By MICHAEL COMPTON
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and Eclipse Award champion Hansen headlines Saturday’s Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. The son of Tapit faces 12 rivals in the 60th renewal of the $400,000 event.
With earnings of more than $1.1 million, Hansen sits comfortably atop the list of graded stakes earners pointing toward the Run for the Roses. Rather than scaring off the competition, the striking gray colt will be flanked by a dozen 3-year-olds looking to join him on the Derby trail.
Trained by Michael Maker for Dr. Kendall Hansen and Sky Chai Racing, Hansen enters the Gotham as the 6-5 morning-line favorite. He suffered the first loss of his career last time out, finishing second in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park to Algorithms on Jan. 29. Hansen stumbled at the start of that race, rushed up and led briefly before finishing second, five lengths behind the winner.
He will run with blinkers off in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Gotham.
“I feel like he was extra sharp in the Holy Bull,” said Hansen’s jockey, Ramon Dominguez. “In talking after the race with Mike Maker, he said he wasn’t really surprised how fresh the horse was. He said all along, although he would have liked to win that race, it wasn’t the ultimate goal. I’m pretty optimistic that with that race under him, he will be a little more settled.”
Hansen will leave from post position No. 12 as the 123-pount highweight in the Gotham.
Trainer Kelly Breen and owners George and Lori Hall, who upset last year’s Belmont Stakes with Ruler On Ice, are back with My Adonis. In his 2012 debut, the Pleasantly Perfect colt closed from 20 lengths back to finish third, a half-length behind Hansen, in the Holy Bull.
“He was only beaten a half-length to the juvenile champion in his last race,” said Breen of My Adonis. “We’re hoping for another good effort from him.”
My Adonis enjoyed a solid juvenile season last year, winning the Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs after breaking his maiden at Monmouth Park over a sloppy track. He flopped in the Delta Jackpot (G3) to close out the year, finishing ninth, beaten 27 lengths by Sabercat.
With Elvis Trujillo aboard, My Adonis drew the rail and was listed at 5-1 on the morning line.
Two of trainer Todd Pletcher’s 3-year-olds will represent the barn in the Gotham: Zayat Stables’ Dan and Sheila, most recently fourth in the Grade 3 LeComte at Fair Grounds in his second start, and Dogwood Stable’s Raconteur, who kicked off his 2012 campaign with back-to-back wins over the Big A’s inner track.
“Both horses are trying to take that step up and reach that next level,” said Pletcher, who won his first Derby in 2010 with Super Saver. “Raconteur has seemed to like the inner track and has two wins [maiden and optional claimer] but not against the kind of competition he is going to face Saturday. Hopefully, like a lot of the A. P. Indys, he’s getting a little bit better as he gets older.
“Dan and Sheila we thought ran a solid race in the LeComte,” he added. “If he can improve on that he’ll put himself in the mix. This race is critical for them to step up if they want to continue on the Triple Crown trail.”
With John Velazquez riding from post position No. 6, Dan and Sheila is listed at 8-1 on the morning line, while Raconteur, 15-1 on the morning line, drew post position No. 8 with Cornelio Velasquez named to ride.