OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- The $400,000 Gotham Stakes lost its early favorite when the connections of Withers Stakes winner Alpha said they were pointing to the Wood Memorial on April 7.
The Grade 3 Gotham picked up a new favorite in Hansen, whose connections confirmed Saturday that last year's champion 2-year-old male will make his next start in the 1 1/16-mile Gotham at Aqueduct on March 3.
At $400,000 -- an increase from $250,000 a year ago -- the Gotham has the same purse as the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 26.
On the day after Hansen suffered his first career loss to Algorithms in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Jan. 29, trainer Mike Maker said Hansen would point to the Fountain of Youth. But Maker said Hansen got sick out of the race, which forced him to stay in the barn a couple of extra days more than he normally would have coming out of a race. Thus, Maker believes the extra week to the Gotham will benefit Hansen.
"We felt he would need a little extra time," Maker said by phone from Florida. "That works out well."
Maker said that Hansen has been in regular training for more than a week and that he had planned to work the colt at Gulfstream, but the track was not to his liking. Maker said Hansen would have a workout "when we get a good racetrack."
Maker said Hansen would do all of his serious training at Gulfstream before shipping to New York by plane on Feb. 29.
Maker also said that he would remove blinkers from Hansen's equipment for the Gotham. Hansen wore blinkers in all three of his races last year -- including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile which he won by a head over Union Rags -- and in the Holy Bull. In the Holy Bull, Hansen stumbled at the start and was a bit headstrong once he recovered, dragging Ramon Dominguez to the lead.
"I was flirting with it last year," Maker said of removing the blinkers. "When he came in he wasn't very focused, he was ducking and diving all over the racetrack. We put blinkers on him and it helped. I feel he's matured and they probably hurt him more now than they help him."
Dominguez, the reigning three-time king of Aqueduct's inner track, will retain the mount for the Gotham.
The only other confirmed starter for the Gotham at this point is Consortium, who finished last in the Holy Bull, which was run over a sloppy track. Consortium, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, arrived at Belmont by van from south Florida on Saturday.