07/31/2012 1:52PM

Mountaineer: Hansen ready for West Virginia Derby

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Tom Keyser
Hansen, a heavy favorite in Saturday’s West Virginia Derby, will have his tail painted blue for the race.

Hansen has been assigned post 9 as the heavy favorite among a field of 10 3-year-olds entered in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby, the Grade 2 race that will be run Saturday for the 43rd time at Mountaineer Park in Chester, W.Va.

Hansen will be ridden by Mike Smith in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby, replacing regular jockey Ramon Dominguez, who is committed to ride instead at Saratoga. Le Bernardin, winner of the Grade 3 Pegasus at Monmouth Park in his last start, drew post 7 and will be ridden by Mike Luzzi as the logical second choice to Hansen.

Kendall Hansen, the majority owner of the colt he named for himself, said Tuesday on a national teleconference that he wants the West Virginia Derby to serve as “another building race for Hansen” leading up to his major summer objective, the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Hansen, a striking, nearly white colt, will race with the tip of his tail painted blue, a move that his owner previously attempted in New York and Kentucky before being rebuffed by racing authorities. Hansen said he was informed last week by West Virginia officials that he is being allowed to paint the colt’s tail for the West Virginia Derby. Trainer Mike Maker said the tail will be painted Thursday before the colt is sent on his six-hour van ride from his home base at the Trackside training center in Louisville, Ky.

[WEST VIRGINIA DERBY: Get PPs and watch Saturday's full card live]

“I’m just doing this for fun and for his younger fans,” Hansen said.

Some six hours before entries were drawn Tuesday for the race, Hansen had his final breeze at Trackside when going an easy half-mile in 52.20 seconds over a fast track. Clocker Richard McCreery caught the colt in splits of 12.80, 26.40, and 39.40, with a five-furlong gallop-out time of 1:06.40.

Maker said he intended the move to be “about as slow” as it was. In his only start since finishing ninth in the May 5 Kentucky Derby, Hansen was a 10-length winner as the 1-10 favorite in the June 30 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows.

“He’s already fit, and we know he’s fast,” Maker said. “It was just a little maintenance breeze, as they say.”

As the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall, Hansen is the only horse in the field eligible for a $150,000 bonus in case of a victory. The race conditions provide for the bonus to a horse with a Grade 1 win. If Hansen wins, the total winner’s share will be nearly $600,000.

Mountaineer usually conducts racing in the evening, but first post every West Virginia Derby Day is 2 p.m. Eastern. The big race goes as the eighth and is set for 5:45, with television coverage being provided by selected Fox Sports regional networks on a one-hour broadcast from 5-6 p.m.

A nine-race Saturday card will consist entirely of stakes races, with the richest secondary race being the $200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Cup Stakes (race 7) for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. Other notable undercard races include the $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile (race 1) and $100,000 Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies (race 4), for which trainer Garry Simms has the probable favorites in Circle Unbroken and Blueeyesintherein, respectively.