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Apr 13, 2007

Hard Spun on his way to Kentucky Derby - Maybe

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Trainer Larry Jones has decreed that Hard Spun likes the Churchill Downs track and the colt will run in the Kentucky Derby.

"He went over the track very nice and came back very fresh afterwards," said Jones. "That was going to be our determining key, just to see how much it took out of him having to fight the track and there apparently was no fight to it. He just kind of skipped across it, which is great."

For whatever reason Jones and owner Rick Porter have become very cautious about their three-year-old and his affinity for racetracks. Hard Spun had one questionable outing in his six race career in which has won five.

"This is the way he handled (the dirt track) at the Fair Grounds, I saw the same type movement I saw at the Fair Grounds," said Jones. "I just didn't see that at Oaklawn. But, boy, this was good."

His only loss came in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park when he finished fourth as the favorite after starting from the far outside post in the nine horse field. It was indicated that the main reason for the defeat was Hard Spun's dislike of the racing surface even though he was based at Oaklawn at the time.

"I don't want anybody to think that I'm saying Oaklawn is a bad track, I just won a stakes down there yesterday and I've got some horses that love that track," Jones said. "But this horse didn't, he just needed a change of venue. Thank goodness Mr. Porter allowed it to happen. I can't believe how great he's been to wait until the last minute, because everybody's got to have ‘Derby Fever', it just happens. And he was okay. If we had to miss the Derby and it was in the best interest of his horse, he was great with it. It's hard to find owners like that, that would put that kind of money into it and then be willing to let some green country boy call the shots like that."

This is Jones' first Kentucky Derby quality horse and understandably cautious. Porter had Rockport Harbor pointed toward the Run for the Roses two years ago.

After a successful two-year-old campaign, Hard Spun was taken to Oaklawn Park where he was scheduled to duplicated Smarty Jones' road to Churchill Downs. However, the first of several changes to his schedule occurred with his winning start in the Lecomte Stakes in New Orleans.

After the loss in the Southwest Hard Spun was then pointed toward the Blue Grass Stakes on the all-weather track at Keeneland. That too was scrubbed and he returned to the winner's circle at Turfway Park with a win in the Lane's End Stakes.

Last year much was made of the fact that Barbaro had a five week break between his win in the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby. Hard Spun will have a six week break.

"Now I've got three weeks to really get the jitters, because up to now it (the Derby) was just kind of a dream, now it can feel like a reality," Jones said. "It could be a long three weeks for me. I've been told that I have a lot of school friends that would want to call me, and stuff like that now. But it's just a dream come true, and at least we're going into it happy. I'd always said that I'd love to run in the Derby or be in the Derby, but I didn't want to be there unless I felt I belonged. I didn't just want to ‘fill' the race. I've filled enough at Churchill in the cheap races, I don't want to fill in the Kentucky Derby. It could still happen, but at least we feel like going in that we have our t's crossed and our i's dotted, and we like what we've seen."

Here's hoping Hard Spun stays healthy and gives a good effort in his future endeavors. It just seems his people are overly sensitive about his likes and dislikes concerning racetracks. Thoroughbreds are bred to run. Let them run.



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