The co-owner of top 3-year-old colt Hansen said he was willing to go ahead and race his horse in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) with the colt’s tail dyed blue in defiance of regulators and incur a fine.
However, Dr. Kendall Hansen said April 15, he and trainer Mike Maker were initially left with the impression that Hansen, a leading contender for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) could have been scratched, a possibility that led them to wash the dye out prior to the 1 1/8 mile race at Keeneland April 14.
According to Hansen, who bred the near-all-white colt and races him with Sky Chai Racing, the tail was dyed earlier in the day at Maker’s Barn 24 at Keeneland. “I tried to keep it a secret, since I had been planning it for months and wanted it to be a surprise when he got to the paddock,” Hansen said. “But I let a crew in from NBC (the network that televised the Blue Grass through its MNBC affiliate), and then word began to get out.”
Barbara Borden, the acting chief steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, heard about the dying incident and contacted the colt’s connections, telling them it would be in violation of racing rules pertaining to a horse’s appearance not being altered when it arrives in the paddock for a race.
Hansen said Maker, who had a busy day with saddling horses on the Blue Grass card, believed there was a chance the stewards could order Hansen scratched out of the race. Rather than jeopardize the possibility of Hansen not being able to run in his final Derby prep, Maker directed that the dye be removed from the tail.
Hansen said he and Maker were unable to talk throughout the day due to poor cell phone service (Keeneland reported a record crowd of 40,617) and that led to some communication problems between owner and trainer. In the end, Hansen said, he discovered scratching the colt was not under consideration but that disciplinary action that included a fine was a possibility if the blue tail scheme had been undertaken.
“I was willing to do that (accept a fine in exchange for running Hansen with a blue tail) and am disappointed I wasn’t able to,” the doctor said. “Mike was playing it safe. He was doing what he had to do."
As post time for the Blue Grass drew closer, Hansen said he was told that not all of the dye had been eliminated from the colt’s tail and that it was going to have a turquoise hue to it, not the original royal blue colors of the University of Kentucky that it was dyed. At that point, Hansen said, he tried to get the dye applied again, but it was too late because Hansen was already in the pre-race detention barn.
Hansen said reports that he and Maker disagreed on dying the colt were incorrect, only that the trainer was upset with the second effort to apply the coloring. Hansen said Maker was part of the original plan, noting that the trainer had to make the horse available earlier in the day for the dye job.
“As the hours wound down, there were some frustrations (between owner and trainer),” Hansen said.
Borden said Hansen, the co-owner, should have known he could not dye the tail blue because he had previously been turned down when he requested to do it prior to a race at Turfway Park. Also, Hansen had been refused permission by regulators in New York to have the colt’s tail dyed prior to his victory in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III).
Borden said stewards discussed the possibility of a fine and/or license suspension if Hansen had raced with the blue tail. In the end, it was a moot point because of the dye being removed.
Hansen said he believed the earlier directive applied only to Turfway Park and that unlike in New York, he was not given anything in writing by Kentucky stewards.
“It was very disappointing for me, considering all the work that went into this,” Hansen said of the blue-tail incident, adding that he would refrain from future attempts. “I like to do things for the fun of it and this took the wind out of my sails.”
Although his dyed tail attempt was aborted, Hansen did pull off another publicity stunt by having Hansen accompanied to the paddock by several young women clad in tight-fitting outfits that included blue horse-like tails attached.
Overall, the off-track events had no impact on the Blue Grass, as Hansen set a fast pace before being overtaken by eventual winner Dullahan in the stretch.
Co-owner Hansen said he was not disappointed with the race, noting that there were not enough horses willing to take the lead that would have led to Hansen being able to come from off the pace.
“You have to take what you’re given (in a race),” he said. “The horse ran great. Dullahan also ran a great race. But the Derby will be a different story.”