Both horses boasted experience on synthetic surfaces. Street Sense finished third in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity as a juvenile and was runner-up in the Blue Grass in ’07.
Hansen, who won Turfway’s Kentucky Cup Juvenile, takes on a talented field in the 88th running of the Blue Grass over the Polytrack on Saturday.
Several of the opposition are stakes winners: Hero of Order, the 109-1 victor of the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds; Dullahan, who scored in the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last fall; Prospective, who captured the Tampa Bay Derby in his last trip; and Del Mar Futurity winner Drill, who comes off a triumph in the San Vicente.
Dullahan, who has hit the board racing on dirt and turf, is a half-brother to ’09 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
But if Hansen runs the same kind of race stretching out to 1 1/8 miles like he did winning the Gotham by three lengths at 1 1/16 miles, he will be very difficult to defeat.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Blue Grass in ’05 with Bandini and ’08 with Monba, will be represented by Heavy Breathing, third in the Spiral.
Other likely runners include Ever So Lucky, runner-up in last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club and most recently third in Gulfstream Park’s Swale; graded stakes placed Adirondack King, who shipped out from Oaklawn Park after his seventh in the Rebel instead of sticking around for Saturday’s $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Pletcher has two Arkansas Derby wins and used the path through Hot Springs to win his first Kentucky Derby two years ago with Super Saver, who ran second in Oaklawn Park’s signature race. His stacked stable will again be represented by Stat, who exits a Gulfstream optional claiming race with 6 ¼-length victory.
But the horse to beat in the 1 1/8-mile contest that has attracted a full field is Secret Circle, who comes off a big win in the Rebel.
He began the year with a runner-up finish in Santa Anita’s Sham Stakes in January, his only defeat in six lifetime starts. The Bob Baffert trainee won his past two outings at Oaklawn Park, including a division of the Southwest.
The field taking on the son of Eddington will include Optimizer, runner-up in the Rebel; Scatman, the third-place finisher; Jake Mo, fourth; Najjaar, sixth; Sabercat, eighth; and Antigun, 11th.
Jon Court aboard Optimizer is attempting to become the first jockey to win the Arkansas Derby three consecutive times. He won last with Archarcharch and on Line of David in ’10.
The dark horse in the race is another Baffert trainee, Bodemeister, runner-up to Creative Cause in the San Felipe at Santa Anita.