Three horses that are expected to take on Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Smarty Jones in Saturday's Preakness (gr. I) tuned up for the second jewel of the Visa Triple Crown with sharp works at Churchill Downs on Monday.Mercedes Stables and Madeleine Paulson's Rock Hard Ten worked five furlongs while Borrego, who finished 10th in the Derby, pronounced his readiness for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness with a sizzling half-mile work.BORREGO
The son of El Prado, who is trained and co-owned by Beau Greely, covered four furlongs over a "fast" track in a blistering :46. Jockey Joe Deegan was in the saddle for the move that ranked as the fastest of 53 at the distance.Greely looked on from the clubhouse as Borrego zipped past and galloped out in a swift :59.20, but was pleased that the apparent ease of the colt's sharp effort."The horse worked well," said Greely. "I just wanted to go a nice, easy half-mile with him and gallop out five-eighths. It looked like he was striding out and did it nice and easy, so I think it was pretty much just what we were looking for."
The Kentucky Derby effort by Borrego was disappointing to Greely, but he believes that the sloppy track was a factor in his dull run under jockey Victor Espinoza.
"I kind of thought that he would possibly like that wet track, but it was sealed," said Greely. "They did a great job to even run the race. Victor had him in a good spot, but coming down the lane he was just spinning his wheels and didn't like it. When he got back to the barn he was jumping, bucking and kicking and cleaned up his feed that night. It didn't really look to me like he had even ran, so that was the reason for our decision to give the Preakness a shot." Borrego, the runner-up to Smarty Jones in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), will bring a career record of 2-3-0 in eight races into the Preakness and has earned $399,580. Greely said rain would be the only thing that might change his plans for the colt at this point."Hopefully he'll take to the surface at Pimlico and it doesn't rain," he said. "If it rains, I would consider not running. I don't really want to see those two speed horses like we did in the Derby, because I think they'd be pretty tough on the front end on an 'off' track."ROCK HARD TEN
The imposing son of Kris S. was on the track shortly after it opened for training at 5:15 a.m. (All Times EDT) and breezed a strong five furlongs in 1:00 under jockey Joe Deegan.
The move over a "fast" track ranked sixth among 32 at the distance. Trainer Jason Orman said that, if the colt came out of the work in good shape, he would ship to Pimlico on Wednesday to compete in the Preakness on Satuday.
"He finished really good," said Orman. "He went off nice and easy and finished strong, and looked like he was doing it easy. "
Orman brought Rock Hard Ten to Louisville a month ago with hopes of running in the Kentucky Derby, but the colt was excluded from the original 20 entrants in the race because of insufficient earnings in graded stakes races.Despite that disappointment, Orman has remained positive and said that the situation could work out to be "a blessing" for his colt. Orman is now looking forward to seeing Rock Hard Ten compete against Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones and the rest of the Preakness cast on Saturday.
"We're pretty excited about getting to run now," he said. "We're putting everything behind us and hopefully things will work out for the best now."
Orman said there have been no second thoughts about a decision to pull Rock Hard Ten from Churchill Downs' Derby Trial (gr. III). The colt was scratched from the one-mile race on April 24.
"We really wanted to run in the Derby if we had the opportunity, so that's the road we took and we can't look back on it now," Orman said. m"Obviously, if we had another race in him it probably would be beneficial."
Although he did not get to run during his time beneath the track's historic Twin Spires, Orman said that Rock Hard Ten has benefited from his time in Louisville and his recent preparations for the Preakness.
"He's really improved," he said. "I think he's maturing and getting bigger and stronger, probably even in the last four weeks he's been here. It's going to be a very tough race. It's going to be a big test for him. I don't know if he can beat those horses, but I think he can compete with them."Rock Hard Ten won his first two starts, then finished second -- but was disqualified to third -- in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).