(NYRA / In this photo released by the New York Racing Association (NYRA), Gemologist, ridden by Javier Castellano, wins the Wood Memorial horse race at Aqueduct racetrack Saturday, April 7, 2012, in New York.)
(PhatzRadio / SI) — Derby fever is springing up all over.
Owner Kendall Hansen has it now, saying he “can hardly work” as he counts down the week before his horse named Hansen runs in the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
First, Hansen has one more prep race, and that’s the Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland, about a 90-minute drive from Louisville. The near-white colt will be facing about a dozen rivals on the synthetic Polytrack, including fellow Derby hopefuls Dullahan and Howe Great.
While Hansen remains No. 1 in the AP’s latest Run to the Roses’ Top 10, Gemologist affirmed his No. 2 status ahead of No. 3 Union Rags with a hard-fought win in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on Saturday.
Out West, I’ll Have Another joined the growing list of potential Derby favorites with a nose victory over top choice Creative Cause in the Santa Anita Derby. The result moved I’ll Have Another up five spots to No. 4, and Creative Cause up one to No. 6, behind Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy.
Gotham winner and 2-year-old champion Hansen put in a workout Saturday at the Churchill Downs trackside training center. The owner watched with frayed nerves.
“I can hardly work,” said Dr. Hansen, who operates a pain management clinic in Crestview Hills, Ky. “It started two days ago when it was the 5th and it (the Derby) was exactly 30 days out. Something happened to my body. My nurses were telling me, `Doc, your hands are shaking.’ My hands never shake, but I’ve got a tremor now and I think it’s from adrenaline. So I’m staying away from Mountain Dew.”
Gemologist ran his record to 5-0 with his neck win over Alpha in the Wood. The colt trained by Todd Pletcher swept into the lead around the far turn, looked to be a clear winner but needed all the extra effort he could muster to hold off Alpha.
I’ll Have Another, trained by Doug O’Neill, withstood the bid by Creative Cause in a duel to the wire for a big win that will send him to the Derby as one of the horses to beat.
This could be a rewarding weekend for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who expects to send his top two Derby hopefuls – Secret Circle and Bodemeister – in the $1 million Arkansas Derby and Midnight Crooner in the $750,000 Blue Grass.
Baffert’s Liaison, who ran sixth in the Santa Anita Derby, remains a possible Derby starter.
Another Derby contender emerged over the weekend with 12-1 long shot Done Talking having the final word in winning the Illinois Derby. The colt trained by Hamilton Smith finished 10th in the Gotham in his previous race, but now has enough graded stakes earnings ($311,000) to make the Derby field.
The Derby has a maximum field of 20, and if more are entered, the horses are determined by graded-stakes earnings. Hansen tops the list with $1.4 million; Rousing Sermon is No. 20 with $270,000.
Gemologist came into the Wood ranked No. 30 in graded earnings with $103,855, but added $600,000 to reach No. 6 on the list.
1. Hansen (Mike Maker, trainer; Ramon Dominguez, jockey): Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.00 at Churchill Downs trackside training center Saturday. … Gets chance to show if he’s worthy of top spot Saturday. … Next start: Blue Grass (G1), Keeneland, Saturday. … Derby future wager odds: 12-1.
2. Gemologist (Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano): Wood win affirms lofty status. … Unbeaten son of Tiznow (5-for-5) back in Florida to resume training for Derby. … Next start: Kentucky Derby (G1), Churchill Downs, May 5. … Odds: 12-1.
3. Union Rags (Michael Matz, Julien Leparoux): Could still wind up as Derby favorite after tough trip left him third in Florida Derby (G1). … Has record of 4-1-1 from six starts. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 4-1.
4. I’ll Have Another (Doug O’Neil, Mario Gutierrez): Prevailed by nose in closest Santa Anita Derby finish since 1985. … Jockey headed to first Derby. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 21-1.
5. Take Charge Indy (Patrick Byrne, Calvin Borel): Borel looking for fourth Derby win in six years with wire-to-wire Florida Derby winner. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 15-1.
6. Creative Cause (Mike Harrington, Joel Rosario): Nipped by nose as Santa Anita Derby favorite. … San Felipe (G2) winner did nothing to diminish stature. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 8-1.
7. Secret Circle (Bob Baffert, Rafael Bejarano): Rebel (G2) winner has chance to sweep Arkansas’ three Derby preps. … Worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.20 Monday at Santa Anita. … Baffert says he’s feeling better as he recovers from heart attack last month. … Next start: Arkansas Derby (G1), Oaklawn Park, Saturday. … Odds: 30-1.
8. Bodemeister (Baffert, Martin Garcia): San Felipe runner-up worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 Sunday at Santa Anita. … Next start: Arkansas Derby. … Odds: 22-1.
9. Alpha (Kiaran McLaughlin, Dominguez): Strong effort as Wood runner-up has trainer feeling confident about Derby. … Withers (G3) winner may have had best effort in neck loss to Gemologist. … Next start: Kentucky Derby. … Odds: 21-1.
10. Howe Great (Graham Motion, John Velazquez): Palm Beach (G3) winner worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.60 Saturday at Keeneland. … Owner Team Valor, Motion, Velazquez won 2011 Derby with Animal Kingdom. … Next start: Blue Grass. … Odds: 57-1.
Keep an eye on: Daddy Long Legs, Daddy Nose Best, Done Talking, El Padrino, Mark Valeski.
Follow Richard Rosenblatt on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/rosenblattap