The unbeaten colt won the Lecomte (gr. III) at Fair Grounds last out and drew post nine under regular jockey Mario Pino for the one-mile test in Hot Springs, Ark. The Pennsylvania bred carries top weight of 122 pounds.
A strong performance by Hard Spun could make him the latest major Derby contender to emerge on the Oaklawn-to-Churchill path to the Derby. That path was successfully traveled by Smarty Jones, the 2004 Derby winner, and was also the route taken by Afleet Alex, third to Giacomo in the 2005 Derby and a dazzling winner of both the Preakness (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) after that. Smarty Jones swept the Southwest, Rebel (gr. III) and Arkansas Derby (gr. II) at Oaklawn before his win at Churchill Downs.
Hard Spun tuned up for the Southwest with a sharp workout on Monday in which he covered five furlongs in :59 at Oaklawn. Jones moved that work up a couple of days because of the threat of rain in the forecast.
“He went perfect and he came out of the move great,” said Jones. “He’s dead fit. We really don’t ask Hard Spun for speed in the mornings. He did everything on his own.”
Among the horses considered major opponents for the favorite in the Southwest are Forty Grams, a 14-length winner in a recent allowance race at the Fair Grounds for trainer Steve Asmussen; the Bob Holthus-trained Officer Rocket, winner of the Arlington-Washington Breeders’ Cup Futurity (gr. III) at Arlington Park; and Sapling (gr. III) victor Xchanger.
$250,000 Southwest Stakes (Race 9, 4:48 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 Mile
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Xchanger (FL), 117, Joe Bravo
2. I Got a Dream (IL), 119, Eusebio Razo, Jr.
3. Going Ballistic (FL), 119, M. Clifton Berry
4. Teuflesberg (KY), 119, Stewart Elliott
5. Officer Rocket (GB), 119, Calvin H. Borel
6. Forty Grams (KY), 117, Donnie J. Meche
7. Our Sacred Honor (KY), 117, John R. Velazquez
8. Starbase (FL), 115, Corey J. Lanerie
9. Hard Spun (PA), 122, Mario G. Pino