Updated on 03/06/2012 12:38PM

Aqueduct: Hansen bounces back with Gotham victory

Barbara D. Livingston
Hansen and jockey Ramon Dominguez are comfortable winners of the Gotham despite breaking from post 12.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Mike Maker said it was the performance he was expecting. Jockey Ramon Dominguez said it was better than he expected.

Regardless of one’s expectations, Hansen’s three-length victory in Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct proved that reports of the demise of last year’s 2-year-old champion colt were a bit premature.

Showing the ability to relax off of horses - something he had not done in his previous four races - Hansen, the 4-5 favorite in a 13-horse field, took over from pacesetting King and Crusader at the top of the stretch and cruised to a convincing victory over second choice My Adonis over a good Aqueduct inner track.

My Adonis, who raced in third position behind Hansen down the backside, finished second by six lengths over Finnegans Wake. He was followed in the order of finish by Tiger Walk, Pretension, Stealcase, Raconteur, King and Crusader, Side Road, Done Talking, Dan and Sheila, Suns Out Guns Out, and Maan.

The win was the fourth from five career starts for Hansen, who suffered his first loss when beaten five lengths by Algorithms in the Grade 3 Holy Bull on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream.

“He did everything perfect today and I don’t have to be embarrassed off the last race,’’ said Maker, who trains Hansen for Dr. Kendall Hansen and the Skychai Racing partnership of Harvey Diamond and Jim Shircliff.

Though Maker simply said “yes” when asked if it was the performance he expected, Hansen did show some things he hadn’t previously in his career.

Breaking from post 12 under Dominguez, Hansen broke a little outward and took two strides to get into gear. Thus, he found himself five wide and trailing horses entering the first turn.

Unlike the Holy Bull where he stumbled and ran off, Hansen was more relaxed under Dominguez and found himself in third position and three wide rounding the turn. Straightening away, Hansen was second, still two-to-three wide, stalking King and Crusader through a quarter in 23.68 seconds, a half-mile in 47.51, and six furlongs in 1:11.79.

 Hansen took the lead from King and Crusader leaving the five-sixteenths pole, opened up a sizeable advantage in upper stretch and was never seriously threatened while feeling just one tap of Dominguez’s left-handed whip.

Hansen covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.84 and returned $3.60 as 4-5 favorite. Dominguez said Hansen galloped out so well that he needed the outrider to help pull him up.

“I was hopeful he would take a step forward as far as relaxing but he really did it to an extent that really surprised me,” said Dominguez, who won four races on the card. “Especially from his last race to now; very, very drastic and beautiful. He relaxed excellent.”

Dominguez thought Hansen may have hit himself leaving the gate “because for two strides something stung him a little bit. After that he was fine.”

Hansen did not grab himself.

Dominguez noted that the track for the Gotham - which was harrowed - changed “big time” after the first six races on the card when the track was sealed and laboring.

Maker made several adjustments coming into the Gotham. He removed the colt’s blinkers, he changed bits, and he even trained the horse the morning of the race, something he hadn’t previously done.

 “That’s my job,” Maker said. “Hopefully, we can keep it figured out the next couple of months.”

Maker of course was referring to the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs, where last fall Hansen beat Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

While Kendall Hansen said he would like to run his horse in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 24, it is more likely that Hansen will make his next start in the $1 million Wood Memorial here on April 7.

Maker did indicate that he may take the horse back to Turfway Park as opposed to Gulfstream to train.

If Hansen returns in the Wood, he most likely will face My Adonis again. Kelly Breen, the trainer of My Adonis, said he was impressed by Hansen’s performance but was also pleased with his colt’s performance.

“Hansen’s a nice horse, you don’t win Breeders’ Cup races for nothing,” Breen said. “Hopefully, we’ll see him in four weeks and we’ll do all that we can do to hopefully turn the tide. To me, he looked good. He sat in a good spot and we’re outkicked. That’s about it.”