SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Saying it was "possible, but not probable" that a small tear in Hansel's left front leg could be repaired, trainer Frank Brothers yesterday all but ruled out more racing for the colt this year and foreshadowed possible early retirement.
Hansel incurred the injury when finishing second by a neck to Corporate Report in the 122nd Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday. Early yesterday morning, Brothers deferred comment before flying to his home base in Chicago. Yesterday afternoon, he told The Associated Press: "A decision about his career will be made shortly."
Hansel was to follow Brothers to Arlington International Racecourse later in the day. The winner of the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes and $2,936,586, Hansel has an injury that could well lead owner Joe L. Allbritton to retire him to stud. A tendon injury of this nature is slow to heal and often prevents a horse from recovering its best form.
Meanwhile, Jeff Lukas, who saddled Corporate Report for his father, Wayne, said yesterday morning the colt "finally had his day. It's a great thrill to see a horse develop and run good races, then break through and win a race like the Travers.
"We're going to enjoy the Travers and then do our best to go on and win the next one. We haven't talked about [his next race] yet. There's going to be some interesting races the next 60 days."
Corporate Report, at 7-1 the second-longest shot in a six-horse field, was posting his first stakes win in the Travers. The upset throws the division into probably its most jumbled state of the year.
Some 3 1/2 months ago, after the Kentucky Derby, the division leader was Derby winner Strike the Gold, trained by Nick Zito. But Saturday, Strike the Gold finished a disappointing fourth as the favorite, making him 0-for-4 since the Derby.
Yesterday, Zito attended to early rounds while backstretch observers went about the business of "red-boarding," a racetrack custom of explaining exactly why things happened after the red "official" sign has been lit on the tote board after a race.
Seconds after Zito finished chatting with a group and walked away, a sympathetic woman told friends Strike the Gold was listless in the paddock, and that's probably why the colt gave such a dull performance.
"I heard three other people say the same thing," she said.
Whatever. Zito still plans to run Strike the Gold in the Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic.
For the Maryland colt, Tong Po, it's still full speed ahead. Trainer Leon Blusiewicz is undeterred in his faith in Tong Po, who was eased in the stretch and finished a dismal last.
"A little disappointing," Blusiewicz said, smiling. "But we're still going to the Molson [Million].
"The colt had heat exhaustion," he said. "It took 2 1/2 hours to cool him out. He drank a whole bucket of water, and he'd never done that.
"[Jockey] Chris [Antley] said the horse felt like a dishrag at the half-mile pole. But he's sound and Chris said he galloped out fine. I know he's better than what he showed."
Blusiewicz said he would return to his Pimlico Race Course base for several days while Tong Po remains at Saratoga. The trainer said he would send the colt to Woodbine Race Course, near Toronto, on Aug. 31 to begin training for the $1 million, 1 1/8 -mile race, which is restricted to 3-year-olds and will be run Sept. 15. The colt was supplemented to the Molson Million last week for $17,000 by owner Bob Quinichett.