Archive for Hansen

Hansen’s Owner: Eccentric and Just What Racing Needs???

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Rick Bozich of The Courier-Journal…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

Fresh air, if not blue hair, planned for Hansen on Derby day

This will give the racing stewards indigestion, but the word from the Hansen camp Saturday was that Dr. Kendall Hansen, the colt’s namesake and majority owner, is not finished jerking on the tail of buttoned-up Kentucky Derby behavior.

No, he isn’t planning to dye the colt’s tail blue, which was the stunt that had the Keeneland stewards hyperventilating before the Blue Grass Stakes two weeks ago. The tail remains nearly white, the same shade as the rest of the thunderous 3-year-old.

Dr. Hansen has other plans to make the Derby crowd wash out: He’s talking with a skywriter about sketching the name of the winner above Churchill Downs at precisely the moment Gov. Steve Beshear is handing him the 2012 Derby trophy.

“I guess I could be in contact with the plane on the phone and call it off if somehow Hansen doesn’t win,” Hansen said. “Or I could have the name of another winner written up there.”

There’s more. Hansen, who runs a pain-management practice in Northern Kentucky, also has purchased about 3,000 miniature stuffed Hansen dolls. He plans to toss them trick-or-treat style at the track, including the glorious pre-Derby walk from the barns to the paddock.

“Racing needs more people like Dr. Hansen,” said Jim Shircliff, a Louisville-based money manager who owns a piece of the colt.

“This whole experience has been like a rocket ship to the moon,” said Dr. Harvey Diamond, another minority owner.

Amen. This is a horse race, not a tax audit. Lift your mint julep cup and enjoy. I don’t know what track management is thinking, but I know what you’re thinking:

How can I get my hands on a miniature Hansen? Collector’s item.

On Saturday morning at Churchill’s Trackside Training Center, Hansen the horse worked five-eighths of a mile for trainer Mike Maker in 1:011/5. It was his final serious Derby work. This is more than a horse with owners celebrating the moment. Hansen won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November and has backed up his credentials by winning the Gotham Stakes and finishing second in the Holy Bull and Blue Grass this year.

Dr. Hansen scratched Saturday, booking a weekend escape to the Dominican Republic. He is expected to report to Louisville on Tuesday for the Derby trainers’ dinner. I spoke with him by telephone. When I finished asking questions, he had one for me:

“Do you think I could get the governor to kiss the ground with me (in the winner’s circle),” he asked.

Be prepared, Louisville. The past-performance chart of Hansen (the owner) indicates he will continue to kick up headlines as relentlessly as his colt dropped, rolled and kicked up sand for nearly 10 playful minutes after his Saturday work.

There is an Internet video on which Hansen says: “It’s like you’re 10 years old and you’re waking up and it’s Christmas every morning. I have a big gift, a big, white, 1,100-pound gift that runs fast and is gorgeous and he’s going to win the Kentucky Derby.”

It’s not a hoax. Hansen told me this: “I’d like to do a Spend A Buick (1985 Derby winner) and wire the damn field.”

His A-list material also features the story about how he paid most of his way through Indiana University medical school with winnings from playing the horses. He surprised his co-owners last week by telling the New York Post that he spent the final $8,000 in his Twin Spires account on exotic bets on Breeders’ Cup day, keying Hansen in the Juvenile. He cleared $420,000.

True?

“Yes,” Hansen said. “I hope he’s 7-1 in the Derby. I’ll put $2,000 on the nose to win. It’s the right thing to do.”

Hansen bred the colt with a mare he purchased for $5,000. He retains 75 percent ownership. Shircliff, Diamond and others own the rest.

Shircliff and Diamond are partners in Skychai Racing. They had their first Derby horse, Twinspired, last year. He finished 17th, beating two horses. Their strain of Derby Fever became more potent.

Both grew up in Louisville, Diamond graduating from Seneca High School, Shircliff from Flaget. Diamond has owned horses for nearly three decades. His most unforgettable medical moment was treating people overwhelmed by the heat during the first football game at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in 1998.

Shircliff is the chief investment officer for River Road Asset Management, recently voted one of the best small businesses to work for in Kentucky. He confessed that he took a cash advance on his MasterCard to claim his first horse at Louisville Downs.

“This game is an excellent hedge against capital gains,” Shircliff said with a wink.

His hair is mostly white, like Hansen’s. Diamond’s is predominanty gray. Any possibility the hair-coloring shifts to the owners’ box for the Derby?

