Hansen: will round off Kentucky Derby preparations against 12 rivalsPICTURE: Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos
Kentucky Derby-bound Hansen has final prep
Preview: USA, Saturday 11.18pm BST (live on ATR)
Keeneland: Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade 1) 1m1f, AW, 3yo
BREEDERS' CUP Juvenile winner Hansen (Mike Maker/Ramon Dominguez) has his final prep race for the Kentucky Derby on the Keeneland Polytrack on Saturday when he faces a big field of rivals in the Blue Grass Stakes.
Given Hansen's front-running style, many pundits doubted the grey colt's aptitude for the 1m2f distance of the Churchill Downs Classic.
But the son of Tapit showed a new dimension to his game when sitting off the pace in an easy victory in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct on March 12.
"He was a little bit knocked out after the Gotham for a couple days but I think he's a push button horse that's ready to go again," said owner Kendall Hansen.
"I'm sure Ramon is going to want to test drive him a little bit and so whatever he's going to want to employ in the Derby he's going to want to try here. And with the speed in here, that could include tucking back as far as fourth or fifth.
"But then again, if his clock says there is a slower pace, I'm sure he'll have no problem wiring them here."
A tepid pace seems an unlikely prospect, though, with an abundance of speed among Hansen's rivals in a top-quality field.
Hero Of Order (Gennadi Dorochenko/Eddie Martin) made all for a 109-1 victory in the Louisiana Derby a fortnight ago, while Ever So Lucky (Jonathan Sheppard/Julien Leparoux) and Heavy Breathing (Todd Pletcher/Corey Lanerie) also feature among a number of pacey types.
Another is Tampa winner Howe Great (Graham Motion/Javier Castellano), who represents last year's Derby-winning trainer and owners Team Valor.
With this in mind, more restrained performers like Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective (Mark Casse/Luis Contreras) and Dullahan (Dale Romans/Kent Desormeaux) will clearly have their followers.
Dullahan won the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity from off the pace here in October and looms a major threat on this idiosyncratic synthetic surface.
Blue Grass Stakes
Coral: 5-4 Hansen, 4 Dullahan, 8 Ever So Lucky, Howe Great, 9 Prospective, 11 Scatman, 16 Hero Of Order, 20 Midnight Crooner, 25 Heavy Breathing, 33 Politicallycorrect, 40 Holy Candy, 50 Gung Ho, 66 Russian Greek
Ladbrokes: 13-8 Hansen, 5 Dullahan 6 Howe Great 8 Prospective 12 Ever So Lucky, 14 Holy Candy, Hero of Order 16 Scatman, Heavy Breathing 20 Midnight Crooner 33 Gung Ho, Politically Correct 50 Russian Greek
Also on Saturday
Keeneland: Jenny Wiley Stakes (Grade 1) 1m½f, turf, 4yo+ f/m (9.42pm BST, live on ATR)
Aruna (Graham Motion/Ramon Dominguez), who won the Grade 1 Spinster on the Polytrack in October, has chances of a top-level score on the grass here on her first start since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Ex-French Zagora (Chad Brown/Javier Castellano), the sole Grade 1 turf winner in the field, has won a pair of Grade 3s already this year.
Keeneland: Shakertown Stakes (Grade 3) 5½f, turf, 3yo+ (10.44pm BST, live on ATR)
The eight-year-old Chamberlain Bridge (Bret Calhoun/ Jamie Theriot), winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in 2010, heads a field full of the country's better turf sprinters.
Havelock (Darrin Miller/Joel Rosario) scored impressively over course and distance in October.