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Hansen's travel plans set; Gotham field coming together
Champion Hansen's travel plans for next Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes are set, co-owner Dr. Kendall Hansen said Friday.
Dr. Hansen said the colt will fly to New York on the Wednesday before the Gotham after turning in his final breeze at Gulfstream Park, possibly on Monday.
The doctor spoke of Hansen's most recent workout, officially a bullet :59 five-furlong breeze at Gulfstream on February 19, in glowing terms.
"His last breeze on Sunday was strong," said Dr. Hansen, who owns the colt in partnership with Dr. Harvey Diamond's Sky Chai Racing. "He actually ran another furlong, and we were pleased with that. It was actually a six-furlong work. He was running 12-second furlongs, and that's his cruising speed. Since he put up a bullet last week, his next breeze will probably be slower."
Hansen, who capped his unbeaten two-year-old campaign with a nose victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, finished second, beaten five lengths by Algorithms, in the Grade 3 Holy Bull after stumbling at the break. The Gotham will be his second start of 2012.
"We had some bad luck last time, and people probably think we're beatable," Dr. Hansen said. "We were about 75 percent last time and were hoping for an easy spot, but we ran into a top horse in Algorithms. (Hansen) is doing well right now. We're at about 85 or 90 percent. Obviously, we want to peak in May."
Dr. Hansen added that trainer Michael Maker has been working on getting the son of Tapit to settle in his workouts and that the 1 1/16-mile Gotham, which is expected to draw a large field, will test the colt's ability to race in traffic.
"It'd be nice to see a few horses come to his side early, and then have him lead by about three or four lengths at the quarter pole," he admitted.
The doctor revealed Hansen's demeanor has changed since the Holy Bull, giving the owner confidence the colt will regain winning form.
"It's going to be fun, and I think we have the horse to beat," he remarked. "You don't want to go against the champion in his first start after a loss. He was really ticked off (after the Holy Bull)."
Trainer Todd Pletcher has not been scared off and will have two of his many talented sophomores on display in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham -- Dan and Sheila, and Raconteur.
Dan and Sheila, a More Than Ready colt, exits an impressive effort in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds on January 21, in which he was three-wide rounding the first turn and rallied from 12th to finish fourth in his second start.
"I thought he ran a very respectable race at the Fair Grounds," praised Michael McCarthy, Pletcher's assistant. "Once Johnny (Velazquez) was able to wheel him outside, he was able to start picking up horses. He finished up strong, and galloped out well. Obviously some seasoning will do him some good."
After going 0-for-five as a two-year-old, Raconteur broke his maiden over the Big A's inner track on January 6 and four weeks later followed that up with a three-quarter-length victory in a one-mile and 70-yard optional claimer.
"It's taken him a little while to come around," McCarthy said of the A.P. Indy chestnut. "Obviously he's put together some decent races back-to-back. It might be a little bit of a tall order at the moment, but I think he deserves a shot to be in there. We know he likes the racetrack; maybe he can come and mow them down late."
Both Dan and Sheila, and Raconteur are scheduled to breeze Sunday morning, according to McCarthy.
While Pletcher's duo are looking to prove their class in the Gotham, Maan will be trying to carry his speed after two nice wins sprinting. Unbeaten from those two starts, the Malibu Moon colt is likely to make his stakes debut in the Gotham, trainer Eddie Kenneally's Belmont Park-based assistant Tom Morley said Friday.
Maan debuted a 1 1/2-length victor in July at Churchill Downs and was taken to Saratoga for a possible start in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special before a growth spurt prompted Kenneally to give the juvenile time off.
"When we bought him, he was a real sharp-looking two-year-old type of horse," Morley said. "He broke his maiden at Churchill, and Eddie had the Saratoga Special in mind for him. We took him to Saratoga, and the horse grew and became a completely different animal. The best thing to do with him was to turn him out and give him a break.
"He suddenly looked like he was going to mature into a proper-looking horse, so Eddie decided to give him a little break. Eddie is not afraid of doing that with nice horses. He's very, very patient, especially if he thinks they have a smart future in front of them."
In his seasonal bow, a 6 1/2-furlong optional claimer contested on February 9 in the slop at Gulfstream Park, Maan left from post position 1 and rallied along the rail to prevail by a half-length.
"He ran a huge comeback race in Florida," Morley said. "He did not get a clean trip at all from the inside post, but showed a lot of guts and a lot of class to win. We hope he can turn into a real nice horse."
Morley said the Gotham is perfectly timed to stretch out Maan and try him in a graded stakes.
"I think the horse has the class," Morley asserted. "He is a stakes horse, there's no doubt about that. Will he stretch out? There's only one way to find out. He certainly didn't seem to be stopping at the end of his allowance win in Florida. It was a good indication that he may not be just a nice sprinter. To be a real good horse, you not only have to have tactical speed but also the ability to stay. I don't think a mile will be a problem for the horse, but after that I don't think anybody knows."
Next Saturday's Gotham, precursor to the Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial on April 7, will likely feature more than a dozen classic-minded three-year-olds. In addition to the aforementioned runners, NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes indicates the following are also likely to line-up in the starting gate: Consortium, seventh in the Holy Bull; Done Talking, who came from last to finish fourth, beaten just a length, in the Grade 2 Remsen last fall; Jimmy Winkfield winner King and Crusader; My Adonis, third in the Holy Bull; and Tiger Walk, third in the Grade 3 Withers on February 4.
Also probable for the 1 1/16-mile race are Chief Energy, making his first start since August; Cop A Tude, making his stakes debut after a pair of victories at Laurel Park; New York-bred Pretension, 2-3-0 from five starts including the Sweet Envoy overnight stakes last time out; and recent maiden winner Stealcase.