Easily handling a full field in the $400,000 Gotham (gr. III) (VIDEO) was only part of the good news for the connections of champion Hansen March 3 at Aqueduct. Just as important was seeing the son of Tapit relax in the early going before using his brilliant speed en route to his first victory of the season.
Hansen rebounded from his first career defeat in the Jan. 29 Holy Bull (gr. III) by destroying a dozen rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham. He scored by three lengths under Ramon Dominguez and reaffirmed his status as one of the top contenders for the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Making his first start in New York, the gray/roan colt won for the fourth time in five starts, covering the distance on the good inner track in 1:43.84 as the 4-5 favorite.
The winning colt is owned Dr. Kendall Hansen, who bred him in Kentucky, and Harvey Diamond. Mike Maker is the trainer.
Breaking from post 12 in a field of 13 while racing without blinkers for the first time, Hansen was floated four-wide into the short run of the first turn. Instead of gunning for the lead, Hansen rated kindly under a patient Dominguez while King and Crusader took the lead with Maan, My Adonis, and Dan and Sheila also up close. Once they cleared the turn, Hansen advanced to find a comfortable stalking position just behind King and Crusader, who was ridden by Mike Luzzi. The opening fractions were :23.68, :47.51, and 1:11.79.
Midway on the far turn Dominguez finally said ‘go’ and Hansen easily took over from the pacesetter at the top of the lane. He led by three at the eighth pole. My Adonis, who was a half-length back of Hansen in third in the Holy Bull, was the only challenger within sight at that point, but he was never going to get to Hansen, who cruised to the wire the easiest of winners.
My Adonis and Elvis Trujillo finished second, six lengths in front of 25-1 Finnegans Wake, who edged out 31–1 Tiger Walk for third.
"He really took the step forward as far as maturing," Dominguez said. "He actually did it better than I expected; he was so relaxed. Coming to the three-eighths pole when he switched to his left lead and I got after him, he went on beautifully. He really did it as nice as I could expect. I was hoping that he could take the step forward, mind-wise, but he really took it further than I expected. Awesome. Galloped out like a freight train too.”
Hansen, who is out of the Sir Cat mare Stormy Sunday, increased his earnings to $1,473,305. He began his career with three consecutive wins including the Nov. 5 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, which helped him earn champion 2-year-old male honors.
After the race, Maker said the $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct would be next for the colt. Hansen left the door open for the $500,000 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park on March 24. Whatever they decide, Maker said he would probably take him back to Kentucky to train in the interim.
“To see him relax and see him finish up strong, that’s really what I wanted," Dr. Hansen said. "This is perfect. I’m a little bit more relaxed when he’s tucked in and just tracking another horse and just takes it easy."
Hansen paid $3.60, $2.80, and $2.50. The exacta (12-1) returned $17.20 and the trifecta (12-1-3) was worth $221.