08/01/2012 2:27PM

West Virginia Derby: Le Bernardin faces big challenge at Mountaineer

Barbara D. Livingston
Le Bernardin will take on Hansen in Saturday's West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer.

Kiaran McLaughlin has a healthy respect for the Eclipse Award that Hansen earned last year as a 2-year-old. That’s a primary reason McLaughlin would accept something less than a victory Saturday when he sends out Le Bernardin against Hansen in the Grade 2, $750,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park in Chester, W.Va.

“I’d like to take second money right now, if you’d guarantee it to me,” McLaughlin said.

Le Bernardin, a near-the-pace winner of the Grade 3 Pegasus under veteran jockey Mike Luzzi in his latest race at Monmouth Park, figures as second choice to an odds-on Hansen in a field of 10 3-year-olds entered in the 43rd running of the West Virginia Derby. Both colts are drawn toward the outside of the starting gate for the 1 1/8-mile race – Le Bernardin, with Luzzi back, got post 7, while Hansen, with Mike Smith to ride for the first time, got post  9 – making for some interesting speculation about early tactics.

“I’ll let Mike figure out what he wants to do after the break,” McLaughlin said. “On paper, I’d like to be forwardly placed – but I don’t want to be too forwardly placed, if you know what I mean. It looks like Hansen will go, and there’s a sprinter [Bourbon Courage] in there that could be up there, too. I just don’t want to get too involved early if it helps us at the end. I mean, Hansen is tough and if he wins easy, I don’t want to be the one chasing him all the way and end up, say, fifth.”

Le Bernardin is owned by the Darley Stable of Sheikh Mohammed, whose powerhouse Godolphin outfit teamed with McLaughlin to win the Jim Dandy at Saratoga last weekend with their homebred standout, Alpha. Le Bernardin, by Bernardini, has won 3 of 5 overall starts and has yet to face top-class competition, and McLaughlin is not inclined to run him back in the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes.

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

“You never know, but we do have Alpha for the Travers,” he said. “We’ve had the West Virginia race in mind for this colt for quite a while now. We’re just hoping he runs his race Saturday.”

After Hansen, the 3-5 favorite on the morning line, Mountaineer has pegged Le Bernardin as a 6-1 co-second choice with Macho Macho (post 4, Corey Nakatani). Trained by Steve Asmussen, who already has won the West Virginia Derby three times, Macho Macho most recently was a fast-closing second in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth.

Although there are no stable couplings, two trainers have two runners apiece in the race: Mike Maker runs Hansen and Morgan’s Guerilla, while Gennadi Dorochenko is scheduled to start Macho Bull and Hero of Order.

Two jockeys are named on double calls, but those were to be resolved Thursday morning. Eddie Martin Jr. was named on both Dorochenko horses, and Leandro Goncalves on Morgan’s Guerilla and California shipper Called to Serve.

The West Virginia Derby goes as the eighth of nine races on an all-stakes Saturday card, with purses totaling $1.65 million. First post is 2 p.m. Eastern, with the feature going at 5:45. Live television coverage is being provided on a one-hour broadcast (5-6 p.m.) by Fox Sports regional outlets, with Kenny Rice, Kurt Hoover, and Millie Ball handling the commentary.

