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Posted at 04:10 PM ET, 05/03/2012

Kentucky Derby: Is Hansen really “The Great White Hope?”

Hansen, the reigning 2-year-old champion, may not win the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, but it’ll be nearly impossible not to watch him.

He will be the seemingly white horse in the field of 20, the one whose owner has been known to wear a “Great White Hope” T-shirt and the one Frank Deford calls “a four-legged Steve Martin.”

“He has grown whiter from 2 to 3, and even race by race now,” Dr. Kendall Hansen told the New York Times recently. “He has a longer reach than most horses, so his action highlights his color. The Gotham [Stakes at Aqueduct] really was a visually stimulating race.”

Technically, the Jockey Club, the governing body for thoroughbreds, classifies Hansen as gray/roan. Gray, the New York Times points out, is a mix of black and white hairs, roan a mix of red and white. Hansen, according to his owner, is about 90 percent white, a rarity in the equine world. (Jockey Club officials told the Times that only 131 horses have been registered as white.)

“Someone even asked me recently if he was albino,” Hansen laughed.

Hansen, the Juvenile champion, isn’t likely to fare well in the Derby, where he’s a 10-1 shot and drew the No. 14 post position for the race (6:24 p.m. EDT, NBC). With Bodemeister, at 4-1 odds, the favorite, The Post’s Andy Beyer writes that “the striking white colt is a fan favorite as well as the reigning champion of his generation, but the 1 1/4-mile Derby distance looks too far for him.”

Hansen’s owner disagrees. “We are going to win this race,” Hansen said after the draw Wednesday. “We’re not worried about anybody. We have the best horse. Speed is dangerous, and he can go a mile and a quarter. Everybody will find that out in a couple of days.”

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