Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

Better beware Hansen – Dullahan is ready to roll

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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Older Comments about Better beware Hansen – Dullahan is ready to roll...

What was the reason Bodemeister didn't run as a 2 yr old?
Kindly review all the winners since the Poly was installed. The TRACK plays as much a part of a Blue Grass win these days as the horse
Thanks, guys!
Way to call it, Zipster!
Nice call Brian...I started watching the live-feed as they were heading to the gate and picked #6 over Hansen right away without realizing it was Dullahan...he looked awesome!
Speed was pretty much he name of the game on Friday .
Like the way Prospective reacted to the equipment change and he will be able to stalk a legit pace. Hansen all over this field class wise for the exacta..
Hansen's energy dsitribution is EXACTLY what one would want to see coming into a 9 or 10 furlong race. Can this one handle the very different Poly track at Keeneland which favors late movers?
I agree completely with Capper, not convinced Hansen can rate
I'm not sold on Hansen's ability to rate. He did it last time against an inferior field on the AQU inner & he was almost forced to rate due to his post draw. Tomorrow most ofl the speed is outside of him which will force his hand much earlier, rather than last time when he was outside all the speed & could watch everything develope.
Oops. Brian, I agree with your analysis completely. This race has lots of early speed which could set up well for the closers. There is a ton of talent in this race, and no matter the pace, we're in store for an exciting finish
Excellent take on the Toyota 'Landcruiser' Blue Grass, I have heard quite a bit of encouragment about some of the others....
Yes, Dullahan did pop a splint and missed some training, I think after his last race...
This will be a good learning experience for Hansen with a13 horse field rushing for the lead, it will be a challenge which will benefit all.
Was there not a report of Dullahan popping a splint not long ago
Pretty good rally in the last one.
I was on Dullahan this morning - the way the track has played today (inside and inside speed), he'd have a very hard go of it. Hope I have time to monitor tomorrow's earlier races.

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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