Expect the unexpected

April, 10, 2010
04/10/10
9:40
PM ET
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Moments before the Arkansas Derby, word of the Blue Grass Stakes winner reached those standing in the owner/trainer area near the finish line at Oaklawn Park. "Stately Victor?" asked Bill Casner. Patrick Biancone looked surprised. A few Turf writers checked their smartphones to find the trainer's name. Mike Maker. Sent off at odds of 40-1.

Talk turned to the race at hand. Who could have known that another upset was looming on the horizon? When Line of David shot to the lead and blistered through an opening quarter in :22.65, no one in the viewing area thought he would last. But the John Sadler trainee bellied down the last quarter of a mile to roll home in a final time of 1:49.37, claiming a three-horse photo with Super Saver and Dublin. Complete order of finish in the Arkansas Derby: Line of David, Super Saver, Dublin, Uh Oh Bango, Noble's Promise, New Madrid, Berberis, Pulsion, Northern Giant.

"We wanted to be in front because at Santa Anita he was going in front and it just seemed to build confidence," Sadler said.

"I'll tell you what, when we put him on the front end and rolled into that first turn, he was rolling along pretty good but he came back to me," said jockey Jon Court. "I knew it went pretty quick, but then again when you have horses of this caliber at this time of the year with the targets — everybody has a dream that's in front of them in this prestigious race — you expect them to run those kind of fractions and carry them as well."

When Line of David ran seventh in a maiden special weight back in February, Sadler changed three things. He added blinkers, changed up the colt's running style, and moved him to the turf.

"The guy I had getting on him this week said he was perfect on the dirt," Sadler said. "You never know until they do it and we as trainers tend to be so conservative, so we always get surprised when they do succeed."

Sadler wasn't the only surprised one. But as written before in this blog, when the big shots don't show up, the understudies do. Seventh choice in a field of nine, the son of Lion Heart returned $36.60 on a $2 ticket. But that was nothing compared to Stately Victor's payoff; the son of Ghostzapper returned $82.20 — the richest in 86 editions of the Blue Grass. Ike Thrash, owner of the Arkansas Derby winner, could have spoken for Blue Grass-winning owners Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and his father Thomas as well.

"This one was kind of late to the party," he said. "But even though we got around to it late, we knew he could run and he showed up today."

Next stop? Louisville, Kentucky. The first Saturday in May.

For more comprehensive information on horse racing, visit Helloracefans.com and Horseracingnation.com and be sure to follow Novak on Facebook and Twitter, @ClaireNovak.

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