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May 18, 2007

The one to beat in Preakness is again Hard Spun

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Round two of the new rivalry between Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and runner-up Hard Spun takes place Saturday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course in the Preakness Stakes. Along with these two colts six other three-year-olds will attempt to pull off a big upset.

With only nine horses entered in the second leg of the Triple Crown series, traffic problems should not be a factor during the 1 3/16 mile race. Two weeks ago traffic problems had no effect on Street Sense who miraculously encountered no impediments.

The top two horses will once again be next to each other in the starting gate. They switched spots from the ones each had in the Run for the Roses. There is no significance in this occurrence unless you bet according to number.

"It’s good. I got a nice post position," commented trainer Carl Nafzger. "We’re very happy with it. I like the ‘8.’ You can sit there and read everybody, whether the pace is going or not. If the pace is not going, you get going."

Along with Street Sense and Hard Spun, Curlin and Circular Quay return from the Kentucky Derby. Curlin was third at Churchill Downs and Circular Quay finished sixth. Circular Quay will break from post 3 and Curlin is next in post 4.

"In a nine-horse field, there is no huge advantage in post positions," said trainer Todd Pletcher who has Circular Quay and King of the Roxy entered. "I like that Circular Quay is on the inside, so he can save some ground."

When handicapping the Preakness Stakes do not worry about any tighter turns than the ones at Churchill Downs, they don't exist. The slightly shorter distance is not a major factor either.

Health and physical condition are the most important things to worry about. The four horses who raced two weeks ago appear to be healthy and physically ready to give their best.

Hard Spun has demonstrated his ability to not only set the pace and win, but also to sit off the pace and then take control. He did just that in capturing the Lane's End Stakes.

"This horse doesn’t have to do anything to commit himself." said trainer Larry Jones about Hard Spun. "He’s sat off of them in the Lane’s End and he’s been in front in several races. We’ll just let (jockey) Mario (Pino) play the game as it happens. It’s a long run to the first turn. We’ve got plenty of time to let them sort themselves out."

Tactical speed, the ability to be positioned anywhere on the track, is Hard Spun's major asset. Unless the pace is too slow for Pino, look for Hard Spun to sit just off the pace up the backstretch. Another advantage for Hard Spun is jockey Mario Pino. No one has won more races in Maryland than Pino.

Positioned just behind Hard Spun will be Curlin with Circular Quay and Street Sense further back. Flying First Class is expected to set the early pace and Xchanger should also be near or on the pace.

Hard Spun will draw even with the leaders heading into the final turn, dragging Curlin along with him. Street Sense and Circular Quay will begin their respective moves coming off the backstretch.

At the top of the stretch Hard Spun takes the lead followed by Curlin. With a furlong to run Hard Spun eases away from Curlin as Circular Quay and Street Sense gain.

Curlin fades in deep stretch as Hard Spun goes on to win the Preakness Stakes by two lengths. Circular Quay noses out Street Sense for second.

Let's have a good/clean race with all participants coming out of it in good shape.

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