Trainer Larry Jones, in his trademark white cowboy hat.

Trainer Larry Jones, in his trademark white cowboy hat.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Preakness Update: Hard Spun's Connections Hope to Turn Tables

(Edited release from Maryland Jockey Club)

Larry Jones, in his familiar white cowboy hat, has become a recognizable figure during the build-up to the Triple Crown. The personable 50-year old conditioner might be switching to a black cowboy hat as he and his star Hard Spun hope to spoil the Triple Crown hopes of Street Sense and trainer Carl Nafzger in the $1 million Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course on May 19.

“We may have to do something different here if we are going to spoil his Triple Crown,” Jones said. “I like Carl a lot but I don’t intend for him to have the Triple Crown.”

Hard Spun, who finished second to Street Sense in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Presneted by Yum! Brands (gr. I),  left Churchill Downs Monday morning and will be preparing for the Preakness at Delaware Park before shipping into the Pimlico stakes barn next Wednesday, May 16. In late April, Jones considered skipping the Derby and pointing Hard Spun to the Preakness.

“We just felt like the way this horse had trained on surfaces similar to Pimlico, we were not expecting to handle the Churchill surface as well as he did, as it has a tendency to get a little cuppy,” added Jones. “Even the rain the other day helped us out on that. We just know Pimlico is a track that doesn’t have the cuppiness to it, the only surface this horse showed he didn’t favor, plus he’s got a good turn, a good pace factor and a good cruising speed and I know that horses that get on the front end in the Preakness generally can do better than the ones that do at Churchill Downs.”

Mario Pino, the winningest rider in Maryland, will be aboard the son of Danzig in the middle jewel. The 45-year-old, who began Monday two wins shy of tying Jerry Bailey for 15th on the all-time list, has two career Preakness mounts: Escambia Bay (7th, 1981) and Menacing Dennis (10th, 2002). 

“He rode the picture perfect ride that’s supposed to win the Derby,” Jones said. “Twenty horse field, you figure the horse that’s coming off the pace the way Street Sense did has got to be hindered by traffic, somewhere, sometime and being on the front end where we were we figured we’d get the trip we needed. That’s one reason we opted to be there, plus that’s my horse, he’s got that high cruising speed to set out there and do that. We thought we did everything it took to win the race. At least Calvin (winning jockey Calvin Borel) had to come around Pino. He didn’t come through on the rail on him. Calvin had the perfect trip. I’m glad if anybody won it they did. They’re good people. They’re good hard workers. You can’t root against them except if you’re the horse who runs second.”

Three other Derby starters, including morning line favorite Curlin are still considering a run in the Preakness. The lightly raced son of Smart Strike had a troubled trip Saturday but still finished third.

“This horse is owned by a group of people and we will not be making any decisions about what we’ll do next until I sit down with them,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “We certainly are not going to make any decision until the horse goes back to the track. That could be Wednesday and it will not be until Thursday that we will meet and decide how we are going to move forward.”

Also under consideration are Sedgefield, the surprising fifth place finisher, and Teuflesberg, who challenged Hard Spun for the lead before fading to 17th.

“We’re going to walk him a couple more days,” said Sedgefield’s conditioner Darrin Miller. “He ran very hard last Saturday and came out of the race fine. We’re still not sure about the Preakness. We’re just taking one day at a time for now. I thought Street Senses’ performance was outstanding, a really great performance.”

“We’re thinking about it. It is still very possible,” said Teuflesberg co-owner and trainer Jamie Sanders, a longtime assistant to Nick Zito. “Louis Quatorze finished 16th in the Derby and came back two weeks later to equal the track record in winning the Preakness. Pimlico is suited for the type of running style he likes and the shorter distance of the race is better as well.”

The Preakness is expected to include Zito and new shooters from two other big-name trainers: D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher. Zito, who trained Louis Quatorze and has saddled 17 Preakness starters, is considering Withers runner-up CP West. Lukas, a five-time winner of Maryland’s signature race, will start either Derby Trial winner Flying First Class or Lexington runner-up Starbase. Pletcher, the three-time Eclipse Award winner for outstanding trainer, will have King of the Roxy, who finished second in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) represent his powerful stable.

The Fair Hill Training Center in northeast Maryland will have a Preakness starter for the second consecutive year as trainer Mark Shuman confirmed that Tesio winner Xchanger will run. A rider has yet to be announced. The son of Exchange Rate worked six-furlongs Saturday.

“Everything’s a go,” said Shuman. “I’m just trying to keep a fresh horse. I’m tentatively scheduling a work for five-eighths on Saturday morning. I was very impressed with the performance of Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby but it didn’t look easy for anybody in that race. I’m glad we were where we were. If you have to meet horses like that in these big races, you want to get a chance when they’re coming off big efforts."

A decision on Fair Hill-based Chelokee should be made by the end of the week according to trainer Michael Matz. The third place finisher in the Florida Derby (gr. I) worked five furlongs Monday morning with regular exercise rider Peter Brette aboard.

“He went really well,” Matz said. “We’ll walk him tomorrow and he’ll jog on Wednesday. I thought Carl’s horse ran pretty good. I guess he ran better than good. We are still undecided on the Preakness and maybe we’ll go in the Barbaro.”

Matz trained Barbaro, last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, who suffered fractures above and below his right hind ankle in last year’s Preakness. On December 20, 2006, the Maryland Jockey Club announced that it had changed the name of the Sir Barton Stakes to the Barbaro Stakes.

Lexington winner Slew’s Tizzy has been dropped from consideration according to trainer Greg Fox, instead opting for the Lone Star Derby.

“I’ve gone over everything with the owner and we’ve decided that the Texas route is the better way to go,’ said Fox, a former Maryland-based veterinarian. “It’s just probably a better spot for this horse. We’ll miss the Preakness this year but maybe next year.”