'Same old Hansen' draws plenty of attention at Churchill Downs

May 03, 2012|By Chris Korman, The Baltimore Sun

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — — Hansen does not need to try to be noticed.

The nearly all-white colt always stands out among his peers.

Yet on Thursday morning, the Breeders' Cup juvenile champion did all he could to draw the attention of a robust crowd on his first day this week at Churchill Downs.

A 10-1 choice on the morning line for the 138th Kentucky Derby, Hansen's antics didn't leave trainer Mike Maker concerned.

"Looks like he really had his eyeballs on Take Charge Indy out there," Maker said. "He was a little aggressive."

That's not new.

"Same old Hansen," Maker said. "Been that way since he came to our barn as a 2-year-old."

Actually a gray horse that has gone prematurely white, Hansen is slight. Maker tries to make him gain weight, but the colt shrugs it off. "He likes to play," Maker said.

Maker is an admittedly media-shy disciple of D. Wayne Lukas, having spent ten years as an assistant under the Hall of Fame trainer. Based at Churchill's peaceful Trackside Training Center, Maker had preferred to leave Hansen in his own barn until right before the race. Kentucky Derby rules require otherwise — every horse must be on the grounds by noon Wednesday. Hansen arrived with 15 minutes to spare — and the horse handled the switch well.

"He'll strut around, pose for cameras," Maker said. "I guess he likes [attention] more than I do."

That fits with the colt's majority owner, a Dr. Kendall Hansen who spent three decades in the horse game before deciding to have a namesake. The gregarious pain-management specialist — he paid for his first year of medical school by wagering on horses — immediately declared his horse's superiority after the post-position draw Wednesday.

"We're not worried about anybody," he said. "We have the best horse. Speed is dangerous, and he can go a mile and a quarter. Everybody will find that out in a couple of days."

Most handicappers think Hansen will not be able to outrun the field over one-and-a-quarter mile; he beat a charging Union Rags by a nose running 1 and 1/16th mile on this track last fall.

A different Dutrow

Maryland native Tony Dutrow will send Grace Hall to the gate at Friday's Kentucky Oaks, which gathers the top 3-year-old fillies, as a 5-2 favorite.

Dutrow, the son of influential trainer Richard E. Dutrow Sr., and brother of the sport's most controversial trainer, Rick, has quietly won nearly 1,700 races over a 34-year career. He told the Daily Racing Form recently that his last name has been a hinderance in recent years.

"But it is my strong opinion that the industry has deprived me of opportunities because of my last name," he said. "I think I have been unfairly judged by my last name."

Rick Dutrow, who trained Big Brown to Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins in 2008, has been accused of improprieties when treating his horses — and recently was stripped of a first-place finish at Laurel for medicating his horse too close to post time. He has appealed a 10-year suspension of his New York license, which would cost him racing opportunities across the country.

Tony hopes to change the conversation about his family name Friday. Grace Hall has run well at Churchill before.

"I have to feel good about that," he said. "… What makes me feel even better is watching her train here the last two days."

Believe You Can, ridden by former Maryland jockey Rosie Napravnik, was a 10-1 choice on the morning line, with On Fire Baby and Broadway's Alibi both coming in at 4-1.

Galloping back

Creative Cause, the 12-1 choice starting from post position eight, returned to the track Thursday. He'd walked the shed row on Tuesday and Wednesday, spurring speculation about his health. "Well, I guess everybody will be satisfied now that the colt has gone to the track," trainer Mike Harrington said. "This is what I do. It's my routine. I've always done this." … Daddy Long Legs remained in quarantine and will first see the track Friday. His trainer, Aidan O'Brien, did not accompany him on the trip from Dublin, sending T.J. Comerford instead. … Laurel Park-based trainer Hamilton Smith schooled Done Talking at the gate early Thursday. "He sashays to the left when the assistant starter tries to load him," Smith said. "I wanted to make sure the gate crew here got familiar with him and knew about that."



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