The best horse in tomorrow’s Blue Grass Stakes is Hansen.
Thank you for reading everyone, drive safely, and have a pleasant evening.
You know what? Believing that the 2012 Blue Grass is the best edition in years, like I do, perhaps we should dive a little deeper into this interesting 13-horse field. Sure, most of you would agree with my opening statement, and why not? Hansen is the returning juvenile champ, he looked great in winning last month’s Gotham Stakes in New York, and has done nothing but turn heads in the morning since returning to Kentucky. Unfortunately for the champ, though, there is more to horse racing than just having the best horse.
In handicapping the Blue Grass, a couple of tried-and-true racing axioms keep popping into my head. There is a reason that these phrases: “The best horse does not always win”, and “Pace makes the race”, are so well known. It’s because they so often come true, and on paper, the Blue Grass would seem to be tailor-made for both to be in play on Saturday.
Hansen is a free-wheeling and front-running monster. He likes to take it to his competition early and often, running them into submission with each fluid furlong. As has happened in each of his races but one, this style of being on, or pressing, the early lead has resulted in impressive victories. Even with the new facet of being able to stalk, rather than jumping out to a big early lead, being part of his arsenal, it would be hard to imagine the Great White Hope being too far removed from the early lead. This could present a major problem in the Blue Grass. This edition of the traditional Kentucky prep for the Derby not only boasts a large field, it also is top heavy with early speed. Starting on the far outside, Louisiana Derby winner Hero of Order has been on or near the lead in his last 13 starts, and Scatman has shown strong early speed in both a pair of sprints as well as the last two graded stakes for sophomores at Oaklawn Park. It figures the two will be making a beeline for the early lead from the 12 and 13 holes respectively. Just to their inside are four horses who have also shown a propensity for desiring to be on the pace. The talented Ever So Lucky is coming out of a fast sprint, and an even faster recent workout over the Keeneland strip. Howe Great has never been far from the early lead, and is coming off two consecutive stakes wins on the turf in Florida where he dictated things from the front end. Holy Candy and Midnight Crooner are two lightly seasoned Californians coming into the Blue Grass with Derby dreams and enough early speed to make me believe that they can add to a peppery pace. Throw in Heavy Breathing, who set a strong early pace in the Spiral Stakes, and has drawn the rail tomorrow, and you can see why I believe Keeneland’s biggest spring attraction will feature a contested and congested early pace. One of the most common reasons that the best horse does not always win the race is out of the ordinary pace scenarios. Clearly the Blue Grass would qualify. It goes to reason that all this speed would have to benefit those horses that can make one run and pick up the pieces from the burnt out frontrunners. Chief among the late running suspects ready to take advantage of pace making this race would be Dullahan and Prospective. Of the two, I prefer Donegal Racing’s Dullahan. He already has a strong win at Keeneland, having won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last fall, and seems to be coming into the race in fine fettle. His one performance in 2012 was a strong one, finishing full of run in the paceless Palm Beach Stakes over the Gulfsteam Park sod, and seems to be thriving back at Keeneland as evidenced by his :57 2/5 workout Sunday for trainer Dale Romans.
Hansen is the best horse in the Blue Grass, but the best horse does not always win. He may indeed win anyway, but don’t be surprised to see a chestnut in emerald and yellow silks picking them up and laying them down to win tomorrow’s feature at Keeneland.
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