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Hansen Has It, But Can He Carry It?

Does the Gotham winner have the ability to stay the Kentucky Derby trip?

Of the five graded stakes run on dirt in the U.S. during the weekend of March 3 and 4, the A.P. Indy line captured four. On the West Coast, the revitalized Ron the Greek charged late to take Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). On the Santa Anita undercard, Eden's Moon, who was making only the third start of her career, captured the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) by 3¼ lengths. One of last year’s top 3-year-old fillies returned to action the same day in New York as It's Tricky won the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II). On the same Aqueduct card, champion juvenile Hansen took the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) in impressive style.

The pedigrees of Ron the Greek, Eden’s Moon, It’s Tricky, and Hansen have somewhat similar backgrounds, illustrating that perhaps much of the A.P. Indy line’s rise may be attributed to its ability to blend successfully with various branches of the Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer lines. Ron the Greek is a son of Florida resident Full Mandate (by A.P. Indy out of a mare by the Northern Dancer-line stallion Deputy Minister) and out of a mare by Fortunate Prospect, a grandson of Mr. Prospector; Eden’s Moon is by Malibu Moon  (by A.P. Indy out of a Mr. Prospector mare) and her dam is by Giant's Causeway  (by Northern Dancer’s grandson Storm Cat); It’s Tricky is a daughter of Mineshaft  (another by A.P. Indy out of a Mr. Prospector mare) and out of a daughter of Storm Cat’s son Tale of the Cat; and Hansen is by Tapit  (whose sire Pulpit is by A.P. Indy out of a mare by Mr. Prospector) out of a mare by Storm Cat’s son Sir Cat.

Although it carried the least prestige, the most interesting of the four races—with an eye to the future—might have been the Gotham. After a 2-year-old season in which he took his maiden over 5½ furlongs by 12¼ lengths, the Bluegrass Cat Kentucky Cup Juvenile Stakes by 13¼ lengths, and the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) by a hard-fought head over Union Rags , there was no doubt about Hansen’s speed or courage. At that end of his undefeated first season, Hansen had yet to be headed at any call.

However, on his return to action Jan. 29 in the one-mile Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) he stumbled at the gate, and although he was again in front after a quarter run in :23.64, he then rocketed through the next quarter in :22.03. Not surprisingly, the effort to gain the lead and the searing second fraction took their toll, leaving Hansen with no reserves to repel the onrushing Algorithms  (by A.P. Indy’s son Bernardini , and inbred to Mr. Prospector’s son Fappiano). Thus, one of the key questions to be answered in the Gotham Stakes was whether Hansen could harness his speed to carry it a classic distance. Happily, the reply was a strong affirmative. After a wide trip from the 12 hole through the first turn, Hansen—racing without blinkers for the first time in his career—settled just off the pace, took the lead rounding the final turn, and drew away to score by three lengths from My Adonis, who had finished just a length behind him in the Holy Bull.

Hansen’s next target will be the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I), which happens to be the last of three races won by his sire. Tapit had been undefeated at 2, when he captured the Laurel Futurity (gr. III) by 4¼ lengths. He lost his unbeaten record first time out at 3, when he was off the board in the Florida Derby (gr. I), before rebounding in the Wood. Tapit had come out of the Florida race with a “significant lung infection” and in the words of his trainer, Michael Dickinson, was “not in peak health or great condition” going to the Wood. It may be that the effort he put out to win the Wood while not at his best took its toll on Tapit, and on his two subsequent outings he finished unplaced in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II).

Retired to stand at Gainesway Farm at a fee of $15,000, Tapit has enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top of the stallion ranks. With his oldest runners only 6 in 2012, he has already been represented by 32 stakes winners, 17 of them graded, including champion 2-year-olds Hansen and Stardom Bound, as well as other group or grade I winners Testa Matta (a colt from his first crop who took the Japanase group I February Stakes this year), Careless Jewel, Zazu, Laragh, and Tell A Kelly. Hansen (TrueNIcks-rated A+), Careless Jewel, and Tell A Kelly are also three of the five stakes winners that Tapit has sired from only 29 starters out of mares by Storm Cat and his sons and grandsons.

Looking to the future, the most interesting questions about Hansen’s pedigree are his ability to stay the Kentucky Derby trip and his future prospects as a sire—a career for which he is obviously going to be in considerable demand, given his status as Tapit’s leading son to date.

It’s certainly not impossible for Tapit to get a 10-furlong runner.  His daughter Careless Jewel won the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) over that trip; son Headache won the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II); and another son, Rattlesnake Bridge, a stakes winner over 8½ furlongs, also ran second in the Travers Stakes (gr. I). Hansen’s dam, Stormy Sunday, is by Sir Cat, who did his best work at 8½ and nine furlongs, winning four grade II and III events. However, in a limited career that saw her win three of her four outings—her three victories all coming at 5½ or six furlongs—Stormy Sunday demonstrated that speed was her chief attribute, setting best  fractions of :21.38 and :44.93.

It’s difficult to get a bearing on the aptitude of the rest of Hansen’s immediate family, as the production record of the first four dams is limited. Second dam Thinkin’strait recorded both of her wins at six furlongs, and of her other two winners, one, a sister to Stormy Sunday, scored over six furlongs, and the other at up to a mile. The third dam, Tescudera (who is by the Belmont Stakes winner Temperence Hill), didn’t win, and Thinkin’strait was her lone named foal. Fourth dam Thorn Apple was placed in a single start at 2 and bred one winner from four foals. One has to go back to the sixth dam, the Turn-to mare Elite Turn, to find a mare who produced a stakes winner, she being the dam of the El Cajon Stakes victor and Illinois Derby (gr. III) runner-up Mighty Return. On the limited evidence available close up in the pedigree, one couldn’t be completely confident about Hansen’s ability to show his best form at 10 furlongs.

Just as the lack of black type close up in Hansen’s female line has not prevented him from becoming a champion, we see no reason why it should have a negative impact on his potential as a sire. In fact, when we consider Hansen’s pedigree as a whole we note that it contains several strong female families. Great-grandsire  A.P. Indy is out of Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise; grandsire Pulpit goes back to a sister to Round Table and is from the immediate family of Tale of the Cat and Johannesburg; and Tapit himself has a sister to Relaunch as his third dam. Hansen’s broodmare sire, Sir Cat, is out of Desert Run, who in turn is by Private Account (out of champion Numbered Account, from the La Troienne family) out of the international champion April Run. With this in mind, there are going to be numerous interesting potential matings that can be created for Hansen when it comes time for him to begin his stud career.