It’s been a decade since a champion has run in the state of Iowa, so when 2011 Juvenile Champion, Hansen takes to the Prairie Meadows’ track on Saturday evening for the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile $250,000 Iowa Derby, it should be a big deal for race goers in the Hawkeye State. It’s not that the Iowa Festival of Racing does not consistently attract quality horses, as evidenced by the appearance of top older horse, Successful Dan, running one race later in the Cornhusker Handicap, but it just has not quite managed to bring that true marquee name to the 13-year-old racetrack … until now. Hansen, for many reasons, is one of the most talked about horses in the nation and his connections have made the choice to run their stable star in the Iowa Derby as a bridge from the Kentucky Derby to the Travers. Who will he face in a little over 48 hours from now? Honestly, not much. In fact, the rest of the field has come up so light that the boo-birds have already been out in strength questioning whether or not a horse like Hansen should be entered in such a race. I’d like to answer that question with not only a “Yes,” but a resounding one at that. Hansen has not raced since a tough one in the most important three-year-old contest of the year, the Kentucky Derby. His connections, owner Kendall Hansen, and trainer Mike Maker, have already stated they will be pointing their beautiful gray for the most important race of the summer for the sophomore set, the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Clearly they are not trying to duck anyone, but rather get their horse a sensible spot to return to the races in hopes of building him back up to his best for the Mid-Summer Derby. There is no reason at all to be jumping on his connections because the graded, quarter of a million dollar race has come up too easy. As for the rest of the Iowa Derby field, the main threat may come from the local hope, Alsvid, for trainer Chris Hartman. Undefeated in two starts this year, he has won the two local preps for the Iowa Derby, the Golden Circle and the Prairie Mile with ease. He may be in career best form, but in his two previous attempts in stakes races worth a hundred grand or more, he came up well short. 109-1 Louisiana Derby winner, Hero of Order, has finished 13th, 5th, and 8th in his three starts since for ice-cold conditioner, Gennadi Dorochenko, but does make his first start on dirt since his shocking win in New Orleans. His stablemate Macho Bull, and the late running Truetap, from the Steve Asmussen barn, round out the five-horse Iowa Derby field.
Hansen should be 1-5 or lower in this field, and likely win like a horse bet that much should. The three-time stakes winner towers over this field in class, and should pick up a nice check while regaining some all-important confidence after finishing 2nd in the Blue Grass and 9th in the Derby, in his last two starts. Is the Iowa Derby beneath a horse of Hansen’s stature? Not at all, it seems like the perfect spot to me.
Enjoy seeing a champion, Iowa.