Trainer Larry Jones thought undefeated Hard Spun would face the first difficult test of his career in Saturday's $100,000 Lecomte (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at the Fair Grounds. But as the even-money choice swung off the far turn without being asked for anything from jockey Mario Pino, it was apparent that this one-mile event was all but over.
Pino gave Hard Spun a single crack of the whip at the top of the lane and rode him conservatively from there to win in a 6 1/2-length romp, clocking 1:37 4/5. The 3-year-old Danzig colt recorded his fourth win in as many starts – and his first graded stakes score – for owner Fox Hill Farms Inc.
“He looked like he handled the course real well, so the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) is a definite possibility," Jones said. "We’re certainly not going to rule anything out. We’ll just head back to Oaklawn (winter base) and see what’s next.”
The Louisiana Derby is March 10.
The Pennsylvania-bred Hard Spun came out of the gate in second behind Izzie's Halo, surging past after an opening quarter mile of :23 3/5. Hard Spun took control approaching the half-mile pole in :46 3/5. As Izzie's Halo dropped back on the turn, Teuflesberg took up the chase, but Hard Spun simply ran away from his challenger as they negotiated the bend, completing six furlongs in 1:11.
“The pace was fast, but he did it very easy," Pino said. "When I asked him, he kept giving me more. This is a real good (3-year-old). So far, nobody has gotten near him.”
Izzie's Halo, ridden by Jesse Campbell, came back in the stretch to finish a tiring second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Teuflesberg and Robby Albarado, who settled for third.
“He broke more aggressive than I wanted do," Campbell said. "I got beat by the best horse today, but as this horse seasons more, I really think he will be a fine 3-year-old.”
Hard Spun began his career at Delaware Park, breaking his maiden at first asking in a 5 1/2-furlong heat by nearly nine lengths. He followed that with a five-length tally in the six-furlong Fort Penn Stakes. In his most recent start, the bay colt won the Pennsylvania Nursery for state breds at Philadelphia Park by nearly eight lengths. He has won his four races by a combined 28 lengths.
Michael Moran and Brushwood Stable bred Hard Spun, who is out of Turkish Tryst, by Turkoman. Hard Spun earned $60,000 Saturday to improve his bankroll to $160,970.
Hard Spun paid $4, $3, and $2.10.
Izzie's Halo, an 8 1/4-length maiden winner in his last start for trainer Tom Amoss, returned $4.60 and $3.20, rounding out a $21.60 exacta.
Teuflesberg, who was coming off a convincing win in the Sugar Bowl over the track and had won three of his past four races, was $2.80 to show.
It was five lengths back to Makeithapencaptain, who finished fourth in the field of seven, with Beta Capo, Tony Terrific, and Citi Smoke trailing.