I will stick out my neck and say that the Breeders Cup Juvenile was the BEST race of the day on Saturday, November 5, 2011. It was followed closely by the Dirt Mile, but when the underappreciated Hansen held of the powerful late kick of the juvenile freak, Union Rags, it ignited an excitement, a fire, an anticipation for what may be in store for the Triple Crown of 2012.
However, lets take a step back, turn our head from the future and look at what is going on now. Right now we have two fantastic two year olds that the nation much choose between. The choice to be made is who will be crowned a Champion, and as of now, the nation would seem to be completely split. Those on the side of the son of Dixie Union claim that if not for running 78ft more and a very green run down the stretch he would be 4 for 4. Those stand in Hansen’s corner point to the track bias he overcame and his inexperience over dirt. So who should it be?
I already gave my opinion in my Eclipse Award blog, but did not get a chance to elaborate. For those who did not read my previous blog, the choice of Dead Heat Debates is Hansen. I understand all the arguments for Union Rags it was a tough race, problem is it is hard for me to believe that it cost him the race when he has overcome the same and more in previous races, to not just win but completely dominate.
In the Saratoga Special he got caught up in a hot speed duel and pulled away to win dominantly, while swerving across the track, in and out, in and out. Even with all of his antics he still pounded the competition. In the Champagne you see one of the worst trips a horse can have. He was boxed in the majority of the race. He dropped back after it was realized there was no way he would be getting a close position early, then when he made his move he was in behind a wall. He went to the inside, no room, and when a hole opened to his outside, it was seemingly too late, but it was not. Union Rags found another gear and spurted clear, yet again dominating the field.
During the Breeders Cup Juvenile he was wide, no doubt about that, but he was in the clear and ready to roll. I understand he ran 78 feet further, but again he was in the clear and by the time they reached the top of the stretch he wasn’t even 3 lengths behind and still could not get to Hansen. I understand he had run greenly, but he had done that before and still managed to win with ease. The simple fact is that this horse had experience, he had been exposed to these circumstances before and still won in the past. This time he did not. He ran a great race, but had no excuse.
Hansen was the untested poly specialist coming into this race. When a horse has been untested they are a huge liability, why? The reason why is because you don’t know how they will react when faced with adversity. This was Hansen’s first time racing over dirt and to make matter even more difficult he was taking a huge step up. This would be his first time facing not just winners, not just stakes winners, but legit grade one winners. You also have to give the colt credit for overcoming a track that was extremely demanding on frontrunners. I was on the rail, and I could see it was a very sticky looking track.
Yes, Union Rags had to overcome some trouble, but compare it to what Hansen was up against and it doesn’t begin to hold a candle. Hansen did all the dirty work, had the most going against him and had every single reason to fold like a cheap tent…but he didn’t. Give credit where credit is due, give Hansen the credit he rightly deserves. Like it or not he did run just a good a race or better. He deserves to be your Champion Two-year-old.