Lacking experience and making his first stakes start, Rock Hard Ten faces a daunting task running in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 3.Trainer Jason Orman acknowledges the hurdles, but plans to start the son of Kris S. in the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds. Rock Hard Ten is unbeaten in two starts."It looks like we're going to run," the 35-year-old trainer said on an overcast Wednesday morning at Santa Anita. "We'll work him Monday and if he comes out of it good then we'll probably go. Obviously, it would be nice to have more starts but he's training well and he's handled everything well so far. We'll give him a chance and see what happens.
"He doesn't have as much experience as some of the other horses and obviously it's going to be the toughest race he's run in so far. But he's always acted like a very nice horse. He's probably come along a little faster than we thought he would."
One thing in the 3-year-old's favor is his rider, Gary Stevens. The Hall of Fame jockey has won four of the last five runnings of the Santa Anita Derby and was second on Easy Grades in 2002. Overall, Stevens has won the race a record nine times from only 18 rides. He was second five times and has never finished worse than fourth.
In other Santa Anita Derby developments:San Felipe Stakes runner-up St Averill is scheduled to work Sunday, but Rafael Beccera is set to run the son of Saint Ballado in the Santa Anita Derby. "It's pretty much a go right now," the trainer said. "We'll run one more time and take it from there (for the Kentucky Derby on May 1)."Probable for the 67th running of the Santa Anita Derby: Imperialism, Victor Espinoza; Lion Heart, Mike Smith; Lucky Pulpit, no rider; Quinton's Gold Rush, Corey Nakatani; Rock Hard Ten, Gary Stevens; St Averil, Tyler Baze; Totally Platinum, no rider; and Wimbledon, Javier Santiago.