“His only chance is if they teach him to rate.”
Balderdash, I say.
Perhaps they do not remember horses like Bold Forbes, Seattle Slew, Spend a Buck, Winning Colors, Go For Gin, and War Emblem leading their respective Kentucky Derby fields on a merry chase for ten furlongs. Wiring the Derby has been done many times before and it will be done again.
Now I understand Hansen looked good in the Gotham while not grabbing the lead until the far turn with the equipment change of blinkers off. I believe this had a lot more to do with Hansen demonstrating his superiority over an overmatched field, rather than a whole new of style of racing for the juvenile champion.
It should not be overlooked that Hansen did not break particularly fast from his outside post in the Gotham, and rider Ramon Dominguez would have had to use Hansen to an unreasonable extent to clear the field by the short run into the first turn.
The good news was Hansen was tractable, not rated mind you, but tractable. He was able to accept the hand dealt to him in the post-position draw and the first quarter of a mile, and make the most of the situation like a good horse should.
If you are expecting Hansen to sit off the pace in the Wood Memorial, in preparation for the Kentucky Derby, I think you will be disappointed. And if you are not, because their is a need to pull him back early, it is my opinion that it will not be the best thing for the horse.
The worst thing you can do to a free-wheeling, front-running type of talent like Hansen, is to wrangle him back for six furlongs and then expect him to rally at a distance farther than he’s ever attempted before. Granted I do not want Hansen hooking up in a 45 second half mile speed duel – By the way, those type of fractions are not the norm in the Derby - all I am saying is let Hansen do his thing.
I have a great deal of respect for his trainer, Michael Maker, and I appreciate the enthusiasm of his owner, Dr. Kendall Hansen. I believe Hansen winning the Derby would make for a great story, so to that end I offer this simple advice.
When it comes to the best chance for Hansen in the Kentucky Derby, I say let the gray horse roll, and see how far he can go.
Photo courtesy of Matt Shifman