06/28/2012 11:52AM

Prairie Meadows: Maker prefers Iowa Derby for Hansen's first start since Kentucky Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Hansen could have run for a bigger purse in the Red Legend at Charles Town, but would have had to cut back from 1 1/4 miles to seven furlongs.

ALTOONA, Iowa -- Wednesday afternoon’s arrival of 2011 champion 2-year-old colt Hansen marked the first time a former Eclipse Award winner had stepped foot on the grounds here at Prairie Meadows since Caressing in June 2002. Along with a dozen quality runners pointed to other Iowa Festival of Racing stakes, Hansen flew in to contest Saturday night’s Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile $250,000 Iowa Derby and, in the process, get his stellar career back on track.

Since the May 5 Kentucky Derby in which he encountered some early trouble after establishing a forward position and ended up ninth, Hansen returned to the quiet confines of the Churchill Downs Trackside Training Center and chilled out. His trainer Mike Maker said “We thought it was a good time to freshen up and look forward to a summer campaign.” During the last week of May, Hansen resumed his usual routine, which includes a weekly five-furlong breeze and his preparation has gone smoothly.

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Maker, who also shipped in defending champ Headache for the Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap, had entered Hansen for Saturday’s seven-furlong, $400,000 Red Legend Stakes at Charles Town but opted to bring his attractive roan champ to Iowa because “we didn’t want to turn all the way back to a sprint distance.”

Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez, Hansen’s regular pilot, flies in from New York to retain the mount.

A solid quartet of 3-year-olds, including Louisiana Derby winner Hero of Order and the local hero Alsvid, will try to hand Hansen a three-race losing streak.

Hero of Order returns to dirt for the first time since his 109-1 Louisiana Derby upset after two subpar efforts on Polytrack and a dull May 26 try on Arlington’s turf course. Jockey Ken Tohill, just eight wins shy of his 3,000th career win, takes the call.

Alsvid, who trained outstandingly as an unraced 2-year-old here, has proved his affinity for the surface this season with authoritative displays in the April 21 Golden Circle and the June 2 Prairie Mile. Trained by Chris Hartman, Alsvid, under jockey Chris Landeros, seeks to become the first to sweep Prairie Meadows’s trio of open stakes for 3-year-olds.

Hero of Order’s stablemate Macho Bull and the deep closing Steve Asmussen trainee Truetap complete the Iowa Derby lineup.