Updated on 03/04/2012 2:19AM

Aqueduct: Hansen's 12 Gotham challengers have much to prove

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Barbara D. Livingston
Hansen will have to overcome post 12 in the Gotham as he tries to bounce back from his first career defeat.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – As there was no shortage of horsemen willing to enter against Hansen in Saturday’s Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, there likely will be no shortage of horseplayers seeking to play against last year’s 2-year-old male champion in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds over the inner track.

But just as Hansen has some questions to answer coming off his first career defeat in the Grade 3 Holy Bull, his 12 challengers have as many – if not more – questions to answer.

:: LIVE VIDEO: Watch the Gotham Stakes Live on DRF.com

“If Hansen runs his best race everybody else is running to be second,” said trainer Eddie Kenneally, who sends out the unbeaten Maan against Hansen in the Gotham. “There’s a group of interesting 3-year-olds that haven’t done a whole lot yet, some horses that are improving, but we don’t know if there are any real good ones in there. We’re hoping our horse is one because he’s shown me he’s going in the right direction.”

The 13 horses in the Gotham represent the largest field for a single division of this race in recent memory, perhaps ever. The allure of a $400,000 pot is one reason. The fact Hansen was beaten five lengths by Algorithms in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Jan. 28 could be another.

Hansen, who beat Union Rags in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November, stumbled in the Holy Bull and then got headstrong early with jockey Ramon Dominguez, setting the pace before giving way in midstretch. Hansen also came out of that race a little sick, according to trainer Mike Maker.

Maker is removing the blinkers and equipping Hansen with a different bit for the Gotham.

“My reason for blinkers off is it seems in the gate he was turning his head to see what was going on behind him and maybe he was overdoing it,” Maker said Thursday morning. “Maybe without them he sees the activity and he’ll be a bit more relaxed.”

On a damp, dreary Thursday morning, Hansen seemed relaxed when he visited the starting gate at the Belmont Park training track, going in and standing without incident.

Maker said he plans to train Hansen the morning of the race, something he hasn’t previously done, in hopes of “taking the edge off.”

There is the likelihood of a wet track Saturday with heavy overnight rains forecast Friday into Saturday morning with dry, windy, and warm conditions expected for mid-afternoon. Maker doesn’t believe the wet track was a problem for Hansen in the Holy Bull, but said he would like to run on a dry track Saturday for safety reasons.

Hansen will have to break from post 12 in the 13-horse field, but with his speed, that shouldn’t be an issue. In 1994, when there was a 12-horse field, Irgun won from post 11.

For those looking to bet against Hansen – who will likely go off around even-money – there are an abundance of options.

Maan, Done Talking, and Stealcase are all intriguing longshots.

Maan, a son of Malibu Moon, won his debut going six furlongs at Churchill last July 3 as the 3-2 favorite in a field of 11. He was scratched from the Sanford at Saratoga and was given the rest of the year off due to “nagging 2-year-old” problems, according to Kenneally.

Maan returned at Gulfstream in a first-level allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs, a race he won over a sloppy track.

“We’re trying two turns against accomplished two-turn horses, but he relaxed good in his races and in his works and I think he will handle the distance,” said Kenneally, whose horse will break from post 5 under Rajiv Maragh.

Done Talking has not run since rallying from last into a slow pace and finishing fourth, beaten just one length in the Remsen. He finished a head behind third-place finisher El Padrino, recent winner of the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.

Trainer Hamilton Smith explained that Done Talking suffered from a bout of colitis in December that forced him to spend a week at the New Bolton Center. Done Talking has been in steady training since early January and Smith is hopeful he has him fit enough for his return.

“If that’s the case, I look for him to be on the board,” Smith said. “Other than Hansen, we belong with everybody else.”

Stealcase won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Gulfstream, defeating next-out winner Windsurfer.

My Adonis won a stakes at Fair Grounds before getting dueled into defeat in the Delta Jackpot. He debuted in the Holy Bull and after a lackluster start, closed to be third, a half-length behind Hansen.

With the rail, My Adonis could show speed, which he previously had done in his 2-year-old season, though trainer Kelly Breen said he will leave tactics up to jockey Elvis Trujillo.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out Raconteur, a two-time winner over the inner track, and Dan and Sheila, fourth-place finisher in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds.

King and Crusader, a sprint stakes winner, Pretension, a New York-bred stakes winner, Finnegan’s Wake, Suns Out Guns Out, Side Road, and Tiger Walk complete the field.

The Gotham will go as race 10 on an 11-race program that includes the Grade 2, $200,000 Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares, and the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap for older sprinters.

Recent Gotham winners

Year Horse Beyer
2011 Stay Thirsty 89
2010 Awesome Act 98
2009 I Want Revenge 113
2008 Visionaire 98
2007 Cowtown Cat 88

Average winning Beyer: 100.52

Highest winning Beyer: I Want Revenge, 113 (2009)

Lowest winning Beyer: Cowtown Cat, 88 (2007)

 

Gotham S. (G3), Post Time: 5:02 ET Saturday

Purse: $400,000; 1 1/16 miles

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

My Adonis

K. Breen

E. Trujillo

5-1

1

Stealcase

M. Casse

L. Contreras

12-1

1

Finnegans Wake

D. Romans

K. Desormeaux

20-1

1

Pretension

C. Grove

J. Santiago

20-1

1

Maan

E. Kenneally

R. Maragh

15-1

1

Dan and Sheila

T. Pletcher

J. Velazquez

8-1

1

Suns Out Guns Out

D. Romans

I. Ortiz, Jr.

30-1

1

Raconteur

T. Pletcher

C. Velasquez

15-1

1

King and Crusader

R. Dutrow, Jr.

M. Luzzi

15-1

1

Side Road

K. McLaughlin

A. Garcia

12-1

1

Done Talking

H. Smith

D. Cohen

20-1

1

Hansen

M. Maker

R. Dominguez

6-5

1

Tiger Walk

I. Correas, IV

E. Castro

12-1