Hansen is leading Derby contender

Published Apr. 3, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

Hello, Hansen.

The near-white 3-year-old colt, who beat out Union Rags for last season's 2-year-old championship, has finally moved ahead of his rival to become the leading contender for the Kentucky Derby in less than five weeks.

While Hansen was working five furlongs in 1:01.20 at Churchill Downs' trackside training center over the weekend, 2-5 favorite Union Rags was finishing a less-than-invincible looking third behind Take Charge Indy in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

With 109-1 long shot Hero of Order stunning the Derby prep season with his win in the $1 million Louisiana Derby, and with Daddy Long Legs' winning Derby audition in the $2 million UAE Derby, there's a new look to the AP's latest Run to the Roses Top 10.

Hansen, winner of the Gotham Stakes and prepping for the Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 14, is No. 1 for the first time, with Union Rags falling to No. 3 with his second career loss.

Take Charge Indy, with only a maiden win in five career starts before leading wire-to-wire under Calvin Borel, soars into the Top 10 at No. 4.

Trainer Todd Pletcher's unbeaten Gemologist is second and Hall of Famer Bob Baffert's Secret Circle is fifth.


Despite finishing second behind Hero of Order, Mark Valeski drops out of the weekly rankings, and Daddy Long Legs replaces him at No. 10. Trainer Aidan O'Brien says his Daddy Long Legs is under consideration for the Derby.

El Padrino, meanwhile, was far from his best and finished fourth in the Florida Derby, falling out of the top 10 from No. 3.

Borel, nominated again this year for racing's Hall of Fame, will go for his fourth win in the Kentucky Derby aboard Take Charge Indy.

''Calvin rides Churchill so well. He's a smart, heads-up rider. He's a big-money rider, everyone knows that,'' Take Charge Indy's trainer Patrick Byrne said. ''He suits the colt well.''

It's unlikely Hero of Order will make the Derby field. Owner/trainer Gennadi Dorochenko did not nominate the horse he bought for $3,000, and would have to pay $200,000 to supplement him, then hope less than a maximum field of 20 nominated horses are entered, which is unlikely.

Union Rags, impressive winner of the Fountain of Youth in February, was caught behind a slow pace and jockey Julien Leparoux was never able to find running room until it was too late. Trainer Michael Matz is looking at the upside.

''I think he ran his race, I just think they went slow the first part and there wasn't much we could do about it. The good part is I hope that Julien learned about the horse a little bit more,'' Matz said.

He added: ''Obviously, I think he only ran the last quarter of a mile, so hopefully it wasn't a tough race on him. Maybe the good part of it is that he didn't run a hard race going into the Derby.''

This weekend is packed full of preps, topped by the Santa Anita Derby and the Wood Memorial.

In the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, San Felipe winner Creative Cause tops an expected eight-horse field that includes Robert B. Lewis winner I'll Have Another, up-and-coming Midnight Transfer and Baffert's Liaison; in the $1 million Wood, Gemologist and Withers winner Alpha are the headliners.


1. Hansen (Mike Maker, trainer; Ramon Dominguez, jockey): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 at Churchill Downs trackside training center over weekend. ... Inherits top spot with Union Rags' defeat in Florida Derby (G1). ... Dominguez set to return from injury on Friday. ... Next start: Blue Grass (G1), Keeneland, April 14. ... Derby future wager odds: 12-1.

2. Gemologist (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Unbeaten colt worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.44 at Palm Meadows on Sunday ... Only start this year after three wins in 2011 was seven-length allowance score March 16 at Gulfstream. ... Next start: Wood Memorial (G1), Aqueduct, Saturday. ... Odds: 12-1.

3. Union Rags (Michael Matz, Julien Leparoux): Caught inside behind field, and finished third in Florida Derby as 2-5 favorite. ... Upside is colt heads to Derby without having hard race. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby (G1), Churchill Downs, May 5. ... Odds: 4-1.

4. Take Charge Indy (Patrick Byrne, Calvin Borel): Wire-to-wire Florida Derby win makes colt big Derby factor. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 15-1.

5. Secret Circle (Bob Baffert, Rafael Bejarano): Rebel (G2) winner worked 5 furlongs in 58.40 at Santa Anita last week. ... Next start: Arkansas Derby (G1), Oaklawn Park, April 14. ... Odds: 30-1.

6. Alpha (Kiaran McLaughlin, Dominguez): Withers (G3) winner has chance to step up with big effort in final Derby prep. ... Next start: Wood Memorial. ... Odds: 21-1.

7. Creative Cause (Mike Harrington, Joel Rosario): San Felipe (G2) winner worked 6 furlongs in 1:12.80 last Wednesday at Hollywood Park. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby (G1), Santa Anita, Saturday. ... Odds: 8-1.

8. Bodemeister (Baffert, Bejarano): San Felipe runner-up looks to be heading to Hot Springs for final Derby prep. ... Next start: Arkansas Derby. ... Odds: 22-1.

9. I'll Have Another (Doug O'Neil, Mario Gutierrez): Robert B. Lewis (G2) winner certainly well rested for first race in three months. ... Worked 7 furlongs in 1:26 Friday at Hollywood Park. ... Next start: Santa Anita Derby. ... Odds: 21-1.

10. Daddy Long Legs (Aidan O'Brien, Colm O'Donoghue): Won UAE Derby (Group 1) to possibly earn trip to Derby. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 6-1 (mutuel field).

Keep an eye on: Howe Great, Mark Valeski, My Adonis, Optimizer, Prospective.