Remembering Hansel

Remembering Hansel: The Sometimes Forgotten Dual Classic Winner

Hansel : he was bold, bay, and flashy. His jockeys instantly recognizable green and yellow checkered silks and the colt’s blindingly white blaze flashed through the finish line first in half of his career starts. The oldest living Preakness and Belmont winner, Hansel recently passed away peacefully at his owners home at the age of 29. As the racing world fondly remembers his memorable career and beautiful presence on and off the track, we remember the greatness that was Hansel.

Hansel was bred in Virginia by owner Marvin Little, Jr. He was sired by Irish Champion 2-year-old Woodman and was out of the Dancing Count mare Count on Bonnie. As a yearling, he was purchased at the 1989 Keeneland September yearling sale for $150,000 by banker Joe Lewis Allbritton, who raced him under his Lazy Lane Farm.

The young colt began training with Frank L. Brothers. Hansel’s career started at age 2, when he would win the G3 Tremont Stakes and the G2 Arlington-Washington Futurity Stakes and earn a second place finish in the G1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, quickly making him a horse to watch on the road to the 1991 Triple Crown season.

Hansel’s highly anticipated 3-year-old campaign started off even more impressively. He won his sophomore debut in track record time in the G2 Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park. From there, he finished 3rd in the G1 Florida Derby behind the 1990 Champion 2-Year-Old Fly So Free and second-place finisher Strike the Gold. Hansel’s win in the G2 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse then made him the favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

A special “Thank You” to Bob Coglianese Photos for the archive photos of Hansel

Despite being the betting favorite, Hansel ran a disappointing 10th place while Strike The Gold cruised to victory in the Kentucky Derby. His performance in the Derby was so poor that Brothers initially decided to skip the Preakness, but just a few days after the Derby, the colt’s condition jumped to a whole knew level. His morning works were nothing short of outstanding, as if Hansel that knew he needed to better himself after his performance in Louisville. The colt clearly communicated to his connections that he was ready for the second test of the Triple Crown.

Prior to the Preakness Stakes, few were quite sure what to expect of the bay son of Woodman, but it’s likely no one was expecting the performance that he would put in that day, winning by a spectacular 7 lengths over a 8 horse field that included Kentucky Derby winner Strike The Gold, Best Pal, Corporate Report, and Man Minister. It was clear the impressive colt of a few months before was back.

In perhaps the most thrilling race of his career, Hansel had to overcome several obstacles in the Belmont Stakes. He was unable to compete with Lasix, a now regularly used drug used to control bleeding that the NYRA had banned at the time. Despite losing a shoe sometime during the race, Hansel held off a fast closing Kentucky Derby winner Strike The Gold to win the 3rd Jewel of The Triple Crown and silence his doubters by becoming the first “Dual Classic Winner”  since Risen Star in 1988.

Hansel holds off Strike the Gold to win the Belmont Stakes. Photo courtesy Coglianese Photography

After the Belmont, Hansel went on the finish 2nd in the Haskell Stakes and 2nd in the Travers Stakes to Corporate Report. At the end of the year, Hansel was the clear winner of the 3-year-old Eclipse Champion title of 1991.

At the end of his 3-year-old season, Hansel was purchased by Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum and was retired to stud at Gainsborough Stud. Under the terms of the sale, owner Joe Lewis Allbritton retained breeding interest in him. During the 1998 and 1999 breeding seasons, Hansel was sent to stand at Questroyal Stud in New York, after which he was sent to breeders in Japan, where he stood until 2006.

To the joy of his owners and loyal fans, he returned home to stand the rest of his days at Allbritton’s Lazy Lane Farm in Upperville, Virginia and stood at stud there until he was pensioned in 2012. All told, Hansel sired 221 winners and 16 stakes winners from 436 named foals.

After his retirement, Hansel continued to live his golden days at Lazy Lane Farm, where fans regularly visited and admired the champion. He would gallop and buck in his field and looked far younger than his actual age till the very end. He loved life under the precious care of his loving owners till his death in 2017.

While we mourn the loss of Hansel, we still admire his beauty, charisma, and spirit that he displayed on the racetrack, at stud, and in retirement. He was the epitome of a racehorse and displayed the true heart and spirit of a Thoroughbred.

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Article written by Amy Nesse

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