Trainer Hansen's antics cause controversy in the racing industry
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Kendall Hansen has big plans. Not many of them have gone over well with the rest of the thoroughbred industry.
There's a definite buzz surrounding his nearly all-white colt and namesake, Hansen. Then, there's the owner, a doctor who operates a pain management clinic in Crestview Hills, Ky., who keeps finding odd ways to amplify it.
"I'm just a little strange," said Hansen, who dyed the tail of his horse blue on the day of the Blue Grass Stakes last month only to quickly remove the coloring when he thought the alteration might force his horse to be scratched by racing stewards.
He also brought a large contingent of young women in tight dresses that were wearing blue tails to celebrate with him even though the horse finished second to Dullahan. He called the group employees of his clinic.
"Yeah, they actually bought a couple different outfits," he said of their Derby plans. "Less conservative, though."
Other plans he has this weekend - a hard party after the race and a skywriter who'll spell out the winning horse's name over Churchill Downs. He's also made small squishy toy horses in Hansen's likeness that he'll toss in the crowd.
"We're going to throw a few of those around and try to hit people in the head in the audience," he said.
Meanwhile, Dullahan's connections have seemed to relish needling the doctor in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Donegal Racing's Jerry Crawford, who owns Dullahan, said that Hansen's owner deserves the credit for a record turnout of more than 40,000 at Keeneland the day of the Blue Grass.
"Dr. Hansen, to be honest, set an all-time attendance record by about 7,000 people and in the record book it should say, `assist, Dr. Hansen' because he threw the party that day," Crawford said. "It's just that we got to blow out the candles."
Hansen's antics have sparked conversation at Churchill Downs this week, but he had largely gone under the radar because he was vacationing with his fiancee and didn't make a public appearance until the post-position draw on Wednesday.
The 55-year-old comes across as clearly nervous and anxious when he speaks to groups of reporters.
"I've got to tell you, a couple weeks ago I had one of my fellow doctors write me a little Xanax," he said, shaking at the time. "I've only used one or two since, but I'll have them with me just in case."
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, is not a fan.
"The whole thoroughbred industry has turned into kind of a circus. I don't think we need to perpetuate that any further," Lukas said. "I think characters are one thing, I think you can get out of line with that, though. We're a tradition-bound sport, we did pretty good for a couple hundred of years with it. I don't think we should put (advertising) patches on (jockeys) like the NASCAR guys and I don't think we should dye the horses' tails.
"We need to keep it classy and it gets less classy every year, I think."
Still, Hansen has drawn in outside interest even with the Tapit colt that is instantly recognizable as soon as he's on the track. Microsoft announced it was sponsoring Hansen by stitching its Windows Phone logo on jockey Ramon Dominguez's pants for Saturday's race.
Acting chief state steward Barbara Borden said Friday that Hansen put in an application for Dominguez to wear the logo and that it's expected to be approved later in the day. Hansen said the paperwork was correctly submitted.
"Stewards just need to sign off," Hansen said. "(The) money goes to disabled jockeys."
Meanwhile, Hansen - the Juvenile champion horse - and the owner stayed away from Churchill Downs until they had to be here Wednesday with the horse training with Mike Maker at the trackside center about five miles away.
"I'm going to calm it down," Hansen said. "(But) we're going to party very hard after the race."
It's an odd-couple relationship with Maker, a quiet and conservative trainer who worked under Lukas as an assistant. Maker insists he was in the wrong when he and Dr. Hansen had a heated discussion in the paddock the day of the Blue Grass over the constant fiddling with the horse's tail. Maker said it took him about two minutes to get over his frustration.
"Old people have arguments with their family," Maker said. "I was in the wrong and simply, he went to a great deal of expense to do what he wanted done and the lack of communication we had between us. It was just a big mess, but it's no big deal."
Maker said he'd wear a blue tail - and a blue wig, too - if asked.
Hansen beat a field of 13 that included Union Rags and seven other 3-year-olds who returned from last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He won the Gotham Stakes in March and has finished either first or second in all six starts.
Then he lost to Dullahan after speeding to the front before being caught in the final furlong. Dullahan's camp had no problem celebrating boisterously in front of Hansen's stunned group.
"I really didn't have strong words for Hansen's connections before the race, I just didn't have many words at all. First of all, there wasn't room for many more words and I didn't have any dye kits, so it would've made it tough," Crawford said. "First of all, I love that horse, I love Hansen.
"I just think he's a glorious horse."
His owner? Maybe not so much.
"Whoever wins the Derby is an amazing horse, a special horse and (I need) to do something a little extra," said Hansen, explaining his plans for the skywriting plane. "He knows how to spell Hansen. We've got that down."