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Features - RACING

Medal Count won the Transylvania Stakes on April 4 at Keeneland Race Course and will return Saturday for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

By Tom Pedulla, America’s Best Racing

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Trainer Dale Romans is going old school in his bid to help Medal Count qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

Almost as soon as the highly regarded colt flashed across the finish line as the winner of the Grade 3, $100,000 Transylvania Stakes last Friday at Keeneland Race Course, Romans decided to bring him back in eight days to take what he views as a big shot in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday.

Romans acknowledged that the decision is unorthodox in an era when less is generally viewed as more. But he has never been afraid to be an independent thinker – and he is not about to start now.

“In today’s racing, you usually don’t wheel horses back in seven or eight days,” he said. “But in the history of racing, it’s been done successfully.”

Mike Battaglia, the oddsmaker at Keeneland, obviously agrees with the thinking. He established Medal Count as the 9-to-2 second choice behind 3-to-1 morning-line favorite Bobby's Kitten in the field of 14 even though Medal Count and jockey Robby Albarado drew far outside in post 13.

“It’s a matter of having the horse,” Romans said of the swift turnaround, “and I think this is a throwback horse. He’s just so rugged. He’s easy to be around. We haven’t had an issue with him.”

Romans has been touting the youngster’s potential since he entered the barn.

“He’s a big horse with an athletic look about him,” the trainer said. “It took a while for his mind to catch up to his body. I think he just realized how good he is.”

Romans thought enough of Medal Count to start him in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, only to be reminded that he was a work in progress when he finished 11th. He began this year in auspicious fashion, taking an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in mid-January only to be a disappointing fifth in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream on Feb. 22.

Medal Count finally appeared to put it all together in the Transylvania, a race that was taken off the turf and contested on Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface. He rallied for an impressive 1 ¼-length victory and acted as if he was ready for more after he won for the third time in six starts and boosted his earnings to $111,600.

ROMANS (second from right) ENJOYING MEDAL COUNT'S TRANSYLVANIA WIN

Medal Count Winners Inside

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

“He came out of the Transylvania in good shape. It was a pretty easy race for him,” Romans said. “And this is such an important race, we don’t want to pass it up.”

The Blue Grass, which has had 19 participants in its 89-year history go on to win the Kentucky Derby, will help to establish the winner’s value as a stallion. The 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Derby prep also carries 170 points in the system established by Churchill Downs to determine the 20-horse Derby field: 100 to the victor, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth. The Blue Grass winner and runner-up essentially are guaranteed that they will have enough points to earn a spot in the Derby starting gate.

Romans knows what it takes to succeed in the Blue Grass, having reached the winner’s circle with Dullahan two years ago.

“Dullahan was a little more forward than the rest of them, but this horse fits in with the best I’ve had,” he said.

If Medal Count earns enough points to advance to the Derby on May 3, Romans is confident the youngster would have enough recovery time to be ready for that stiff challenge as well.

“It would be hard to pass up if the horse is 100 percent and doing as well as he is now,” he said.

Find The Channels Image

$750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes

Saturday, Keeneland Race Course, Race 11, Post Time 5:45 p.m. ET

3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles (synthetic Polytrack surface)

TV: Watch on Fox Sports 1 from 4:30-6 p.m. ET

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Odds

1

Asserting Bear

Emma-Jayne Wilson

Reade Baker

15-to-1

2

Extgrasexyhippzster

Julien Pimentel

Michael Trombetta

15-to-1

3

Pablo Del Monte

Victor Espinoza

Wesley Ward

12-to-1

4

Harry's Holiday

Rosie Napravnik

Mike Maker

10-to-1

5

Bobby's Kitten

Javier Castellano

Chad Brown

3-to-1

6

Coltimus Prime

Alan Garcia

Justin Nixon

20-to-1

7

Casiguapo

Rajiv Maragh

Mario Morales

30-to-1

8

Dance With Fate

Corey Nakatani

Peter Eurton

12-to-1

9

Big Bazinga

Brian Hernandez Jr.

Katerina Vassilieva

20-to-1

10

So Lonesome

Joe Rocco Jr.

Tom Bush

50-to-1

11

Coastline

Stewart Elliott

Mark Casse

8-to-1

12

Vinceremos

Edgar Prado

Todd Pletcher

8-to-1

13

Medal Count

Robby Albarado

Dale Romans

9-to-2

14

Gala Award

John Velazquez

Todd Pletcher

5-to-1

AE

Divine Oath

Julien Leparoux

Todd Pletcher

12-to-1

AE - Denotes also eligible, which means the horse would need at least one entrant to defect from the race in order to draw into the field. All runners carry 123 pounds

WATCH THE BLUE GRASS ON FOX SPORTS1

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