Dr. Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing’s Hansen, a major contender for the 138th running of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on May 5, worked a strong five furlongs on Saturday at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center in preparation for a planned run in next week’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) at Keeneland.
Exercise rider Joel Barrientos was in the saddle for trainer Mike Maker as the gray son of Tapit covered the distance in 1:00 over “fast” footing on the six-furlong training oval. He was joined in upper stretch by the Maker-trained 5-year-old mare La Gran Bailadora, a multiple stakes winner who was just starting her work. The two horses worked as a team through Hansen’s final quarter-mile and were on even terms when Hansen, an emphatic winner of Aqueduct’s Gotham (GIII) in his most recent start, finished his training move midway around the first turn.
"I don’t want to hook him up with another horse early in his work to keep him from getting rank, so I just have a workmate jump in with him to start their work where he’s finishing to get him to finish well,” Maker said. “Before the Gotham that’s kind of how we were working him. So we’re hoping to have a replay for the Blue Grass.”
Hansen was clocked in fractional times of :11.80, :23.60, :35.80 and :48.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.80. The colt’s work was the fourth-fastest of 14 at the distance and satisfied Maker, who looked ahead to next Saturday’s final Kentucky Derby prep for Hansen over Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack course.
“I just hope we draw well at Keeneland,” Maker said. “It looks like there’s going to be a big field.”
Among those looking on during Hansen’s work Dr. Kendall Hansen, the majority owner of his namesake, and Skychai Racing partners Harvey Diamond and Jim Shircliff.
Although the Kentucky Derby is 28 days away, Dr. Hansen was already exhibiting symptoms of a springtime malady know throughout horse racing as “Derby Fever.”
“I can hardly work,” Hansen said. “It started two days ago when it was the 5th and it (the Derby) was exactly 30 days out. Something happened to my body. My nurses were telling me, ‘Doc, your hands are shaking.’ My hands never shake, but I’ve got a tremor now and I think it’s from adrenaline. So I’m staying away from Mountain Dew.”
Hansen, who bred his Kentucky Derby contender, said he’s hearing from increasing numbers of friends and fans who are excited about the gray colt’s Kentucky Derby bid.
“The toughest question I get asked is ‘How does it feel to have a horse this good?’, and I really can’t answer it,” Hansen said. “There are just so many feelings and I’m kind of worried – am I taking it in right? Even (owner) Mike Repole, when he had (2010 juvenile champion) Uncle Mo, said he had a little stress with it. There’s a little responsibility that comes with trying to do it right.
“Then throw in the fact that the horse is almost white, and it’s almost like he’s blessed and supposed to be special – and I think he knows he’s special. I’ve got to stand by the way and push him in the right direction and get people exposed to him so they can have fun. It’s kind of a romantic thing to be engaged with a horse, to see a Thoroughbred. I hope we can bring some new fans to the great sport of horse racing and I think he’s going to be part of it.”
Hansen (the owner), who wore a blue T-shirt emblazoned with a white silhouette of his horse and the words “The Great White Hope,” wants to share his experience with fans who have become enchanted with Hansen (the horse).
“I don’t really feel like he’s my horse,” he said. “He’s the people’s horse. I’m just kind of a caretaker.”
Hansen, who was crowned as the champion 2-year-old in the United States after his victory in last fall’s Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Churchill Downs, has won four of five races, with a runner-up finish to Algorithms in the Holy Bull (GIII) at Gulfstream Park being the only setback in his young career. Hansen – the horse - has earned $1,473,305 in those races.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Rushaway Stakes runner-up Gung Ho, also trained by Maker, fired the five-furlong “bullet” at Trackside when he worked in :59. Other Maker-trained workers at the distance included 2010 Toyota Blue Grass winner Stately Victor (1:01), 2011 Toyota Blue Grass runner-up Twinspired (1:02.80) and 2010 Lane’s End (GII) winner Dean’s Kitten (1:01.60). La Gran Bailadora finished her five-furlong work in 1:04.20.
The work tab over a “fast” track at Churchill Downs was highlighted by a blistering move by Gulfstream Park Handicap (GII) winner Mucho Macho Man. Trainer Kathy Ritvo’s third-place finisher to Animal Kingdom in the 2011 Kentucky Derby covered the distance in :46.30, the fastest of 25 moves at the distance.
Mucho Man Man is expected to run next in the $300,000-added Alysheba Presented by Besilu Stables (GII) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, May 4.
Other Churchill Downs workers included Humana Distaff (GI) and Princess Rooney (GI) winner Sassy Image, who breezed five furlongs in :58, the fastest of 34 moves at the distance; Honey Fox (GII) and 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Tapitsfly, who covered five furlongs in :48.80; and Iroquois (GIII) runner-up Seven Lively Sins, who breezed four furlongs in :46.80, the day’s second-best move at the distance.