John Dutchy More than 1 year ago
I am pretty astonished by this horse; however I am a little skeptical how much dr Hansen cares about dr Hansen especially after he kissed the ground that horses drop waste on. I guess I am more of a mr and mrs moss kinda person who give the impression that their horse is the spotlight instead of sharing the moment. By the way paynter ran a 108 beyer in the Haskell and if you don't know... That's pretty good
Linda Mitchell-Bender More than 1 year ago
I would really like to know why Hansen has so many nah sayers. He is the 2 yr. old Champion and Eclispe winner in 2011 and has gone on to do well in 2012. Most 2 yr. old runners who make it good fall apart as 3 yr. olds. In the Derby he was clipped from behind and came down sick after the race. No one gives any quarter for Hansen. This is a very nice colt, who is still growing and maturing. He is still out there running and thrilling fans when so many have drooped out with injury or illness probably never to return. There have been remarks about his lineage not being blue enough. Does anyone know who Zenyetta was bred back to? TAPIT. I hope Hansens romps to a win in W. Va. and continues to run and delight fans all over the country. Hansen proved himself as a 2 yr. old, He is a Champion and Eclipse winner. No other 3 yr. old can boost that. I just wish people would appreciate this colt and stop the hate messages, he does not deserve it. Dr. Hansen is having the time of his life, enjoying his home bred colt, shareing him with fans that wouldn't normalling get to see a Horse of his caliber run. This is good for racing and good for Hansen. As long as Hansen holds up he will run him. He plans races for Hansen in 2013 & possibly 2014 when others will have been retired and in the breeding shed. Much love, luck and good wishes to Hansen and his connections, "FOR LOVE OF THE GAME". I will be watching with my heart in my throut! Nothing is ever a lock in the game of racing but Hansen is always my #1.
mrm More than 1 year ago
They are absolutly doing right by Hansen. By keeping him away from the top races it will prolong his career and give him a chance to mature into an even better older horse. Laying over the field in $750,000 races aint to shabby either.
Cris McHenka More than 1 year ago
I suggest people not overlook Macho Macho he has been beating graded horses in this race for years now and he is dead fit.
Ronnie Malo Rodriguez More than 1 year ago
should be another victory for Hansen, but I'll give Bourbon Courage, and Called to Serve a small chance to upset, but a great chance for the exacta. Le Bernadin for third
frostitute More than 1 year ago
to make money on this race,just bet a million dollar show bet on Hansen.
Blueyedhusky More than 1 year ago
Blueyedhusky More than 1 year ago
Peed myself from laughing so much!
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
Ill Have ANother- Retired Union Rags- Retired Bodemeister- Whats really wrong with him? Gemologist- DUD (called that one before Derby) Dullahan- DUD (another one I pegged. Folks are still going to bet him) Take Charge Indy- Highly doubt he competes at a high level ever again. Hes not good. Secret Circle-??? El Padrino- Worse than Gemologist (and Gemologist is WEAK). Liaison- Like Dullahan, if you cant win on dirt, you cant be in this conversation. What you have left is this in no ranking order.... Hansen Bodemeister-(if hes right) Paynter-(which is mysteriously running a fever like Bodemeister did. Amazingly after a race like Bodemeister). Alpha- I like him but prior to his Jim Dandy, he ran rather weak Ragozins. I forecast McLaughlin avoiding Bode and Hansen at ALL costs. Creative Cause- Hes not done proving himself.
unmarx1 More than 1 year ago
how is Alpha going to avoid Hansen at 'ALL COSTS,' when they are both fully committed to running in the Travers ?
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
x1 : Hansen has not committed to the Travers . Maybe the words in likeness of towards the Travers ! I dont believe Hansen will be running in the Travers : Dr Hansen #1 goal is Breeders Cup day . It would be nice to see Dr Hansen keep Hansen away from all of these big Elite races : and run Hansen just twice more in races that Dr Hansen knows Hansen can Win : then on Breeders Cup day Show the whole world just what Hansen has to offer ! The distance maybe just a tab much : but at times these colts are so high strung : with a nice lead : everyone will get to see Hansen display his blazing speed ! Only time will tell
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
OVER RATED? Hey dippy, Hansen is certainly not over rated. Will he be over BET? NO! He will take all of the money because he deserves it. He runs true to his odds here. You want to make money? Bet another race. Im so sick of Hansen getting dogged. This is an extremely talented horse. After this 3 year old campaign(which unlike his peers, HE is still competing in), I would think he would become a 7-8 furlong specialist much like Shackleford did. Dr. Hansen is running him in light spots for big purses. BRILLIANT! It keeps the horse RACING and the paychecks COMING. What did all of the other races this year prove as of right now?
William Caple More than 1 year ago
