Hansen scores upset win in BC Juvenile
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Jockey Ramon Dominguez had four words for trainer Michael Maker in the moments after Hansen upset even-money favorite Union Rags by a head to win the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile: "See you in May."
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The light gray colt's victory solidified him as the winter book favorite for the Derby and kept him undefeated in three races after two previous runaway wins by a combined 25 1/2 lengths, including the Kentucky Cup Juvenile.
"I find out no horse has ever been in front of him in a workout, and he's just been playing up until today. Just two races, they didn't really ask him for all he's got," co-owner and breeder Kendall Hansen said. "It was nice to see him have to dig down today and work for a change because he's been playing until now, right?"
Kendall Hansen is a pain management doctor in the Cincinnati suburb of Crestview Hills, Ky. Hansen wagered on races as a way of making money and paid for his first year of medical school with his strategy of looking for mismatch.
"I started at Turfway 30 years ago as a handicapper. I'd drive in from Indianapolis before I'd go to medical school," Hansen said. "I hope we can make our way back to run in the Lane's (End Stakes) at Turfway on our way to the Derby. I love it."
Union Rags trainer Michael Matz, who handled Derby winner Barbaro five years ago, watched the replay of the race as he walked back to the paddock.
"He fought the whole way and tried hard," he said. "It's one of those things, I wish I had an answer for you. It's disappointing, that's for sure, but I guess that's horse racing."
It was Union Rags' first loss in four starts, but each of the last four Juvenile winners never started the Derby, meaning there's plenty of time for the brown colt who should remain a Derby contender heading into his 3-year-old season.
"I'll tell you in May," Matz said.
Creative Cause, the Norfolk Stakes winner at Santa Anita, finished another length back in third.
"First time he's been here, first time he's run here," jockey Joel Rosario said. "He was a little nervous ... (but) I think he ran a great race."
Hansen took control from the start, setting the pace near the rail after leaving from the No. 5 post and steadily increasing his lead in the stretch. But this wouldn't be an easy race to the finish, with Union Rags leaving from the 10th spot and hanging wide throughout. He closed the gap quickly in the final furlong of the 13-horse field while running erratically.
"Going into the first turn, he was a little aggressive," Dominguez said. "That made me a little concerned. When we got to the backside ... he came back to me and relaxed beautiful."
Hansen ran 1 1-16 miles in 1:44.44 and paid $16.20 to win at 7-1 odds. Maker was already embracing being the early Derby favorite.
"You dream about it your whole life, and when it happens, it's hard to take in all at once," Maker said. "It's a great feeling, as you can imagine."