Now that the 2011 Breeders' Cup is over, all eyes will begin to turn to the following May, when the 2012 Kentucky Derby takes place. We saw a preview of this in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
In that race, Union Rags was the runaway favorite, and the horse everyone presumed would win. Instead, he finished in second place, and was upset by Hansen, who narrowly beat out Union Rags down the stretch.
Naturally, most people will be considering Hansen the Kentucky Derby favorite, as he has now won three career matches, and has yet to lose. While that would make sense, it does a disservice to Union Rags.
This was Union's first loss, and both he and the trainer will learn from it. If nothing else, he'll know it is not a feeling he wants to have again. Besides, the horses in this race are all young, and now they have all winter to get ready for the Kentucky Derby.
Saying Union Rags is still the favorite is not meant to do a disservice to Hansen. The horse ran wire-to-wire and clearly showed that next year's Kentucky Derby will be a tough match. However, the winner of the Breeders' Cup has not won the Kentucky Derby in some time, so one can't realistically call that horse a frontrunner given the history.
Besides, Hansen is a speed-first horse. On longer tracks, such as the Kentucky Derby, that could come back to haunt him. Yes, Hansen won this matchup, but May is six months away, and when that comes around, Union Rags will be looking for revenge.