Wednesday, February 29, 2012


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Juvenile champion Hansen is on just about everyone’s list of early favorites for the May 5 Kentucky Derby, and with earnings of more than $1.1 million he also 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 in both categories in Saturday’s 59th running of the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The Gotham, one of a trio of graded stakes races at the Big A on Saturday along with the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares and the six-furlong Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap presented by Corona Extra, is the precursor to New York’s final Derby prep, the Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial on April 7.

Trained by Michael Maker for Dr. Kendall Hansen and Sky Chai Racing, Hansen enters the Gotham as the 6-5 morning-line favorite despite having suffered his first career defeat last time out. On January 29, after stumbling at the start, he rushed up and led briefly before finishing second, five lengths behind Algorithms, in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Holy Bull.

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.”

The 123-pound highweight, Hansen will leave from post position 12 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 another promising sophomore in 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, who was 2-3-0 as a 2-year-old. “We’re hoping for another good effort from him.”

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 phalanx of Classic-minded 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 6, Dan and Sheila was listed at 8-1 on the morning line, while Raconteur, 15-1 on the morning line, drew post position 8 with Cornelio Velasquez named to ride.

Trainer Dale Romans, who won his first Triple Crown race last year when Shackleford defeated Animal Kingdom in the Preakness, also has a pair going in the Gotham with longshots Finnegans Wake and Suns Out Guns Out. A son of Powerscourt, Finnegans Wake will be making his dirt debut in the Gotham, while Suns Out Guns Out remains a maiden after four starts, most recently finishing third going 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park on February 4.

“We’re experimenting a bit with Finnegans Wake to see if he likes the dirt; if he does, he’ll run a big race,” said Romans of the Donegal Racing color-bearer. “Suns Out Guns Out has really turned it around in his training since the first of the year. He’s always done a lot of things right, and we’re going to give him a chance with the big guys and see if he can get some graded stakes earnings.”

Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux comes in to ride Finnegans Wake, 20-1 on the morning line, from post position 3 and Irad Ortiz, Jr., will ride West Point Thoroughbreds’ Suns Out Guns Out from post position 7 at 30-1 on the morning line.

Completing the field, from post position 2 out, are Stealcase, a recent maiden winner at Gulfstream Park; Pretension (post 4), winner of a New York-bred overnight stakes last time out; Maan (post 5), stepping into stakes company after winning his first two starts; Jimmy Winkfield winner King and Crusader (post 9); Darley Stable’s Side Road (post 10), another recent maiden winner; Done Talking (post 11), who closed from 10th to finish fourth, beaten a length in last fall’s Grade 2 Remsen, and Tiger Walk (post 13), third to Alpha in the Grade 3 Withers on February 4.

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