“I’m not going to show up with blue hair,” Diamond said. “I’m preferential to InfraRED and black. But I wouldn’t be surprised if one of us showed up with blue or something.”

You have been warned, Louisville.

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Breeders Cup Reveals Reasons Why Horse Racing Should Be Excited About Future

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Joe Drape of New York Times…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

Breeders’ Cup Over; Excitement May Not Be

The 28th running of the Breeders’ Cup is in the books, and there is a lot of things to like about the top end of the thoroughbred racing industry. There was hardly a dud among the 15 races contested — which should be expected when $26 million of purse money is at stake.

The Europeans took a strong contingent to Churchill Downs — a must if this is truly going to be a global championship — and they left here with ample loot. The trainer Aidan O’Brien won the Juvenile Turf with Wrote, then experienced a more priceless moment when his 18-year-old son, Joseph, rode St. Nicholas Abbey to victory in the Turf to become the youngest jockey to capture a Breeders’ Cup race.

There were a fair share of bombers that came in, but none bigger than Court Vision, who had not been in the winner’s circle in 13 months but found his way back there with a furious closing kick to win the $2 million Mile at odds of 69-1.

Dale Romans, who took over the training of the horse from Rick Dutrow in September, credited luck, rather than magical horsemanship, for the improbable victory.

“All we needed to do was get him back to his old form, and if they backed up at all, he would come running,” Romans said of Court Vision, who did have eight career victories in 30 career starts. “When you have the best milers in the world running, they will go fast early. We were just hoping they would go too fast and he could run them down. And it all worked out perfectly for us.”

There also was a nice peek at some of the anticipated headliners for next year’s Triple Crown campaign. Usually the winner of the Juvenile is declared the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, and from now until the first Saturday in May, he and his connections will be scrutinized as closely as art authenticators pore over found masterpieces looking for any hint of inauthenticity.

This year’s Juvenile champion was Hansen, and he has plenty of quirks to examine in the coming months. He came into the Juvenile undefeated after winning two races by a combined 26 lengths. Hansen flies out of the gate and never looks back. It’s not an ideal style for a colt who hopes to emerge from a full field of 20 at the Derby as the best 3-year-old in the land. His trainer, Mike Maker, knows that but confessed he had little choice but to let the big gray have his way.

“He’s a handful for us,” Maker said. “We don’t try to change him much, because if we do try, he gets mad and wants to fight. So we let him do his thing, make him believe he’s the boss.”

Hansen won Saturday by a short head over Union Rags, a colt that looks best suited to capture the Derby and beyond. He and his rider, Javier Castellano, broke from the No. 10 post and came no closer inside than the four path, turning a mile-and-a-sixteenth race into a mile-and-an-eighth one. Union Rags rolled down the stretch like he was something special, and he just missed reeling Hansen in. Union Rags is the true early Derby favorite.

Inevitably, the subject of championship voting comes up this time of year, and with it comes heated debate. It won’t be as hard to determine the award recipients this year as only a couple of horses lasted throughout 2011 and put up meaningful numbers. The New York Times does not allow its reporters to vote, but that does not mean there aren’t opinions.

Why not Animal Kingdom for the 3-year-old champion?

He had five starts this year, winning the Spiral Stakes on a synthetic track at Turfway Park and the Derby on dirt. He also finished second in an allowance race on turf and lost by a half-length in the Preakness Stakes. His Belmont Stakes effort was compromised when he was bumped at the start and his rider, John Velazquez, lost his stirrup. He finished sixth, and his season ended with a leg injury.

Neither the Preakness champion Shackleford nor the Belmont victor Ruler On Ice won another stakes race, though both are solid competitors. Shackleford made 10 starts this year, and Ruler On Ice nine. Stay Thirsty had nice wins in the Jim Dandy and the Travers, but his 11th-place finish in the Classic highlighted his up-and-down year.

Who is the Horse of the Year? The filly Havre de Grace remains the right choice. She finished fourth Saturday in the Classic after having trouble early, and her connections placed her against male horses in an effort to take away any doubts that she was a worthy recipient.

Drosselmeyer was the long-shot winner, and Game On Dude was a gritty second-place finisher, but neither can say they won 5 of 7, three of them in Grade I company. In fact, another filly and Havre de Grace’s rival, the since-retired Blind Luck, will probably collect the most second-place votes.

“She ran well and certainly didn’t tarnish herself,” Havre de Grace’s trainer, Larry Jones, said. “We have no regrets about running her here, and she’s still got another year ahead of her.”

So here’s to a very good year and raised hopes for an even better next year.

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