Hansen, last year’s Eclipse champion juvenile, will parade to the post as the favorite in Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.
Owned by Dr. Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing, the popular gray, nearly white horse, is coming off an impressive score in the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct last time out. He will be the first 2-year-old champion to run in the Blue Grass since Street Sense in 2007, the first year the Blue Grass was run on Polytrack. Street Sense finished a fast-closing second to Dominican in the race before going on to win the Kentucky Derby in his next start.
Hansen has performed exceedingly well over synthetic surfaces. He won his debut at Turfway Park by 12 1/4 lengths and returned to capture the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes by 13 1/4 lengths in his next start over Turfway’s synthetic surface. He erased any questions about the main track being an issue in wiring the field in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Hansen had a less-than stellar return to the races in this, his sophomore campaign. He stumbled at the start of the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) in the slop at Gulfstream Park, eventually losing to Algorithms by five lengths. He more than made up for the effort in the Gotham, however, showing a new dimension. For the first time in his young career, Hansen stalked the early pace and pulled clear late in an impressive outing for trainer Michael Maker.
At Wednesday’s post position draw, Hansen, a son of Tapit, drew post No. 4 and was installed as the 6-5 favorite. He will be ridden by his regular rider Ramon Dominguez, who piloted Alpha to a second-place finish last weekend in the Wood Memorial (G1).
“He’s right where he wants to be. (Jockey) Ramon (Dominguez) can do whatever he wants,” said David Koenig of Skychai Racing. “If he wants to hurry up to the first turn, he can. If he wants to sit back, he can. He’s not on the rail, but he’s close enough to it – I think he can do what he wants.”
When asked about the spacing of the Blue Grass to the Derby and then the remaining Triple Crown races, Maker responded: “It might be a lot to ask if we’re fortunate to get that far, but I’m just thinking of the Derby at this point.”