It was the greatest present Dr. Kendall Hansen ever received, but even Christmas doesn't last forever. The breeder and co-owner of Hansen, the 2011 Eclipse Award winner as outstanding 2-year-old male, said his multiple graded stakes-winning namesake has officially been retired.
A tendon injury was detected in Hansen's left foreleg just three days before he was to run in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes on Aug. 25, and his owner said then it was unlikely the son of Tapit would ever race again. A physician who operates a pain management clinic in Crestview Hills, Ky., Dr. Hansen held out hope that stem cell treatment and rest would heal the tear in the tendon. After further consulting with Dr. Alan Ruggles of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, however, he's made the decision to retire Hansen and entertain offers from stallion operations for the 2013 breeding season.
“I was kind of shocked to see how much damage the tendon had on the inside,” Hansen said. “It's a top-to-bottom tear and there's enough damage there that I just want to get him to the best farm I can and let the professionals do the best they can with him in his next career.”
Hansen said the decision was not easy.
“For about five weeks now I've almost been nauseated,” he said. “I found that I was fighting with myself, having internal battles. I wanted so much to see him run again, but then I realized I needed to do what's best for him and his career. It was important to take the greed out of it.”
Hansen, who has had an injection of stem cells and is scheduled for a second treatment on Monday, remains with trainer Mike Maker at Trackside training center in Louisville, and a number of stud farm representatives have looked at him.
“We are weighing some offers,” he said. “It's kind of sad when we take him out to show him to people; he keeps staring over at the track. The number one word people say about him is that he's ‘charismatic,' which is kind of interesting because Mike was with Wayne Lukas when Charismatic won the Derby.”
Hansen, who was produced from Stormy Sunday, a daughter of the Storm Cat stallion Sir Cat, finished ninth in this year's Kentucky Derby over the same Churchill Downs racetrack on which he won last year's Grade 1 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Finishing second in the Juvenile, beaten a head, was Union Rags, the heavy favorite who went on to finish seventh in the Derby and then win the Belmont Stakes. The son of Dixie Union was retired after the Belmont because of a tendon injury, and he will stand at Lane's End Farm.
The Juvenile was Hansen's third consecutive win as a 2-year-old, following a 12 1/4-length maiden win going 5 1/2 furlongs and a 13 1/4-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Cup Juvenile – both at Turfway Park.
He finished second in the G3 Holy Bull to Algorithms at Gulfstream Park in his 2012 debut, won the G3 Gotham at Aqueduct by three lengths, then finished second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, to multiple G1 winner Dullahan in the G1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
After finishing ninth in the Run for the Roses, he won the G3 Iowa Derby by 10 lengths, and then, in what would be his final career start, wound up fourth in the G2 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer. His career record stands at five wins and two seconds from nine career starts, for earnings of $1,810,805.
“Dr. Ruggles said the tendon injury was probably coming on for some time,” Hansen said. “You lose that elastic bounce when the tendon is not working right. I think that had something to do with his West Virginia race. He just didn't show up that day.”
The colt was X-rayed but not ultrasounded following the race, Hansen said. “We just weren't thinking he had a soft tissue problem, but then Mike called me Travers week and said there's something wrong. The horse had never been sore a day in his career.”
Hansen, who has several mares from the same female family as the colt's dam, said he would “love to keep 20% of Hansen and in my retirement years try to match him up to the best mares. But these farms are so professional,” he added, “that they are going to want to have control of the horse.”
A colt out of Hansen's dam Stormy Sunday sired by Corinthian (who like Tapit is a son of the A. P. Indy stallion Pulpit) could debut at Keeneland on Oct. 6, Hansen said. “He's not as precocious as Hansen, who proved to be a champion racehorse with tremendous speed.”
It's hard to imagine anyone who's had as much fun campaigning a racehorse as Kendall Hansen, who co-owned the 2011 champion with the Skychai Racing Partnership. From the unconventional idea of painting the colt's tail blue to producing thousands of miniature Hansen squeeze toys for fans, he truly has enjoyed the ride.
“This changed my life,” he said. “I'm 56 years old, and you get into a rhythm at this time of life, thinking things have plateaued and you don't expect any surprises. Then this horse came into my life, and for almost a year it was like waking up on Christmas morning and having the greatest present ever under the tree. It made me feel like a kid again, walking around with a smile on my face.”
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