Juvenile colt champion Hansen, who suffered his first career defeat in the Grade 3 Holy Bull on January 29, will attempt to get back on the winning track in Saturday's Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham at Aqueduct. The front-running gray has not scared away the competition, as he will break from post 12 in a field of 13 going 1 1/16 miles on the inner dirt. This is the final local prep for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 7.
The Mike Maker-trained Hansen only narrowly clinched championship honors with a head victory over Union Rags in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, an effort preceded by double-digit scores in a maiden and the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, both at Turfway Park. Though Union Rags has since come back to score decisively in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, Hansen's three-year-old campaign got off to a humbling start in the Holy Bull over a one-turn mile at Gulfstream.
Stumbling at the break, Hansen recovered to take a commanding lead the down the backside, but appeared to go too fast for his own good. Over a sloppy strip often conducive to speed, Hansen simply ran out of gas at the top of the stretch and was inhaled by the now-sidelined Algorithms, who won by five lengths while Hansen just held second by a half-length over My Adonis.
Hansen will race without blinkers for the first time in the Gotham, but does retain Ramon Dominguez as his jockey.
"I feel like he was extra sharp in the Holy Bull," Dominguez said. "In talking after the race with Mike Maker, he said he wasn't really surprised how fresh the horse was. He said all along, although he would have liked to win that race, it wasn't the ultimate goal. I'm pretty optimistic that with that race under him, he will be a little more settled."
My Adonis, who was as much as 20 lengths back in the Holy Bull after getting bumped at the start, recovered sufficiently to give Hansen a late scare. The Kelly Breen trainee is due a better trip after dueling into submission in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot two back, an effort preceded by a 5 1/4-length triumph in the Jean Lafitte at Delta Downs.
Joining Hansen on the trip north from their South Florida winter base are Dan and Sheila, a closing fourth in the Grade 3 Lecomte for trainer Todd Pletcher; last-out allowance winner Maan; last-out maiden scorer Stealcase; and the Dale Romans-trained pair of Finnegans Wake, a turf maiden winner, and the maiden Suns Out Guns Out.
Darley Stable, owner of the Count Fleet and Grade 3 Withers winner Alpha, will be represented in the Gotham by Side Road, who registered a four-length maiden win on January 28 in his fourth career start. Other New York-based candidates include King and Crusader, who captured the six-furlong Jimmy Winkfield on January 16; Raconteur, an allowance winner for Pletcher last month; and the New York-bred stakes winner Pretension.
Returning to Aqueduct from Laurel are Tiger Walk, third in the Withers last time, and Done Talking, a decent fourth in the Grade 2 Remsen in his latest outing on November 26.