Mark I agree with you. Dr. Hansen is putting his horse in situations in which he can thrive. Hansen is still out there running and is picking up nice winnings. Dr. Hansen has done a great job marketing the horse and creating a little excitement. My kids adore the horse and love going to Churchill Downs when I get the chance to take them for a couple of hours. The haters will hate, but those who love racing will appreciate that bringing MORE people to the sport is the thing to do, especially younger ones. All that said, I really hope Hansen runs in the Travers, no matter what happens. I like seeing him compete! derbydeals.com
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
There will be nothing in the making come Saturday night when 9 other foes try to task the great white Hansen ! I am not saying anything that people already know - just some will not admit . Many people want to see Hansen fail "Only Due " to the owner of Dr Hansen . Thought I will not be wagering on this race : I do how-ever like Hansen to totally destroy his 9 other foes by as uch as 7 lengths or more : just on cruise control ! I would consider playing ( 9 - 4 ) ( 9 - 2,5,7,8 - 4 ) ( 9 - 2,5,7,8 - 2,5,7,8 - 4 ) ......................... 9 with 4 with all ............... 9 with all with 4 ................. 9 with all with all with 4 ......................... I dont play a race if I happen to like a chalk play of 3-5 or 4-5 or 7-5 ............. I just pass and find a race that has Value ! If a person really wanted to take a chance at longshots maybe coming in behind Hansen : then just take a Risk and go ( 9 with all with all ) $1 Trifecta $72.00 - ya just never know ! And if for those that DO NOT BELIEVE Hansn will Win but 'Good Enough' for 2nd place - then just go ( All with 9 with All ) and may luck be on your side
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Douglas. You and I been commenting for months. You're one of few that I pay attention to. Glad to see Dr. Hansen posting. It adds to the drama and I respect anyone who gets involved with fans. We need that in racing. Hansen is a great colt. If he loses due to distance limitations, I love Le Bernardin. He's coming into form and his sire seems to have late blooming stock. But, as you know, I don't bet. But I do respect your handicapping and analysis.
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Thomas Cook : thanks for your kindness in words ! As you well know : I have my bad days as well ! What did you think about July 29 10th race at Del Mar ( 8 Pink Blanket ) as being my BEST BET of the week : empty your pockets to Win on this Maiden runner ! That was a mighty fine race . I cant believe another runner got claimed out of that race and not Pink Blanket . Honestly , Pink Blanket could have Won by 20 legnths : just my opinion . YES : I have no problem with what Dr Hansen is wanting to do . How many times do we as people NAME our kids after us : ya just have to totally ignore people that really BASH , RANK others because that puts ya in bad reflection company . And that does not look good . YES : this is a free country : but I think at times people just dont like their own ways of life : so they feel on top of the world when they can step all over another . Trust Me : Dr Hansen could care less about the negative people reguarding himself . Dr Hansen knows how to have fun . YES : very much stuck on himself : but hey : can ya blame the guy ! ( Thomas Cook ) thanks for your comment once again . I have been up at Saratoga the last two days . Hanging out with J . Leparoux . As you well know : J . L . and I have been good friends for years since arriving to the States . I am heading back to Del Mar for Fri . Sat . Sun . races . I normally hang out with the stables of J . Sadler and D . O'Neill . I have viewed your Le Bernardin a number of times . I do not disagree . YES : I remember you saying many times that you do not bet ! Your a bigger man than I am . This has been my life : ever since I retred after Charlie Whittingham passed away . I really enjoy what I do now . I really wanted to go watch Hansen race Live : but there are are afew Maiden races Fri Sat Sun at Del Mar that I have been dearly waiting for : I would rather be at Del Mar live in person so I can see how things ae shaping up for those rces : than go and watch Hanse run : where I will not wager on that race at all ! I have always been a true believer in NOT WAGERING on a race IF I happen to like the favorite to Win at those morning line odds . Good to hear from you again THOMAS : I respect your advice as well :
William Tracy More than 1 year ago
lot of betting on a 1-9 shot with no chance whatsoever of making a profit.....OVER RATED HORSE deserves low odds against this group...might have competition for the lead Saturday
Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Hansen is not over-rated by the index number : its the people that talk the talk building this colt up way over beyond his needs at this time . There have been so many good colts falling so fast off te radar : thi really puts Hansen back in the game . If Dr Hansen can somehow get the trainer to take good care of this colt With Good Health : anything can happen on Breeders Cup day . Yes , that sounds abit out-of-reach at this stag of the game : but as long as ya can build confedence into a colt little by little : Sky Is The Limit . . . . who nows down the road . At this time : Dr Hansen is doing the Perfect thing for Hansen : races that this colt can BUILD ON !
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I like Le Bernardin here. If Hansen tires he can win this race. He's small in stature and can handle the turns and he has the pedigree to get the distance.