Churchill workout critical to Hard Spun's Derby future

Trainer Jones wants to see how colt takes to dirt racetrack

April 11, 2007|By SANDRA MCKEE

Trainer Larry Jones said yesterday that he hopes to work Fox Hill Farm's Kentucky Derby contender Hard Spun at Churchill Downs tomorrow morning to determine how much the 3-year-old likes the racetrack.

If Hard Spun works well on the dirt surface, Jones said the colt will train up to the Kentucky Derby on May 5 instead of running Saturday in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

If he handles the track poorly, the plan would be to run in the Grade II Coolmore Lexington at Keeneland on April 21, and then go directly to the Preakness, the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown, May 19 at Pimlico Race Course.

"I hope he works lights out," said Ellicott City-based jockey Mario Pino, who rides Hard Spun and is hoping for his first Derby mount in his long career. "He's handled every track but Oaklawn Park. I'm hoping that continues to be the case, and you can be sure I'm going to find out as soon as that work is done.

"I'm hoping everything works out for the horse and me. I've got my fingers crossed."

Pino was scheduled to work Hard Spun at Churchill yesterday, but the cold weather caused Jones to reschedule. Jones will use Churchill Downs-based rider Larry Melancon tomorrow.

Jones is concerned about how Hard Spun would handle the dirt course at Churchill Downs because of his fourth-place finish in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park - his only loss in six career races. Jones felt the colt did not care for the racing surface at the Hot Springs, Ark., track.

Hard Spun has career earnings of $473,470.

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