6:00am

Fri April 13, 2012
Sports

"I Don't Think We Can Beat" Hansen

A win this weekend in Lexington’s Bluegrass Stakes could make Hansen a favorite in the Kentucky Derby.  The Kentucky-bred is considered the two-year-old champion, winning the Breeders Cup Juvenile, the Gotham and an Eclipse Award.  Owner Kendall Hansen says his 6-5 favorite is ready to run.

“He’s great.  He actually started peaking three weeks after the Gotham.  Mike thought he was Derby-ready then.  So, he’s good to go.  And this race, obviously, with the talent in this race, is going to be a good tightener for him,” said Dr. Hansen.

It’s been 20 years since the winner of Keeneland’s Bluegrass Stakes has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby.  The last horse to do so was “Strike the Gold” in 1991. Still, tomorrow’s race is considered an important preliminary.  Keeneland handicapper Mike Battaglia says a win by Kentucky-bred “Hansen“ could make him the favorite.

“You know Union Rags was everybody’s favorite, and had he won the Florida Derby, I think he would have been a solid favorite in the Kentucky Derby. But, he had a bad trip. He got beat. He ran 3rd…door wide open.  I thought Gemologist ran a great race in the Wood…he’s undefeated.  If Hansen runs the way I think that he’ll run on Saturday, I think those are going to be the top three, but I’m not sure in what order.  It kind of depends on Hansen, on how he runs here in the Bluegrass,” said Battaglia.

The other top contenders in Saturday’s Bluegrass Stakes are “Dullahan” and “Howe Great.” During a press preview on Wednesday, owner Barry Irwin said “Howe Great” is inconsistent and that has him worried.

 “I think there’s a lot of speed, but every time there looks like there’s a lot of speed, sometimes it doesn’t materialize.  So, I wouldn’t say I’m confident. I think it’s a really tough race. I think Hansen is the best horse in this crop. And, I don’t think we can beat him, to tell you the truth,” said Irwin

The morning line on “Howe Great” and Kentucky-bred “Dullahan” is 6-1.  At 13 entries, it’s the biggest field since the Bluegrass Stakes was run in 1974.