Ken Hanover Faces Tall Task In Bluegrass

Ken Hanover winning his Little Brown Jug elimination heat
Published: September 29, 2023 06:00 pm EDT

Ken Hanover is a horse that enjoys his job, and business time arrives again Saturday in the first of three divisions of the Bluegrass Stakes for three-year-old male pacers at Lexington’s Red Mile. The start will come nine days after the colt won his elimination of the Little Brown Jug with a track-record performance and finished third in the final.

Last week, Ken Hanover paced the fastest mile ever by a three-year-old on the half-mile oval at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio, stopping the timer in 1:48.4 to defeat favourite Seven Colors, the fastest sophomore pacer in history on a half-mile track, in their Little Brown Jug elimination.

Ken Hanover’s third-place effort behind Its My Show and Seven Colors in the same-day final capped a memorable afternoon for his connections.

“It was a great day, a lot of fun,” said trainer Roland “Polie” Mallar, a member of the colt’s ownership group who was starting a horse in the Little Brown Jug for the first time. “To train him and own a piece, that was a pretty special event, to say the least. It didn’t really surprise me [he won his elimination]. It surprised me he went [1]:48.4, but I really wasn’t shocked he won.

“In the final, I think we were in the right spot [following pacesetter Moment Is Here]. If we could have gotten out before we got to the last turn and got started, Seven Colors and Its My Show would have had to go three-wide around us. I don’t know if we would have won, but we might have been in the photo. But it was a good effort. We showed up and didn’t get embarrassed.”

Ken Hanover has made a career of showing up. The son of Captaintreacherous-KJs Justine has hit the board in 23 of 27 career races, winning 11 and earning $503,881. He’s missed a paycheque only twice.

On Saturday, the colt will start from post three in a Bluegrass field of seven, with David Miller in the sulky. Confederate, the sport’s No. 1-ranked horse and winner of eight of nine races this season, is the 4-5 favourite. Confederate’s victories include the Meadowlands Pace, Cane Pace, Max C. Hempt Memorial, and Kentucky Sire Stakes Championship Series final. He is the fastest three-year-old in history, with a mark of 1:46.1.

“We drew in with a buzzsaw there in Confederate,” said Mallar. “We’ll see what happens. He came out of the Jug good. I had him turned out in Lexington for four or five days and he seemed to bounce back pretty well, so we decided to give him a go.

“He knows his job, that’s one thing about him. He likes his work. He always seems to pick it up when he needs to. That’s one of his best traits, I think; he always seems to give you a little extra coming home. That’s what you need, especially racing against this calibre of colts. You’ve got to be able to get home.”

Ken Hanover opened this year with four consecutive victories, which might have helped set him up for success.

“We raced him a little conservatively, he got some wins, and I think it bravened him up,” said Mallar, who shares ownership of the colt with Patrick Leavitt, William Jordan and Dennis Osterholt. “I think giving him those early preps – I’m not saying he dominated but he won fairly easy – bumped his confidence level up. I think it’s still there. If he can finish up the year on a high note, it would be great.”

Saturday’s Red Mile card also includes Bluegrass divisions for three-year-old female pacers and three-year-old male and female trotters.  Click here for a preview of Saturday's card, with program pages for Saturday's card available here.


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