Dr. Hansen at Fever Pitch for Derby
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Dr. Kendall Hansen

Dr. Kendall Hansen, majority owner of his namesake, Hansen, is getting pumped for the April 14 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) and is already experiencing symptoms of Derby fever. He’s hoping the nearly white Hansen pounds the Keeneland Polytrack with such force, he produces a tremor more powerful than the one he felt inside himself last week.

Derby fever is getting bad, and I’ve already told my nurses to keep an eye on me and make sure I’m focused,” Hansen said on a national teleconference. “I’ve never had a tremor in my life, and a couple of days ago I had a little essential (involuntary) tremor, and the only thing I can figure is it was on the fifth of April, exactly 30 days from the Derby. I’m thinking. ‘Oh my God, I’ve got adrenalin kicking in 30 days ahead of time. How am I going to handle this for 30 more days?’ I’m getting a little more jacked up every day, but it’s really fun and a great feeling.”

 

Hansen’s confidence in his horse supersedes any anxieties he might be feeling, and he’s expecting another bravura performance from his 2-year-old champion. The Keeneland Polytrack surface is a bit different from the Turfway Park Polytrack over which Hansen romped in his first two races, but Dr. Hansen can’t help but think of the dominance the colt displayed in those two races.

 

“I wouldn’t say I have a lot of confidence he’ll handle it the same, but it’s exciting when your horse has won his two races on Polytrack by 12 and 13 lengths,” he said. “I hope he can have a lot of fun on it Saturday without throwing out his biggest race. But I’m really shocked to see how tough the Blue Grass is coming up, and he’s going to have to run well even to win the race. But it sure would be nice to see him win by daylight and have plenty left at the end.”

 

Hansen realizes it is important that his colt rate behind horses, as he did in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III), but if the race unfolds where no one wants the lead, he wouldn’t mind seeing Hansen take them on a merry chase.

 

“We draw post positions tomorrow and I’ll spend several hours as I usually do handicapping the race and see who we’re running against,” Hansen said. “Ramon (Dominguez) is going to want to work with Hansen and teach him to tuck in behind horses. I hope some horses go out there for the lead so he can do that.

 

"I want to go into the Kentucky Derby with Ramon being able to use his internal clock as he goes around the first turn and determine whether it’s a fast pace or a slow pace. If it’s a slow pace he can go on with him and wire the field. If he thinks they’re going too quick, he’ll pull back and tuck in and wait until the quarter pole or three-eighths pole. Ramon is the best in the world and we’ll just have to rely on him and his expertise. The last thing we want is to be going too quick with a rank horse in the Kentucky Derby. But if he’s having a good day I also wouldn’t mind him pulling a Spend a Buck (who set blistering fractions and ran his field into the ground in the 1985 Derby)."

 

But first, Hansen has to run well enough on Saturday for Dominguez to decide to ride him in the Derby after finishing a fast-closing second aboard Alpha in the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (gr. I), in which the son of Bernardini   had to check sharply on the first turn. Although Dr. Hansen has the utmost respect for Alpha, he isn’t worried about Dominguez defecting.

 

“I read that Ramon was going to make a decision after the Blue Grass, but (Alpha’s trainer) Kiaran McLaughlin knows we’re at the top, and there would have to be some type of major snafu for him not to ride Hansen,” Dr. Hansen said. “Alpha ran a huge race and some people felt he should have beaten Gemologist after having to check so hard, and he’s been a new horse since being put on Lasix. I can’t say I’m looking forward to running against Alpha. He’s definitely one of the top six contenders for the Derby and Ramon has got to keep that option open, but Hansen is going to run so well on Saturday it’ll be a no-brainer.”

 

Dr. Hansen is enjoying the celebrity he and his horse have experienced since last fall and is planning to take advantage of it on Saturday.

 

“He gets fan mail from as far away as Tokyo, and he gets art work from classrooms around the country,” Hansen said. “That’s how I got on the idea of coloring his tail at some point (a move that was rejected by the NYRA stewards before the Gotham Stakes). He’s gorgeous and perfect the way he is, but he’s like an open palette, too.

 

"He’s won some battles and American Indians used to paint their horses when they went into battle if they were heroic, and Hansen has earned the privilege of wearing something, and we might think of doing that in the near future. Watch carefully in the paddock at the Blue Grass. We’ve got a little surprise planned. We’ll do something a little bit eye-opening, so stay tuned.”

 

A good deal of Hansen’s appeal, in addition to his victories, is his color, and Dr. Hansen, who bred the colt, was flabbergasted when he laid eyes on him for the first time.

 

“He was a shock when he was born, with his brother being a bay,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on having a light gray horse, and he’s getting whiter. I notice his face more. He’s so intelligent and has so many different expressions on his face, which seems to be getting cuter. Everybody can see it now with the blinkers off. I like the little white stripe between his nostrils.

 

“He’s just got a heck of an engine on him and no one has been able to pick out a flaw yet on his conformation. Even one of my old trainers says he has muscles where he’s never seen muscles before. He’s put together perfectly, like a little Ferrari.”

 

Now, he hoping that little Ferrari speeds around the Keeneland track and can duplicate his Gotham Stakes (gr. III) performance, in which he proved he could overcome a very wide trip and still rate behind horses.

 

“The Gotham meant everything,” Dr. Hansen said. “Considering how wide he was around the turn, he handled adversity well, and for him and Ramon to work so well together, especially after running off in the Holy Bull, was extremely important.” 

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