Updated on 11/06/2011 9:08AM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile: Hansen upsets Union Rags in tight finish

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Barbara D. Livingston
Hansen (right) holds off Union Rags (left) and Creative Cause (center) to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Saturday’s Grade 1, $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile wasn’t decided until the wire, with the speedy Hansen outlasting favored Union Rags by a head. But the race was won around the Juvenile’s two turns.

Front-running Hansen was able to carve out a trouble-free trip in the 1 1/16-mile race, establishing a clear lead on the inside – in stark contrast to Union Rags, who after breaking from post 10, was shuffled back to sixth early and hung four to five wide throughout.

Although Union Rags was able to threaten in the lane, testing Hansen to the limit, his closing punch was not enough to overcome his significant ground loss. The data-tracking service Trakus measured Union Rags as having raced 78 feet more than the winner.

“I tried to cover up, but I never had the opportunity,” said his jockey, Javier Castellano.

The winner made his own luck, thanks to his natural quickness. After a fairly lively opening quarter-mile in 23.26 seconds, he settled under Ramon Dominguez down the backstretch with half-mile in 47.39 and three-quarters in 1:12.24.

At that point, Hansen’s clear lead began to evaporate, with third-place Creative Cause and Union Rags challenging Hansen, but the winner was able to muster the courage to turn them back.

Creative Cause, the Norfolk winner, finished a length behind Union Rags.

In winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Hansen capped a 3-for-3 season – following runaway victories in a maiden race at Turfway Park and in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile there in September. A son of Tapit, he raced 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.44, paying $16.20.

Hansen’s victory set off a raucous celebration in the winner’s circle among the colt’s owners, including majority owner Kendall Hansen and minority owners Skychai Racing, a group that bought a minority interest in the colt before the Juvenile.

Dominguez said his mount could become a player for next year’s Kentucky Derby, if he continues to learn to relax on the lead. Winning Trainer Mike Maker said his rider told him as much before he left to go to the jockey’s room to get ready to ride Gio Ponti in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“See you in May,” Maker said Dominguez told him, in obvious reference to the 2012 Kentucky Derby.