Dullahan Follows Formula for Success into Palm Beach Stakes
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Jerry Crawford has devoted many years developing an elaborate formula with the primary focus of zeroing in on horses with the genetics to win the Kentucky Derby (G1).
The lawyer and longtime thoroughbred owner from Des Moines, Iowa hasn’t visited the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May yet, but he has come close.
Crawford’s Donegal Racing, a partnership that will be represented by Dullahan in Sunday’s $150,000 Palm Beach (G3) at Gulfstream Park, became a player on the 2010 Road to the Derby with its very first crop of eight horses, which included Paddy O’Prado, the third-place finisher in the Run for the Roses.
Paddy O’Prado, a Grade 1 stakes winner who retired with $1.7 million in earnings last year, broke his maiden in the Palm Beach, a 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds, before making his way to Kentucky.
“For about five or six years I had studied equine genetics, specifically the genetic patterns of horses that hit the board in Triple Crown races. This was before Donegal existed,” said Crawford, who has worked closely with two bloodstock consultants, the late Jack Werk and Sid Fernando.
“I was basically trying to teach myself to understand genetics enough to isolate characteristics, genetic characteristics, that I think are most often found in classic racehorses that have success. Out of that, I came up with a formula that I tweak every year. ”
Donegal puts together a new “Derby Dreams” partnership each year. Derby Dreams #3 invested in eight colts for $1.1 million, including $250,000 for Dullahan at the 2010 Keeneland September Sale. O’Prado Again, who won the Remsen (G2) last fall before being sidelined by injury, and Finnegan’s Wake, the third-place finisher in the Gotham (G2).
“Each year when the sales catalogs come out, I go through the catalogs using my formula to find horses that I think have the potential to win classic distance races during their 3-year-old year,” Crawford said.
“In my formula, I’m looking for horses that can get the distance. A lot of horses who get into the Kentucky Derby have no hope of getting a mile and a quarter. The fact is most of the horses bred to get a mile and a quarter have a strong turf influence,” he added. “What my approach does is to look for a horse that can absolutely get a mile and a quarter but that had enough dirt genetics bred into the horse that he has that crossover potential.”
The Dale Romans-trained Dullahan, a half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, has already shown that crossover potential, performing well on turf, synthetic surfaces and dirt in his first six races. The son of Even the Score, who ran third on Churchill Downs’ main track in his debut last June, finished second in the With Anticipation (G2) over the Saratoga turf course before breaking his maiden in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) over Keeneland’s synthetic surface.
“It was the biggest thrill of my racing life, because I had so much confidence in Dullahan. His half-brother, Mine that Bird, turned into a monster on Polytrack in the fall of his 2-year-old year up in Canada,” Crawford said. “I said to Dale, ‘I don’t want to send this horse to Belmont to break his maiden. I want to take a shot at something that matters.’ The agreement we came to was to ship him up to Keeneland for a breeze and see if he liked it. He worked in 58-and-change and we said, ‘Hmmm, I guess he likes it.’ I actually expected to win the Futurity.”
If all goes as planned, Dullahan will follow up the Palm Beach with a final Kentucky Derby prep in the Blue Grass (G1) over Keeneland’s synthetic surface. Paddy O’Prado ran second in the Blue Grass before hitting the board in the Derby.
“I think dirt will be his best surface, as it proved to be with Mine that Bird at the end of the day,” Crawford said. “I want to keep him on soft surfaces until (the Derby) because it’s better for the horse.”
Crawford has reason to expect that Dullahan will like the Churchill Downs track, as well as the 1 ¼-mile distance of the Derby. The Kentucky-bred colt recovered smartly from early bumping to close from last to finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs last fall in his final 2011 start.