Hard Spun Set For Kentucky Derby

Thursday, April 12th 2007, 6:05 pm

By: News On 6

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Hard Spun passed his test at Churchill Downs and will return in three weeks for the Kentucky Derby.

The 3-year-old colt handled the dirt track with ease during a Thursday morning workout, which was what trainer Larry Jones needed to see before committing to run in the Derby on May 5.

"He went over the track very nice and came back very fresh afterwards," Jones said. "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."

Hard Spun, a winner in five of six races, covered five furlongs in 1:00.20.

The choice to run next in the Derby came after weeks of indecision. Hard Spun did not like the dirt track at Oaklawn Park, where he finished fourth in the Southwest Stakes for his only defeat. The colt came back and won the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park on Polytrack, and then was sent to Keeneland to train on its synthetic surface.

Jones had considered Saturday's Blue Grass at Keeneland as a final prep, but changed plans. With a goal of running in the Derby, he wanted to find out if Hard Spun could handle the Churchill Downs track.

If he didn't, the choice would have been the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 21, skip the Derby, and then the Preakness.

Now, Jones is preparing to saddle his first Derby starter.

"I've got three weeks to really get the jitters, because up to now it was just kind of a dream -- now it can feel like a reality," said Jones, a native of Hopkinsville, Ky. "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. 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."

Hard Spun, a Pennsylvania-bred like 2004 Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, was vanned back to Keeneland after the workout and will train there until returning to Churchill Downs a few days before the Derby.

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