It only took one race for the reigning two year old champ to get back to the winner’s circle. After posting three straight wins as a two year old including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Hansen started his three year old campaign with a distant 2nd place finish to Algorithms in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Holy Bull was a one mile race and many felt Hansen should have won that race despite the sloppy conditions. Post race reaction was that Algorithms was a better horse, Hansen wasn’t as good as people thought, he wasn’t a Derby contender etc etc. It’s amazing after one loss, that a champion can be doubted.
Saturday at Aqueduct, versus 12 other colts and geldings, the gray Tapit colt did not get the lead like he normally does. Instead, he was 3rd for the first 1/4 mile, moved up to 2nd at the 1/2 mile then proceeded to take over the lead and race as they turned for home. He cruised to victory in 1:43.84 for the 1 1/16 miles race. This was a good sign for anyone who likes Hansen or for those who questioned his ability to go gate to wire for the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles. This proves that he does not need the lead. A rebound race like this bodes well for Hansen as the next most likely race will be the Grade 1 Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7 going 1 1/8 miles.
Rounding out the top 3 for the Gotham were My Adonis, who finished 3rd in the Holy Bull Stakes behind Hansen and Algorithms, and Finnegan’s Wake. He was 6 lengths behind My Adonis and another 3 lengths behind Hansen.
IN OTHER ACTION
Caleb’s Posse returned to action in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct. This was his first race back since capturing the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile last November. He fell a neck short to Calibrachoa after unleashing a huge rally down the stretch. The six furlongs race ran in a time of 1:09.07. If the race was his preferred seven furlongs or a mile, he would have taken the race. For Calibrachoa, he has won back to back Grade 3 races in 2012 including the Toboggan Stakes back on February 4. He also won the Tom Fool last year. For his career, he has now won 10 of 20 races with 17 of them in the money. The type of horse any barn would love to have.
The other graded stakes race on the card at Aqueduct was the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap also featuring another horse who has been off since the Breeders’ Cup. The now four year old filly It’s Tricky was last seen losing to Royal Delta in the Ladie’s Classic. The Top Flight only fielded 4 others. It’s Tricky gave the field 4-8 pounds, but it didn’t matter as the Kiaran McLaughlin trained filly easily won by 2 3/4 lengths running the 1 1/16 miles race in 1:45.30. For It’s Tricky, she returned to the winners circle after finishing 2nd three straight times. Her last win was the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga. She’s only missed the top three once and that was last April in the Gulfstream Oaks where she finished 4th.
The first of three Grade 1 stakes races at Santa Anita was the Las Virgenes Stakes for three year old fillies. It was same old same old out West as Bob Baffert continues his domination and torrid start to 2012. His Malibu Moon filly, Eden’s Moon followed up her maiden debut win with a 3 1/4 lengths victory over favorite Reneesgotzip. She went gate to wire and was never challenged down the stretch. She completed the one mile race in 1:35.27.
Up next was the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes which also ended with an upset. This time, it was the 10-1 Willyconker (IRE) taking out favored Mr. Commons. The Irish bred gelding sat off the leaders Jimmy Simms and Compari until they turned for home. He took over the lead half way down, then fought off a late challenge from Mr. Commons to win by a neck. He finished the one mile in 1:33.88. For Willyconker this was his first graded win, and it’s worth to note that he has never raced in a graded stakes race until this past weekend. Just two races ago he finished 2nd to Compari in an Allowance Optional Claiming $80,000 and prior to that he won an Allowance Optional Claiming $62,500. This within the last two months. Quite the win for trainer Doug O’Neill and owners Kenney and Vielle Gardner.
The final race was the $750,000 Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. This race was without many of its stars including last year’s winner Game On Dude as he will make the trip to Dubai later this month to race in the Dubai World Cup. The “Big Cap” was watered down with lower graded stakes horses and several coming up from the claiming ranks. So it was of no surprise to see the Bill Mott eastern invader Ron the Greek defeat a field of 12 other horses. This was his 3rd win in last 4 tries, but first graded stakes win since winning the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds as a three year old on January 23, 2010. It was also not a surprise to see a horse come from way behind to win this race as the leaders served it up with ridiculous fractions early on. One of those taking charge early was favorite Ultimate Eagle (winner of 5 of his last six races including Strub Stakes last time out). He and Gladding posted a first 1/4 mile in 22.20, 1/2 mile in 44.55 and 6 furlongs in 1:09.08. No, this wasn’t a sprint, this was actually a 1 1/4 miles race. So to see both of those two horses severely fade was not a shocker. It looked as if Setsuko was going to get the lead, but Jose Lezcano had Ron the Greek in perfect position and took the lead as they straightened out down the stretch. He would win by 3 1/2 lengths. Setskuo did get 2nd while Uh Oh Bango and Holladay Road came from well off to complete the board. The final time was a formidable 2:00.44.
STAT: Two more wins for Todd Pletcher, putting him at 10 graded wins on the year already. Not too far behind is Bob Baffert with 7. Bob does have the advantage with the Grade 1 win and 4 Grade 2′s. Seven of Todd’s wins have come in Grade 3′s. To see all the rankings by graded stakes wins for horses, trainers and jockeys, click here.
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