07/20/2012 4:03PM

Haskell Invitational or West Virginia Derby: Hansen connections will make a last-minute call

Tom Keyser
Hansen, the 2-year-old champion of 2011, won the Iowa Derby last out.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Mike Maker said Friday that the next start for Hansen “probably will come down to a last-minute decision” as he and the colt’s owners try to decide whether to run in the Haskell Invitational or the West Virginia Derby.

Hansen, the 2-year-old champion of 2011 and an easy winner of the June 30 Iowa Derby in his most recent race, was scheduled to breeze Tuesday at the Trackside training center just a few miles from Churchill Downs. The Grade 1, $1 million Haskell will be run next Sunday, July 29, at Monmouth Park in New Jersey while the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby comes six days later on Aug. 4 at Mountaineer Park.

“Timing is a little bit of it,” Maker said from Saratoga. “But mostly it’s how both races shape up.”

Dr. Kendall Hansen, majority owner in the colt he named for himself, said recently he was inclined to go in the Haskell when it became known that Bodemeister was not going to run. But owner Zayat Stables quickly substituted Paynter for Bodemeister in the prospective Haskell lineup, maintaining a daunting element of speed. Hansen also is a front-runner, and the possibility of his getting into a speed duel with Paynter in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell is giving cause for pause.

“I’m assuming the West Virginia race is going to be the easier of the two,” said Maker. “That’s why we’re going to have him breeze Tuesday and then talk about it some more. Whatever the connections feel best about, that’s what we’ll do.”

Maker said he would be opposed to enter Hansen in the Haskell and then scratch to wait for the West Virginia Derby. “If we enter, I’d certainly hope that means we’ll run,” he said. Haskell entries will be taken Thursday.

Meanwhile, Maker said Papaw Bodie, unraced since finishing a close second in the Grade 1 Manhattan on the June 9 Belmont Stakes undercard, will make his next start in the Aug. 18 Arlington Million. The races will come 10 weeks apart.

“He wasn’t handling the heat very well after the Manhattan so it was probably too much to cram another race in before the Million,” said Maker, who claimed Papaw Bodie last year for $50,000 on behalf of Bill and Connie Apostelos. “But he’s doing really good, and he’s run well at the [1 1/4-mile] distance so we’re going to give it a shot.”

Maker said he intends to divide his time this the summer between Saratoga and Louisville, with his large stable split between the two.

Borel approaching 5,000 wins

Calvin Borel is 25 wins away from becoming just the 26th jockey in North American racing history to hit the 5,000-win milestone, although the three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey has made no headway at Ellis. Borel, 0 for 15 going into Friday, pitched the most notable shutout during the first two weekdays of the meet. Gabriel Saez (0 for 21) and apprentice Ivan Cruz (0 for 17) also were seeking their first meet wins.

◗ The Sunday feature at Ellis is a second-level, $35,000 allowance that drew an oversubscribed field of 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Likely favorites in the eighth of nine races are Avenstoke, Gentle Tap, Tilden Lane, and Sun Bear. First post is 12:50 p.m. Central.

◗ The Kentucky division of the HBPA announced this week that it is holding meetings to nominate members for the organization’s board of directors at five venues from Aug. 11-15. More information is available by e-mailing kentuckyhbpa@gmail.com.