03/04/2012 11:19AM

Hansen, Big Cap, and Other Quick Saturday Impressions

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Thoughts after a busy Saturday:

I know he didn’t beat much, but I liked Hansen’s victory in the Gotham quite a bit. Racing without blinkers Saturday for the first time, Hansen was a very different race horse. Instead of running off to a clear early lead as he had done in his first four starts, he seemed perfectly content to concede the front end. Hansen was sixth under the wire the first time, and after breaking from post 12, that translated to him getting caught four wide early on the first turn. And without blinkers, Hansen lugged in in upper stretch, and with the win well in hand, he seemed to loaf a bit. I’m not saying Hansen will win the Kentucky Derby, although he might because his talent has never been the question. What I am saying is, a Hansen who can relax early like the one we saw in the Gotham has a much better chance of winning the Derby than the Hansen we knew before.

Wish I could be as complimentary about the Big Cap, but I just can’t. About the best thing I can say about it is it is certainly clear now that trainer Bill Mott figured out Ron the Greek’s hole card after he took over as his trainer last summer. But Ron the Greek made a sustained run for just about the length of the Santa Anita backstretch in the Big Cap, was put into an all out drive midway on the far turn when still racing about sixth, and yet still drew away in the final furlong to score by 3 ½ lengths. Of course, you can do that when the last quarter is run in – wait for it, because we all did – 26.27 seconds.

I’m not going to get down on Reneesgotzip even if she was soundly beaten by Eden’s Moon in the Las Virgenes. In her first route attempt, Reneesgotzip really blew the first turn, going about six wide early. And it does appear she was struck across the face by the whip of Eden’s Moon’s rider in upper stretch, which is an actionable foul even if you think it didn’t affect the outcome of the race. But if Reneesgotzip were mine, she’d be staying in one turn races for now. And while on the subject of the Las Virgenes, what about the fillies with the good 2-year-old form, Charm the Maker and Killer Graces? Last and next to last.

It’s Tricky got the job done at just under 2-5 in the Top Flight, but she seemed very rusty.

Pants On Fire was very good winning that hot allowance race at Gulfstream. Dialed In was not good finishing a dull fourth, which raises the question if he is the same horse after the knee surgery.

I thought Mr. Commons had turned into a monster. But it is obvious he is still shy of that, at least for the moment, after having no excuse not to beat the recent claimer Willyconker in the Kilroe Mile. It seems Mr. Commons still has a touch of hang in him.

A while ago, I decided I was no longer going to fall hard for horses like Emcee in the Tom Fool like I had all my life. Emcee went into the Tom Fool off a strong first out win at Belmont last September, and an entry level allowance romp at Gulfstream early last month, in which he was assigned a 107 Beyer. For all that promise but limited actual accomplishment, Emcee was the 6-5 Tom Fool favorite against a near champion in Caleb’s Posse and a seasoned multiple stakes winner, and noted inner track lover, Calibrachoa. Emcee is a good horse, and might yet prove to be an important stakes performer, but he was only third best Saturday. Calibrachoa’s Tom Fool win was all about getting first run. But Caleb’s Posse was a rapidly gaining and narrowly beaten second. And the whole world now knows with some certainty that it will take something very special to beat Caleb’s Posse when he runs back in the Carter and Metropolitan at seven and eight furlong distances at which he is most effective.