top of the stretch of the Grade 1 race on Polytrack before Dance With Fate began moving through the pack with Medal Count in tow. The winner eventually surged past Pablo Del Monte in the final furlong to beat Medal Count by 1 3/4 lengths, earning his first graded stakes victory and 100 points to the eight he already had for the Derby.
Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Dance With Fate ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.06 and paid $14.80, $6.80 and $5.80. He has three wins and three seconds in eight starts, and his jockey believes he's capable of covering 1 1/4 miles on the famed track's dirt surface.
"I don't have any doubt he can do that," Nakatani said. "It's just a matter of whether he'll handle the Churchill Downs surface at this point. He's done things right.
"He seems to do well on the grass, and at Churchill, I've won the (Grade 1) Kentucky Oaks on a filly that won on the grass (Pike Place Dancer in 1996) so hopefully we'll get (Dance With Fate) there after this race."
Medal Count returned $7.80 and $5.20 and earned 40 Derby points. Pablo Del Monte paid $6.80 and earned 20 points, and Big Bazinga earned 10 for fourth place.
Medal Count's run was just as impressive, coming just eight days after he rode the rail to victory here in the $100,000 Grade 3 Transylvania. He emerged from that 1 1/16-mile race in good shape, enough for trainer Dale Romans to enter him in a race on a day he would've trained hard anyway.
Despite the risk of running on such short rest, Medal Count and jockey Robby Albarado vindicated Romans with another strong performance, earning Derby points to also give his handlers a choice to ponder.
"There was a lot of pressure coming back in eight days," Romans said, "and I was putting my neck on the line a little bit and open for some criticism. But my horse came through for me. ... If it's up to me, we're going. As long as he's healthy and doing well."
Bobby's Kitten meanwhile faded quickly down the stretch to finish 12th in the 14-horse field. A three-time winner with two thirds in five turf starts coming in, the Kentucky-bred colt couldn't finish the transition to synthetic.
"That was not what we were looking for, but we gave it a try," trainer Chad Brown said. "In the second half of the race, he lost (interest) and didn't seem to care for the track. ... He will be back on turf next time."