Dr. Kendall Hansen said he just wanted the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass to be fun, regardless of the outcome. But one day after his champion colt was beaten in the 11⁄8-mile test, Dr. Hansen found himself rehashing frustrations over a dye job.
Instead of the focus solely being on the 1-2 finish Blue Grass winner Dullahan and runner-up Hansen provided Saturday, the sequence of events now dubbed "Tail-gate" threatened to overshadow the stellar performances both colts delivered in their final Kentucky Derby prep.
The controversy began when Dr. Hansen — breeder and co-owner of the reigning juvenile champion — had his colt's gray tail dyed blue the morning of the Blue Grass, a move he repeatedly said he wanted to do in a lighthearted attempt to bring more attention to racing.
However, Kentucky stewards reportedly informed trainer Mike Maker there was a chance Hansen could be scratched from the Blue Grass on the grounds of a possible rule violation of altering the horse's identity.
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From there, a string of miscommunications followed that left both Maker and Dr. Hansen fuming.
Upon hearing his colt could be scratched, Dr. Hansen requested a meeting with the stewards where he said he was told the horse would be allowed to run, but that he could face a possible fine.
Citing the spotty cellphone service brought on by a record crowd of over 40,000 at Keeneland on Saturday, Dr. Hansen said he was unable to contact Maker in time to let him know he did not need to wash the blue color out of Hansen's tail.
"Me and Mike wanted to do this blue deal thing for months and Mike oversaw the activities of the morning," Dr. Hansen said Sunday. "There was a misunderstanding. I was under the impression that in trying to whiten up the tail, that it actually looked worse than before ... so I tried to get my color girl to go and see if she couldn't get it white, to try and get it blue again. That was the last hour of the day and Mike knew the horse was in the holding barn and Mike didn't want it dyed back blue in the last hour.
"He couldn't get in touch with me because the cell phones were overloaded and ... we should have got together and planned our actions together," Dr. Hansen continued. "Mike had to do what he had to do because the stewards said they might scratch him. But I don't like the way it was portrayed, like I'm some crazy owner who is not working together with my trainer. This was not the way I wanted it to go."
Maker, who also saddled Blue Grass third-place finisher Gung Ho, confirmed Sunday he indeed was aware of and helped coordinate the initial dying of Hansen's tail.
"I think everybody thinks I was against the blue tail which in fact, the tail was dyed before (the race)," Maker said. "I was under the impression it wasn't permissible and to take it off. Obviously the owner went through a lot of planning and expense to get that done. And he had every right to be mad."
Though neither Maker nor Dr. Hansen blamed their charge's runner-up 11/4-length loss on the back-and-forth that transpired, both agreed that agitating a horse by repeatedly going into his stall doesn't help when said horse is getting ready for one of his toughest starts.
"To an extent (it was a distraction)," Maker said. "Was it a length and a quarter's worth? Who knows."
Maker and Dr. Hansen both said they spoke to one another Sunday to try and clear up any lingering strain brought on by the dye debacle.
"I spoke to him and said, 'I want you to listen to some of the things that you don't know that we went through yesterday, put yourself in my shoes and see what you would have done,'" Maker said.
Added Dr. Hansen, "He explained what he went through, and I explained what I went through, and we're both disappointed we weren't able to do what we had planned."
Had Hansen won the Blue Grass with a dyed tail, his owner maintains he would have won any possible appeals other connections could have filed with the commission.
"The stewards showed me the rules and the rule doesn't say you can't alter the appearance of the horse, it says you can't alter the identity," Dr. Hansen explained. "And having the bottom tip of the tail doesn't alter the identity of the horse, they go by the (lip) tattoo and the markings. No track identifier uses the tip of the tail to identify the horse. So I would have won that in an appeal, I think."
Despite the fact he would likely only face a possible fine should he try and bring new color into Hansen's world on Kentucky Derby day, Dr. Hansen said he has had his fill of backlash from his efforts to lighten things up.
"I feel like I could do it for the Derby but I don't want to anymore. I don't want to get a bunch of crap like this," he said. "I like to have fun, and this was not fun for me yesterday."