Juvenile Champ Preps for Derby In N. Y.

Hansen To Gotham; Pletcher Wins 3,000th

Hansen, 2011’s Eclipse champion two-year-old male, will make his next start in the Grade 3, $400,000 Gotham Stakes, run at 1 1/16 miles over the inner track at Aqueduct Racetrack on Saturday, Mar. 3, according to Dr. Harvey Diamond, founder and racing manager of Skychai Racing, part-owner of Hansen along with Dr. Kendall Hansen.

Trainer Todd Pletcher (at left) won his 3,000th race on Feb. 11, while jockey Junior Alvarado won five races at Aqueduct Racetrack on Feb. 10.

“We felt that the Gotham was a good spot and the timing was excellent,” Diamond said of the Michael Maker-trained colt. “We would love to take a shot at the Big Apple.”

After an undefeated three-forthree campaign last year that culminated with a narrow victory over Union Rags in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, Hansen’s 2012 debut did not go as expected.

On Jan. 29, the gray son of Tapit stumbled badly at the start of the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, rushed up to take the lead through an opening-half mile in 45.67, and was not able to fend off Algorithms in the stretch, finishing second by four lengths.

(photo: Adam Coglianese, NYRA)

“We would like to get a better start in the Gotham,” Diamond said. “We don’t want to make excuses, but when you think about it he probably ran the first quarter a second faster than what the timer showed. He ran two really fast quarters and that affected him in the latter stages. We are not taking anything away from Algorithms. He is a super horse and was better that day than Hansen. We just hope that on Gotham Day he will settle himself in the gate and show the Hansen that we all know he is.”

Diamond added that after the Gotham, there are a number of possible options, including the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Resorts World New York City Casino Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, going 1 1/8 miles, on Saturday, Apr. 7 and the Grade 3 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on Mar. 24.

Alpha takes a break in Florida

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said his pair of Godolphin Racing Classic contenders, Alpha and Consortium, have “switched spots,” with Alpha now being based at Palm Meadows in Florida and Consortium located at Belmont Park.

Alpha had been training at Bel- mont since Dec. 28, 2011 and made two van rides over to Aqueduct Racetrack to win the Count Fleet Stakes on Jan. 7 and the Grade 3 Withers Stakes on Feb. 4. Following the Withers, McLaughlin said Alpha would most likely make his next start in the Gotham or the Wood Memorial. McLaughlin now says the Wood Memorial is the likelier option.

“He shipped yesterday and is at Palm Meadows,” said McLaughlin, form Florida. “He’ll train here and probably won’t work for two weeks. There’s a plane going up to New York before the Gotham we could take, but he’ll probably make his next start in the Wood Memorial, with an outside chance of the Florida Derby [Mar. 31 at Gulfstream Park] the week before.”

Consortium prepped at Palm Meadows for his start in the Gulfstream’s Holy Bull Stakes and was rerouted to New York after finishing last of six in the one-mile race, which was contested over a sloppy racetrack.

“We sent Consortium on a van to New York [Friday],” said McLaughlin. “We’ll look at the Gotham with him. He worked at Palm Meadows on Thursday [four furlongs in 50.90], and he probably won’t work in New York until [Feb. 18].”

McLaughlin said he has two possibles for the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap on the Gotham undercard in Darley Stable’s Emcee and Crossbow. Emcee is unbeaten in two starts, having rolled to a six-length allowance score on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream in his most recent start, with Crossbow having taken an Aqueduct optional claimer by three lengths the same day.

“Emcee would probably be the horse, but Crossbow is another horse who could point for that race,” said McLaughlin.

Shadwell Stable’s Falaah, winner of two straight over the inner track, is no longer under consideration for the Tom Fool after exiting an optional claiming score with a bone chip, McLaughlin added.

Pletcher wins 3,000th race

Five-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Todd Pletcher reached a personal milestone last Saturday, Feb. 11, when he sent out his 3,000th career winner at Gulfstream Park.

Pletcher, who earned his second straight training title on NYRA circuit in 2011, reached 2,999 with Seniors Pride in the eighth race at Aqueduct Racetrack on Friday afternoon, Feb. 10, and hit the 3,000 victory mark with Spring Hill Farm in the third race at Gulfstream Saturday.

“I’ve been blessed through the years with great horses, great owners, a great staff and wonderful family and friends,” said Pletcher by telephone from Florida. “It’s a difficult game to take a pause and reflect on the past, but a milestone like this gives you a chance to look back and appreciate how important each victory is.”

Of those victories, 484 came at Aqueduct (12th all-time), 537 at Belmont

Park (third all-time) and 324 at Saratoga Race Course (first all-time).

Pletcher won his first classic in 2007 when he saddled Rags to Riches to become the first filly in 102 years to win the Belmont Stakes, and took his first Kentucky Derby in 2010 with Super Saver.

“I would have to say the victory by Rags to Riches in the Belmont, Super Saver wining the Derby and two victories in the Travers [Stay Thirsty in 2011 and Flower Alley in 2005] along with the Breeders’ Cup wins, stand out,” said Pletcher. “I’ve been fortunate that a lot of those [3,000] victories came in significant races.”

Pletcher, 44, has won or tied for 26 individual training titles on the NYRA circuit, including eight at Saratoga Race Course, most recently in 2011 when he set a meet record with 38 winners to break his own mark of 36 set the previous year.

Big day for Alvarado

Junior Alvarado brought home five winners on Friday afternoon at Aqueduct Racetrack, including four straight, to move into third place in the jockey standings with 53 winners for the inner-track meet.

The 26-year-old Alvarado started his day by winning the first race, a six-furlong claimer, aboard Pretty Cozzy. After finishing third in race two, Alvarado kicked off a sweep of the next four races with favored Hardened Wildcat in the third race, a six-furlong sprint for three-year-olds. In race four, Alvarado scored with last-to-first Awesome Arceno and next posted a front-running victory with North Freeway in the fifth race.

Alvarado’s final victory of the afternoon came aboard Muster Up in race six, a one-mile claiming race for three-year-olds. He then finished fifth in race eight.

It was the second big day at the Big A this year for Alvarado, who launched 2012 with a four-win afternoon on Jan. 1.

The victories moved Alvarado past Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the standings, where he trails reigning Eclipse Award winner Ramon Dominguez, who leads with 66 winners, and Cornelio Velasquez, in second place with 62 winners.

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