Mercedes Stable's and Madeleine Paulson's Rock Hard Ten, runner-up to Smarty Jones in the Preakness Stakes, turned a swift and visually impressive five furlongs Saturday morning in a final tuneup for next Saturday's Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.The time of :58 2/5 earned a bullet from the Del Mar clocking crew and brought forth "an awesome performance" comment from head clocker Gary Nelson. "He went the last quarter in 22 3/5," Nelson reported.Trainer Jason Orman noted, "He did it pretty easy." The quiet, mild-mannered Orman, standing on one of the backstretch viewing stands, added, "I'm very happy with the work. He went a little fast, but he did it with ease."
"As long as he's good tomorrow, we'll ship to the Haskell on Wednesday morning, Orman said. If things go well in the Haskell, the 3-year-old colt could be seen next either in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 28 or the Super Derby (gr. II) at Louisiana Downs Sept. 25, he said.Rock Hard Ten won the Swaps (gr. II) July 10 for his first stakes victory.Although Del Mar's Pacific Classic had been a consideration, Orman said that race would be too close to the Haskell, and the owners have decided to keep him with his own age group.