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Mar 30, 2007

Through The Binoculars

By: JOHN PIESEN


HARD SPUN'S COMEBACK WEEKEND

I sure hope you all saved your Derby Futures tickets on Hard Spun.

I know I did. And I'm not at all kicking myself for not doubling up at 20-1 in Pool 2. Greed is not one of my vices. I'll gladly cash my Pool 1 tickets at 10-1 when Hard Spun wins the Derby.

First there's the Blue Grass to worry about. And, indeed, that won't be easy, what with the likes of Street Sense and Great Hunter to beat. But I cannot forget the image of Sinister Minister wiring the same race last year, and Sinister Minister couldn't eat out of the same oats bin as Hard Spun.

Ad, speaking of oats, I will happily accept all apologies from folks who mocked me for writing in this space a month back that "if Ravel ever beats Hard Spun in a meaningful race, I will share Ravel's oats."

You may remember that, only a week ago, that Ravel was ranked in the top three in most Derby polls (#1 in some), while you couldn't find Hard Spun with a telescope.

My, what a difference a week makes.

News came down from Mt. Pletcher last week that Ravel, unfortunately, is off the Derby trail with a leg problem. I speak for all of us in wishing Ravel a complete recovery.

And, then, of course, came Saturday.

Watching from my office at Oaklawn Park, I looked on in disbelief at the tote board in the countdown to the Lane's End. But there it was. Something from Pletcher (a grass horse of all things) was favored by a point over Hard Spun.

After all, why not? We were looking at Pletcher and Prado vs. Jones and Pino.

Finally, at post, Pletcher and Hard Spun both were 5-2. It would have been nice to know who was the favorite, but how can you expect such information from ESPN?

To be truthful, I haven't been this nervous before a race since the '04 Belmont. And, as we recall, that didn't turn out too great.

After all, regular readers of this space know that I've been touting Hard Spun since last October, when he was sitting at 100-1 in the Vegas Derby futures. When the bubble burst  in the Southwest at my home track, it was to say at least somewhat  disconcerting.

I even got some tips how to sweeten those oats.

But all was forgiven on Saturday.

Hard Spun toyed with the Pletchers, the Zitos, and the Lukases of the world, and won off looking - well, looking like a bigger and stronger version of Smarty Jones in those Derby preps three years back.

I understand Hard Spun got a 101 Beyer figure, which may or may not mean something. But it is a career best, so if indeed it is the Beyer numbers that float your boat, it's good to see that a 101 will work. 

But here are some more important numbers:

Hard Spun's final time for the nine furlongs was 1:49 2/5. I always figure that anything under 1:50 going nine furlongs around two-turns is pretty good. He covered the final furlong in: 12 3/5 (under wraps), and the final three-eighths in: 37 3/5. Those are the kind of numbers that win Derbies.

Certainly, Hard Spun's new stalking style will suit him in the Derby, and I see no reason why the mile and a quarter will be a problem.

Yes, sir. With the Derby six weeks away, those futures tickets are looking good.

(A lot better, I might add, than my Final Four tickets.)

"For Hard Spun to come back and run a race like that is fantastic," says Larry Jones. "We needed a big race, and we got it."

Jones vanned Hard Spun down interstate 75 to Keeneland on Sunday morning, and told me that he will breeze the colt only once before the Blue Grass, with jockey Pino planing in from Maryland for the work.

"Hard Spun came out of the Lane's End great," Jones said. "He ate up well, and was spry on his feet. He's as fit as he can be. The one work for the Blue Grass will be enough."

If these quotes look familiar, it's because they came from my daily "notes and quotes" column at Oaklawn.com, and were picked up several splendid news services across the land.

I only mention this because Hard Spun, although he got beat in his lone race at Oaklawn, will always be regarded as an Arkansas horse.

And, speaking of Jones, he plans to run Wildcat Bettie B., a Grade 1 winner in New York last year, on Saturday at Oaklawn in the Carousel Stakes. And, if she performs as well as expected, she'll hook the boys on April 13 in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap.

Bettie's main goal this year is the new Breeders' Cup sprint race for fillies and mares at Monmouth Park. And, by all means, as soon as you can find a future book on this race,
get down on Wildcat Bettie B.

Speaking of winning a bet, I need to take this opportunity to review my Saturday selections on my world-famous phone service 1-888-612-2283.

I gave out six selections on the service that day.

Two of the six, alas, lost.

But, of the others, Hard Spun won at $7.20  At Aqueduct, Control System won at $6.40, and Maryfield won at $15.20, and, at Oaklawn, Yourmoneysnogood won at $11.20. And they were all blowouts.

The information is right there for the looking on the home page at "JohnPiesen.com". When you visit my web site you'll be able to get my Best Bets Daily online, but you can always call the office toll free at 1-888-612-2283.

On Sunday, I went 2-for-4. All of which kind of reminds me of the old days at the New York when such knowledge was available for 50 cents.

Those might have been the old days...but these are the good old days. So, as we approach the final days on the Road to the Triple Crown, it might be a good idea to monitor my Triple Crown selections, if you are not doing so already. Lest we forget, back in the 80s, I nailed eight Derby winners in 11 years at the Post, including Ferdinand, Alysheba and Unbridled at outrageous prices. You can sign up for my ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY package and receive ALL of the remaining Derby Preps along with the Kentucky Derby itself for on low price.

Plus, the daily selections at Aqueduct and Oaklawn are always worth a look.
 

As for the Final Four selections...sorry, you're going to have to look elsewhere.



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