With Rock Hard Ten having already been trounced by Smarty Jones in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), trainer Jason Orman can only hope that the mile and a half distance of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) will help bring the two colts closer together in the third leg of the Triple Crown.
Orman also feels Rock Hard Ten, who had only three career starts going into the Preakness, will take a big step forward with the Preakness under his belt.
"I think he got a lot out of his last race and will improve with the longer distance," Orman said on a national teleconference Thursday. "We're looking to stalk Smarty Jones this time, and hopefully our stamina will carry us through the last part."
While Orman would love to see racing have a Triple Crown winner, he still is out to derail the Smarty Jones Express.
"I'd like to see him win, but only if we don't win," he said. "If you're in horse racing you love to watch good horses, but you also want to beat them. If there was no competition it would be pretty boring. Anything can happen on a given day. Smarty Jones ran a super race in the Preakness, and if he runs back to that race I don't think there is any horse who can make a big enough leap to beat him."
Orman also has to deal with Rock Hard Ten's antics at the gate and on the track. The son of Kris S. has a mind of his own and held up the start of the Preakness when he refused to go in the gate. Then, this past Tuesday, he refused to break off in his work, with jockey Pat Valenzuela aboard, and it took three tries before the colt finally decided to work.
"It's a concern, but I guess it's good that the horse has a mind of his own," Orman said. "He showed he can't be pushed around. Looking back, I should have taken him to the gate in Baltimore to let the guys there get to know him. He's such a big horse and he doesn't like to be in small spaces. (Starter) Bob Duncan has been working with him here in New York and has been doing a great job with him."
As for his antics before his work, Orman said, "He's always been a smart horse, and he might be getting too smart. I always thought one day when he figured it all out he could be a handful. I remember horses like Tiznow and Fusaichi Pegasus were difficult like that and it didn't affect their performances in their races."
Orman said Rock Hard Ten will work again on Monday, and this time will go in company, and may get blinkers for the first time. If he trains well in them, there is a good chance he'll wear them in the Belmont.
For now, the colt is happy and doing great at Belmont. "He's getting over the track well, and he loves the barn area, especially having a window in the back of his stall." Orman said.