Updated on 04/14/2012 10:22AM

Blue Grass gives Hansen opportunity to regain spotlight

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Tom Keyser
A win in the Blue Grass Stakes could propel Hansen to the role of favorite for the May 5 Kentucky Derby.

Even though Hansen beat Union Rags and Creative Cause in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to secure the Eclipse Award for the division, and even though he scored a decisive victory from an outside post in the Gotham in his most recent start, Hansen still seemingly is dogged by doubts over whether he’s good enough, especially going 1 1/4 miles, to win the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

He was a fat 26-1 in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby future wager, closed at 9-1 in Pool 2 – which was the weekend of the Gotham – and was 8-1 in Pool 3, behind Union Rags, and the same price as Creative Cause.

That Gotham victory certainly added a new dimension to Hansen, for he no longer is perceived as a colt who must have the lead to be at his best. But in recent weeks, Hansen has been more of an afterthought as Union Rags, Take Charge Indy, Creative Cause, I’ll Have Another, Gemologist, and Alpha have dominated the Derby discussion.

Most of that, to be sure, is the simple product of who is running in each week’s prep races. On that count, Hansen this week finally has his turn in the spotlight for the first time since the Gotham six weeks ago.

“I think that Hansen will get a lot of publicity after this weekend,” Dr. Kendall Hansen, the co-owner of his namesake, said on a national teleconference earlier this week.

Hansen said he believes his colt has been “getting treated really fairly” this spring, cognizant that “the horses that are featured that weekend should be talked about.”

[MORE: Live Video, previews, PPs and wagering for the Blue Grass Stakes]

The talk this week is on the Blue Grass, which drew a field of 13, and the Arkansas Derby, which has a field of 11. Posts for both 1 1/8-mile races were drawn Wednesday. In addition to Hansen, Derby Watch members Dullahan and Prospective are in the Blue Grass. Sabercat and Secret Circle are in the Arkansas Derby, in which Bodemeister is the morning-line favorite.

Both races will be run Saturday, during a one-hour telecast on CNBC beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern.

One of the members of that telecast, Mike Battaglia, will be watching both races with even more interest than most, for he will be entrusted with the unenviable task of making the morning line on this year’s Derby when the field is drawn at Churchill Downs on May 2. Although the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, and Jerome at Aqueduct, are to be run April 21, by Saturday night the horses acknowledged as the major players in this year’s Derby will have had their final preps.

Battaglia said there is a chance Hansen could wind up the favorite, depending on how he performs Saturday.

“He’s right in the mix,” Battaglia said Wednesday morning. “Maybe Gemologist. He might be the favorite. He’s undefeated. Union Rags, he lost last time, and while I know he had a rough trip, if he was the horse I thought he was, I think he would have won. I thought Union Rags was a cinch to be the Derby favorite. I thought he’d win the Florida Derby.

“If Hansen wins Saturday, and does so impressively, I think he could be the Derby favorite. He’s definitely in the top three. He has to be, unless he doesn’t run his race in the Blue Grass.”

Battaglia said there are other factors that come into play when making the Derby line. He said he pays particular attention to horses with high speed figures or whose sheet numbers are superior, knowing those horses will get plenty of play. He said the fact Union Rags “never really has run a big number” will enter into his equation.

Battaglia also said that workouts the week of the Derby must be heeded. Buzz the week of the race, be it positive or negative, can influence bettors.

“A lot of it comes down to how they train those last 10 days at Churchill Downs,” Battaglia said.

“That’s always very important, especially if a horse trains like Street Sense did,” Battaglia said, referring to the winner of the 2007 Derby, whose final works were brilliant.

Hansen, the person, is hoping Hansen, the horse, can follow Street Sense’s lead. Street Sense won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs six months before his Derby victory. Hansen is in position to do the same, and that win over the track is “everything,” Hansen said, not just because it proves Hansen likes Churchill Downs, but because it put Hansen at the forefront of the Derby discussion.

“I was trying to explain to some people before the championship race, the Breeders’ Cup, that in some ways it’s a little more important than the Kentucky Derby in that you get discussed in almost every sentence about the Kentucky Derby over the next six months,” Hansen said. “So Hansen’s been in the discussion all winter, and it’s been a wonderful pleasure to be associated with a horse that’s figuring in it.

“There are some longshots that are going to get into the Derby, and perhaps one of them could win, but they’re not getting talked about now, and it’s great that Hansen’s getting the attention from winning that championship.”

Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Union Rags / Creative Cause , have truly been the ONLY TWO Colts that have run in Championship Type Races with ( ALL G1 / G2 / G3 ) and performed probably better as any of the other Colts ever could have . Hansen / Take Charge Indy / Dullahan / Alpha / Daddy Long Legs / Ill Have Another : ALL Seem To Be In That Next Top Tier . For A N Y O N E To Category Gemologist In The Mix Of These Colts That Had The Courage To Step Up and Run With The Top Colts Time and Time Again Deserve Every Bit Of Fame Leading Up To The Kentucky Derby . Gemologist went from ( MSW / ALW OC / G2 / ALLOW / G1 ) Well that was the EASY WAY of staying UNDEFEATED ! Gemologist is an awesome Colt , even outstanding I would say . It is great to see another Undefeated Colt joining the Kentucky Derby . The likes of Big Brown / Barbaro / Smarty Jones . But there is so much that Gemologist isnt when it comes to comparison among them . No Matter How Great The Workouts Are Leading Up To The Derby , No Matter What Post Draw , No Matter If The Favorite - ( GEMOLOGIST WILL NOT COMPLETE THE SUPERFECTA ) With Excuses or With A Clean Trip . There are many Gemologist fans out there , many ! Yes Gemologist is 2 for 2 at Churchill Downs , and has ALL WINS From 4 Diffrent Tracks ! But has YET to face the Colts that the Connections have been trying to avoid untill the Derby . I know many analysis and fan base want to really pull for Gemologist to continue on his winning ways for the sake of Horse racing Media ....................... TRUST ME , Gemologist will not be a F A C T O R turning for home in the KENTUCKY DERBY . I Am 99.9 % Sure Of My Statement . Gemologist doesnt Worry Me at ALL
Craig Trapp More than 1 year ago
to me its bet against Hansen and swing for the fences http://picksandparlays.com/picks/blue-grass-stakes-2012-odds-breakdown-winning-predictions/
Edward Kelly More than 1 year ago
The owner sounds like a self absorbed tool. He is so happy the horse he named after himself is getting so much attention for him that he twice states that it is better than actually winning the Derby. Can't root for the hammerhead to get the mic in the winner's circle. That being said, Hansen in the Gotham was one of the best 3 year old runs this year. Way better than that awful Wood Memorial.
Charles Berger More than 1 year ago
I look at the Blue Grass as a final major prep for some of the lightly raced three year olds. Will watch how they run. Then see how they train over the Churchill Downs strip. Think you will get an overlaid prices on three to five horses that really have a good chance to win. Certain horses will be overbet whose running style will be compromised by other horses with the same style. Am looking at four horses who I think are peaking. Will watch closely how they train at CD.
RANDY MAYORAL More than 1 year ago
Hansen will win with confidents to spare!
Nicholas Carraway More than 1 year ago
In the last 25 years (and perhaps even further back), only two horses went off as favorite in the Kentucky Derby after losing the final prep: Street Sense lost the 2007 Blue Grass by a nose and was a 9-2 favorite in the Ky Derby, and Lookin At Lucky was third by 6 lengths in the 2010 Santa Anita Derby and was the 6-1 favorite in the Ky Derby (highest priced fave in Derby history). Lookin At Lucky didn't have any other obvious horses to take money away from him. Sidney's Candy had impressive PPs, but all of his races had been on synthetic tracks. Union Rags will be competing against a number of quality colts, so I don't think that he'll be the favorite.
Joe More than 1 year ago
I don't like Hanson for the Derby. A longhsot I like is Went The Day Well. He ran very well in his prep will probably have the services of John Velazquez and is bred to get tthe distance. I also thoght the beyer they gave him for that race was a touch low. The only thing that concerns me is he's right on the bubble of graded stakes earnings that might force them to run him in the Bluegrass. I'm also going to be very interested in how Bodemister runs on Saturday. He's rum back to back 101 beyers ans is bred to run all day being out of Empire Maker and a Storm Cat dam.
stevejPS More than 1 year ago
Relax Joe. Wentt The Day Well will not be 'on the bubble'. He's in I can assure you. And I agree hes a great shot to win it- One of my top 3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Seems like Battaglia of all people would know that you don't have to win your Derby prep to win the KY Derby.
Lee Jenkins More than 1 year ago
What makes you think he doesn't? There's a big difference between setting a morning line and making a pre-race selection.
Jerry Sabo More than 1 year ago
My main concern is the article a couple of weeks ago that said he had lost weight. Not a good sign going into the Derby. It will be interesting to see how he comes out of this race. Could be something isn't quite right with him. I hope not.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can't wait to bet against hansen in the derby - I hope he romps in the bluegrass - no way he gets the distance at CD. Mister Frisky all over again.
Kenny H More than 1 year ago
"no way he gets the distance..." Maybe you've heard of a couple of Hansen's Great Grand Daddys....A.P INDY & UNBRIDLED..... Distance??? Pishawwww.... He'll run all day!
stevejPS More than 1 year ago
But the weak Raise A Native blood on his grandma's side. That'll be the clincher