Updated on 03/25/2012 8:39AM

Hansen likely to run in Blue Grass; Alpha re-routes to Wood Memorial

Tom Keyser
Hansen is likely to make his final Kentucky Derby prep in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

Hansen will likely make his final Kentucky Derby prep in the Blue Grass rather than the Wood Memorial, his owner said Thursday. The news led trainer Kiaran McLaughlin to say Alpha will be shipped back to New York for the Wood rather than run in the Louisiana Derby.

Hansen’s owner and namesake, Dr. Kendall Hansen, said he probably won’t confirm the move until next week, but that “it’s very probable” the colt will make his next start in the $750,000 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 14 rather than one week earlier in the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct as originally scheduled.

The owner said he had a long list of reasons why the Blue Grass was a better alternative for Hansen, last year’s 2-year-old champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, not the least of which was his desire to keep the horse in Kentucky.

“It’s home, it’s safer for the horse to have to travel less, and he can sleep in his own stall and go right over for the race,” Hansen said. “Plus, Keeneland has such an atmosphere. It’s so romantic there, it’s kind of what I’m in the game for. Even though it’s less money than the Wood, it just seems to make more sense to run him in the Blue Grass.”

Another reason to await the Blue Grass – although Hansen said it was not a major one – was that it would give the horse’s regular rider, Ramon Dominguez, another week to heal from the separated collarbone he suffered in a spill last Sunday in New York. According to his agent, Steve Rushing, Dominguez is expected to be back in time to ride the Wood on April 7.

With the news that Hansen is going to the Blue Grass, McLaughlin said Alpha would be re-routed from the April 1 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds to the Wood Memorial.

“Provided Hansen does not run in the Wood Memorial, Alpha will change direction,” McLaughlin said. “We are now on board to come to New York for the Wood Memorial.”

McLaughlin said that provided Dominguez is “healthy and riding” by then, he would retain the mount. Dominguez has ridden Alpha to victories in both the Count Fleet and Withers stakes over the inner track.

McLaughlin said Alpha would work at Palm Meadows on Saturday and then he would make a decision on whether to have the horse’s last work before the Wood in south Florida or in New York.

McLaughlin said he liked the idea of running in the Wood because it enables Alpha to run at Aqueduct – even though the race is run on the main track and not the inner – where he is familiar with the surroundings and gate crew.

“This is a better situation, we’re back with home-court advantage,” McLaughlin said. “We’re going to be able to run out of our own stall. When you ship into a receiving barn, it doesn’t feel like you’re at home. We’re happy about it.”

However, McLaughlin said he would still consider Alpha for the Florida Derby at Gulfstream on March 31 if, for some reason, Union Rags and El Padrino did not enter.

– additional reporting by David Grening