Monday, November 7, 2011

What makes Hansen run?

In a stunner, Hansen defeated heavy favorite Union Rags
in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Photo:  Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Hansen’s four-generation catalogue-style pedigree fits neatly on just a half page, and save for the white colt’s own record, it’s virtually lacking in black type or distinguished runners.  So where did he get the class to beat the likes of proven Grade I winners such as Union Rags, Creative Cause, Crusade, Drill and Dullahan

It’s hard to say. 

Hansen’s dam, Stormy Sunday, by Sir Cat, broke her maiden in her first start in a lowly $5000 claimer at Turfway Park in February, 2005, stopping the timer in a pedestrian 1:14.02.  She was haltered out of that race by Hansen’s current owner, Dr. Kendall Hansen, and by June of that year, showed dramatic improvement, winning a $30,000 claiming race at Churchill in 1:10.29.  Stepped up to face allowance foes in a six-and-a-half furlong contest just three weeks later, Stormy Sunday finished a tiring third.  In what would be the fourth and final start of her career that August, she captured a five-and-a-half furlong starter allowance over a muddy strip at Mountaineer, finishing up in 1:04.34.

Bred to Tapit in 2007, Stormy Sunday produced a bay colt, Tapanna, who never started at two, but broke his maiden this year in his fifth start, in an eight-furlong maiden special weight test at Turfway last September. 

Hansen is the mare’s second foal by Tapit, and couldn’t be more different than his older brother, not only in color, but in ability.  Such are the vagaries of genetics.

Tapit has established an enviable record at stud by consistently upgrading the mares to whom he has been bred.  And he did it again with Stormy Sunday when he sired Hansen, the product of an oft-successful nick with mares by Storm Cat and his sons.  In addition to Hansen, Tapit has two other Grade I stakes winners bred on this pattern: Careless Jewel (out of Sweet and Careless, by Hennessy) and Tell A Kelly (out of Evrobi, by Tabasco Cat).  Like Hansen, both are inbred to both Northern Dancer and to Secretariat, maternal grandsire of the dams of both A. P. Indy and Storm Cat. 

The cross between Tapit’s sire, Pulpit, and Storm Cat has also produced Florida Derby winner Ice Box (out of Spice Island, by Tabasco Cat) and successful sire Sky Mesa (out of Caress, by Storm Cat), who captured the Hopeful.

Though the chartcaller noted that Hansen “lasted” to win the mile-and-a-sixteenth Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, with a final quarter in 25.37, his ability to compete at classic distances is still an open question.  There is an abundance of stamina flowing through the family of his maternal grandsire, the turf specialist Sir Cat, whose second second dam is the great Champion April Run (Ire), who won the Turf Classic and was third in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.  And Temperence Hill, the sire of Hansen’s third dam, Tescudera, won the Belmont, the Suburban, the Travers, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. But these influences don’t appear until Hansen’s fourth generation, perhaps too far back to be of vital importance.

Based on his three races to-date, Hansen looks more like a sprinter who has been able to carry his speed up to a mile and a sixteenth than a true classic horse who has the cardiovascular and biomechanical equipment to stay a mile and a quarter.   Time will tell, of course, as it always does.

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