The Brock Talk

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hansen Gets Rodney Treatment For An Eclipse Champion

Despite his victory in the prestigious Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Monday night being honored with an Eclipse Award as Champion Two-Year-Old Male, one would think Hansen (photo right) returns to training this year among a wave of popularity. After all, his eventual task now is to carry that success to Churchill Downs in May and win America’s most prestigious race, the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Nothing in January insures victory in May of course, but with all of the accolades, one would think the reigning champ would at least be the favorite for the Derby.

Not so fast say the future book odds-makers.

Despite his last two significant accomplishments, the son of the successful young sire Tapit is not among the top three choices to the Kentucky Derby according to the Derby future book on The on-line betting service has Breeders’ Cup runner-up Union Rags as the favorite at 10-1 with Algorithms and Liason both second choice at 12-1. Hansen is co-fourth choice at 15-1 with Alpha. That’s right: Hansen can’t even eek out solo position for fourth choice in the wagering circles.

After a brief break, Hansen has returned to trainer Mike Maker’s barn at Gulfstream Park in Florida where he is expected to make his 2012 debut in a stake race there according to reports.

However, owner Dr. Kendall Hansen has indicated that the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) in late March at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky is the eventual planned Kentucky Derby prep race. Hansen broke his maiden and won the $95,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway in 2011 before winning the prestigious Juvenile. Last year, Animal Kingdom used his victory in the Spiral Stakes as his final race before also winning the Kentucky Derby.

Union Rags was also the heavy post time favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with near even odds and an undefeated record at the time from three starts. Trained by Michael Matz who won the 2006 Kentucky Derby with the ill-fated Barbaro, Union Rags won the Saratoga Special and one mile Champagne Stakes as a 2-year-old but will need to prove he can handle the longer races leading up to and including the Triple Crown. A son of Dixie Union and out of the Gone West mare Tempo, Union Rags is currently the 10-1 favorite to win the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

Algorithms is from the large group of potential Derby horses trained by 2011 Eclipse Award nominee Todd Pletcher and is also one of many sons of the popular and productive young sire Bernardini. Although he has no stakes wins to his credit, Algorithms is undefeated in two races including a maiden win in June and then an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park in December, defeating fellow Bernardini son and Derby hopeful Consortium trained by Kairan McLaughlin.

Liason is another in a line of Indian Charlie sons trained by three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert. After losing his first start in a one mile allowance race at Del Mar in early September, Liason has won three straight including the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes and grade 1 CashCall Futurity, both 1-1/16 mile races at Hollywood Park in the late Fall.

Along with Hansen at 15-1 in the gohorsebetting future line is Alpha, also by Bernardini. Another trained by McLaughlin, Alpha is one of the first winners on this year’s trail to the Kentucky Derby, taking Aqueduct’s Count Fleet Stakes Jan. 7.

As a 2-year-old, Alpha garnered some attention finishing second to Union Rags in the grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. While not among the favorites in the Juvenile, Alpha compromised his chances before the start of the Juvenile by being fractious in the gate. Alpha still broke well and raced into early competition down the backstretch in the Juvenile, but when the serious running started, Alpha didn’t and eventually finished 11th.

It is still 108 days before the Kentucky Derby which is an eternity for trainers trying to get their horses to the Run for the Roses. And the odds-makers nor their probabilities have any influence as to who will be wearing the blanket of roses at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Like a college football coach ranked number one in preseason polls, Maker and Dr. Hansen will probably tell you they prefer not to wear that extra target on their back as Hansen the thoroughbred begins his sophomore campaign and trip down the trail to Kentucky and beyond.

But for a champion, they they must feel a little too much like a Rodney for a Hansen.


Fran Jurga said...

Thanks for helping me sort them all out (again)!

Unknown said...

And just when we think we have an idea, they're going to start running in the Kentucky Derby preps and everything begins to change. Thanks for the comment Fran.