Stately Victor wins Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes


Brian Pena runs his horse for exercise at Keeneland on Sunday. Photo by Zach Brake

Owner F. Thomas Conway could barely balance his emotions after Stately Victor won the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland.

“Didn’t I tell you?” he shouted as he entered the winner’s circle. “… He’s been a winner since he was foaled.”

Minutes later, he tearfully said he had never been as happy as he was after the victory except for during the birth of his four children.

“I’m not crying,” he said jokingly before turning his back to the embankment of cameras and reporters. “I have a tear duct problem.”

Stately Victor, owned by F. Thomas Conway and his son, Kentucky Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway, won the race despite being the longest shot in the field. He opened the morning at 30-1 but went off at 40-1 at post.

Odysseus, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, battled with Paddy O’Prado and jockey Kent Desormeaux for the lead for much of the race as Stately Victor and Alan Garcia bided their time. Odysseus faded late and finished last while Stately Victor began to move up in the final turn and passed Paddy O’Prado down the stretch, winning by four lengths. Jack Conway said when he saw his horse’s position coming out of the final turn, he knew he was going to win the race.

Paddy O’Prado would place, and First Dude, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, showed.

The horse holds special meaning for the Conways. F. Thomas Conway called Stately Victor “the best horse I’ve ever owned.” He was named for a childhood friend of Jack Conway’s who was killed in a car accident in 1992.

The win guarantees a spot for Stately Victor in the Kentucky Derby on May 1. Trainer Mike Maker said he expects Stately Victor to be a factor if he can adjust to the dirt at Churchill Downs. Stately Victor had won just one race in his lifetime before Saturday, and Maker said a long line of excuses like poor positioning held his horse back in previous races.

“If I couldn’t win the Derby, I’d want to win this race,” F. Thomas Conway said.

Jack Conway said he’d been to every running of the Kentucky Derby since he’d graduated from law school. He and his father had always admired the Derby horses from afar before the race began.

“My dad and I would walk out on the third floor at Churchill Downs and we’d want to be over there about 45 minutes before the race so you could see the horses come over and make that walk,” Jack Conway said. “Dad always told me, ‘One day we’re going to make that walk.’ ”