Keeneland officials fondly remember the last time the reigning juvenile male champion used its Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes as his final Kentucky Derby prep.
Both the track and the connections of Hansen hope to channel a little of that same magic this year.
Hansen, the 2011 Eclipse Award winner for champion 2-year-old males, will aim for the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keene land on April 14 rather than the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7 as previously planned.
Hansen, owned by Dr. Kendall Hansen and Sky Chai Racing, will be the first 2-year-old champion to start in the 11⁄8-mile Blue Grass since Street Sense in 2007.
Though Street Sense lost Keeneland's signature prep by a nose, he rebounded to win the Kentucky Derby three weeks later.
Like Street Sense, Hansen earned his championship after winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. The Mike Maker-trained son of Tapit won his first two career starts over Turfway Park's Polytrack by a combined 251/2 lengths.
"There are several reasons why we elected to run Hansen in the Toyota Blue Grass," said Hansen, who also bred the colt. "Foremost is that the horse will have to travel less, and we think that is safer for him. If we win, Hansen will have Grade I victories on both all-weather and dirt surfaces. It also allows us to stay home and in familiar surroundings. And, very importantly, since a majority of his fan base is in Kentucky, it gives them a chance to see him run."
Hansen added that regular rider Ramon Dominguez will have the mount in the Blue Grass. Dominguez is recovering from a separated collarbone suffered during a spill at Aqueduct, but he could be ready to return in about two weeks, his agent, Steve Rushing, said.
Hansen also left the door slightly open so that, should something unforeseen pop up, the Wood Memorial could still be in play for his colt.
"There's a chance as everything is day-to-day," Hansen said. "Never say never. ... I knew this might cause a chain reaction with where the other horses might go, so I'm glad this is out there."
Hansen's change of plans has already resulted in at least one potential rival altering course. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he will probably point Grade III winner Alpha to the Wood Memorial.
McLaughlin had originally considered the Wood Memorial for Alpha, but he said days ago the colt would probably head to the Louisiana Derby on April 1 to avoid a clash with the champion.
"Alpha is now heading to the Wood," said McLaughlin. "I spoke to (Godolphin Racing manager) Simon Crisford yesterday, and we agreed (the Wood would be) the race for him if the rumors were true that Hansen wasn't going to the race."
Dominguez also rides Alpha, and the switch in plans frees him to stay aboard both colts for the time being.