Impressive win earns Hard Spun Derby spot

Posted: March 26, 2007

After Hard Spun's impressive victory in Saturday's $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, a horse with Philadelphia-area connections will be a serious contender for the May 5 Kentucky Derby for the fourth consecutive year.

Hard Spun is preceded at the Run for the Roses by Smarty Jones (first in 2004), Afleet Alex (third in 2005), and Barbaro (first in 2006).

Owned by Wilmington native Rick Porter, Hard Spun scored by 31/4 lengths after racing just off the pace and three wide in the 11/8-mile test.

He was clocked in 1 minute, 492/5 seconds over the synthetic Polytrack at Turfway in Florence, Ky.

The $300,000 first prize in the Grade II Lane's End ensured Hard Spun a berth in the Derby, which has a field limited to 20 runners based on graded earnings.

Hard Spun captured his initial four starts, including stakes at Delaware and Philadelphia Park, then finished a disappointing fourth in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 19.

Trainer Larry Jones blamed the Danzig colt's loss on the notion that he did not like the surface in Arkansas, forcing the move to Kentucky.

Winning jockey Mario Pino has ridden for 27 years, with 5,700 victories, but will ride in the Kentucky Derby for the first time.

Pino patted Hard Spun on the neck and pumped his fist at the conclusion of the Lane's End, a rare display of emotion for the normally composed jockey.

"I was proud of my horse; I never lost confidence in him," Pino said yesterday. "Even in the paddock [before the race], he acted more mature and relaxed, not all uptight. He redeemed himself and ran his best race."

Hard Spun is slated to make his next start in the $750,000 Blue Grass (Grade I) on April 14 at Keeneland, which also has synthetic footing.

The Blue Grass field will feature last year's juvenile champion Street Sense, leading West Coast hopeful Great Hunter, and Any Given Saturday, who finished a nose behind Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby.


Contact staff writer Craig Donnelly at 215-854-2839 or cdonnelly@phillynews.com.

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