04/23/2012 4:02PM

2012 Kentucky Derby: Dominguez to ride Hansen

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Ramon Dominguez will ride Hansen in the Kentucky Derby, his agent Steve Rushing confirmed Monday afternoon.

Dominguez was the regular of both Hansen, last year’s 2-year-old champion and this year’s Gotham winner, and Alpha, this year’s Count Fleet and Withers winner and Wood Memorial runner-up.

Dominguez rode Hansen to victory in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. He is 1 for3 on Hansen this year with a victory in the Gotham sandwiched between runner-up finishes in the Holy Bull and Blue Grass Stakes.

“Both horses have a lot of upside, I guess the deciding factor was Hansen ran so well at Churchill,” Rushing said. “They both had one race at Churchill and Hansen’s race was good and Alpha’s wasn’t. I know he acted up at the gate and I guess he bled. It was a tough call, it wasn’t a clear-cut choice. Both are very nice horses.”

Dominguez, the reigning two-time Eclipse Award-winning rider, is seeking his first victory in the Kentucky Derby. He is winless in eight Derby rides, his best result being a second-place finish aboard Bluegrass Cat in 2006.

Dominguez suffered a separated collarbone on March 18 and is winless in 26 mounts - with 10 second-place finishes - since returning to the saddle on April 6.

Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Alpha, said he learned about Dominguez’s decision upon arriving in South Carolina Monday afternoon to check on some of the 2-year-olds he trains for Shadwell Farm.

“I thought we had a shot at [Rafael] Bejarano, but he gave Todd [Pletcher] a call this morning on El Padrino so we’re shopping,” McLaughlin said.

Among those considered leading candidates to ride Alpha are Eddie Castro and Alan Garcia.