Jockey Garrett Gomez, will ride Hard Spun in Belmont Stakes.

Jockey Garrett Gomez, will ride Hard Spun in Belmont Stakes.


Gomez Replaces Pino on Hard Spun for Belmont

Owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones have named Garrett Gomez to ride Hard Spun in the June 9 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), replacing Mario Pino, who had ridden the colt in all eight of his previous starts. As of now, Hard Spun is considered 98% certain to run, according to Porter.

Porter and Jones had mapped out a plan for the Preakness (gr. I) where Hard Spun would sit several lengths  behind the leaders, and were not happy when Pino, afraid of getting trapped on the inside by C P West, steered the colt to the outside. Once in the clear, a headstrong Hard Spun took off after Xchanger and Flying First Class in a testing :23 1/5 for the third quarter. That move through blistering fractions of :22.83 and :45.75 carried Hard Spun to a three-quarter split of 1:09.80, which eventually took its toll, and he was unable to match strides with Curlin and Street Sense in the stretch, finishing third, beaten four lengths.

“(Mario) knows a little daylight for Hard Spun is all she wrote,” Porter said. “He won’t rate unless he is directly behind horses, in my opinion. Larry and I both came up with the idea of switching to Gomez at the same time. I feel badly for Mario, as he is truly a nice guy, but he made a mistake. He didn’t think that by moving him out in the clear, he’d have trouble rating. But when this horse sees an opening, he wants to go and go fast.

“I think Gomez suits him well and is riding with a lot of confidence now. Also, he’s more familiar with those big, sweeping turns at Belmont. Hard Spun came out of the Preakness strong, and if he’s on top of his game in the Belmont, I think he will run big with the right pace.”

With Gomez riding Hard Spun and John Velazquez named to ride Slew’s Tizzy, winner of the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) and Lone Star Derby (gr. III), it all but assures that Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Rags to Riches will not run in the Belmont. If she does, it would be without the jockey who has ridden her in four of her five starts, and without trainer Todd Pletcher’s number one rider. The same would apply to stablemate Circular Quay, fifth in the Preakness, who has been ridden by either Gomez or Velazquez in his last six starts.

Hard Spun has won five of his eight career starts, including victories in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park, LeComte Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds, Port Penn Stakes at Delaware Park, and the Pennsylvania Nursery at Philadelphia Park. He also was second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), as well as third in the Preakness.

The son of Danzig – Turkish Tryst, by Turkoman was bred in Pennsylvania by Michael Moran and Brushwood Stable.

With a decision on Street Sense not due until early next week, there are only six confirmed starters for the Belmont – Curlin, Hard Spun, Slew’s Tizzy, Tiago, Imawildandcrazyguy, and Great Hunter. Sightseeing and Chelokee appear to be unlikely at this time, but there may be an addition or two if Street Sense is withdrawn.

Trainer Bill Kaplan said Imawildandcrazyguy, fourth in the Kentucky Derby, will ship to Belmont Park from his home base at Calder on Wednesday, May 30, and will have his final work on Sunday, June 3. Accompanying him will be Arkansas Derby (gr. II) runner-up Storm in May, who will be pointed for the June 8 Hill Prince Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the grass.