By RICHARD ROSENBLATT, Associated Press
With a few equipment tweaks and a new running style, Hansen is on his way to becoming one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby.
Fitted with a new bit and running without blinkers for the first time, the near-white Hansen showed he can run from off the pace, too, by winning the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday. It marked the first time in his four wins the speedy 3-year-old colt didn't lead wire-to-wire.
"That's my job," Hansen's trainer Mike Maker said, referring to the changes he made after the colt's only defeat, a second-place finish in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Jan. 29 following a stumble at the start. "Hopefully, we can keep it figured out the next couple of months."
Hansen was being vanned to Kentucky to continue training for his next start, which looks as if it will be back in New York for the Wood Memorial on April 7. After that, it's back to the Bluegrass State and Churchill Downs for the May 5 Derby.
The win keeps Hansen at No. 2 in The Associated Press' latest Run to the Roses Top 10 list of Derby contenders, with Union Rags still No. 1 going into his final Derby prep, the Florida Derby on March 31.
Jockey Garrett Gomez is scheduled to return to the races this weekend, but it won't be aboard Sham winner Out of Bounds in the San Felipe Stakes. The colt is off the Derby trail after injuring his left front ankle in a workout Monday.
Gomez was sidelined the past two months with a broken left heel when unseated by his horse before the post parade for a race Jan. 8.
The 1 1-16-mile San Felipe is shaping up as a strong prep for the Santa Anita Derby on April 7. The field may include two of trainer Bob Baffert's 3-year-olds, Fed Biz and Liaison or Bodemeister. Other starters include Empire Way, Rousing Sermon, Midnight Transfer, Blingo, American Act and Hometown Hero.
Other Derby preps this weekend include the Swale at Gulfstream and the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, and the Palm Beach at Gulfstream on Sunday.
1. Union Rags (Michael Matz, trainer; Julien Leparoux, jockey): Fountain of Youth (G2) winner has four wins in five starts. ... Lone loss was to Hansen by a head in BC Juvenile (G1). ... Next start: Florida Derby (G1), Gulfstream, March 31. ... Derby future wager odds: 4-1.
2. Hansen (Mike Maker, Ramon Dominguez): Easily won Gotham (G3) by three lengths. ... Near-white colt headed to Kentucky to continue training. ... Next start: Wood Memorial (G1), Aqueduct, April 7. ... Odds: 9-1.
3. El Padrino (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Risen Star (G2) winner may be Pletcher's top Derby horse. ... Has won three of five starts, 2-for-2 this year. ... Next start: Louisiana Derby (G2), Fair Grounds, April 1. ... Odds: 12-1.
4. Gemologist (Pletcher, Castellano): Then again, this Pletcher colt is 3-for-3 awaiting his first 3-year-old start. ... Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.22 Saturday at Palm Meadows. ... Next start: Rebel (G2), Oaklawn, March 17. ... Odds: 23-1.
5. Alpha (Kiaran McLaughlin, Dominguez): Withers (G3) winner worked 4 furlongs in 49.93 Saturday at Palm Meadows. ... Florida Derby or Wood Memorial could be next. ... Next start: Undecided. ... Odds: 18-1.
6. Secret Circle (Bob Baffert, Rafael Bejarano): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 Sunday at Santa Anita. ... Won division of Southwest (G3) for fourth win in five starts. ... Next start: Rebel. ... Odds: 37-1.
7. Fed Biz (Baffert, Bejarano): Son of Giant's Causeway ready to step up to a stakes race. ... Next start: San Felipe, Santa Anita, Saturday. ... Odds: 22-1.
8. Liaison (Baffert, Bejarano): CashCall Futurity (G1) winner worked 4 furlongs in 47.00 Monday at Santa Anita. ... Next start: San Felipe or Rebel. ... Odds: 39-1.
9. I'll Have Another (Doug O'Neill, Mario Gutierrez): Robert B. Lewis (G2) worked 6 furlongs in 1:10.16 Saturday after seventh race at Santa Anita. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby (G1), Santa Anita, April 7. ... Odds: 22-1.
10. Mark Valeski (Larry Jones, Rosie Napravnik): Beaten by a nose in Risen Star. ... Has two wins in four career starts. ... Next start: Louisiana Derby. ... Odds: 38-1.
Keep an eye on: Creative Cause, Dullahan, My Adonis, News Pending, Take Charge Indy.
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