Mercedes Stables' and Madeleine Paulson's Rock Hard Ten, third via disqualification in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and excluded from the 130th Kentucky Derby (gr. I) because of insufficient earnings in graded stakes events, tuned up for an expected run in the Preakness (gr. I) with a seven furlong workout Tuesday at Churchill Downs.
The son of Kris S. covered the distance in 1:26 over a fast track and galloped out one mile in 1:40 shortly after the mid-session break for track maintenance. Jockey Joe Deegan worked the Jason Orman-trained Rock Hard Ten for the first time and was most impressed with what he felt beneath him.
"It's been a long time since I've been on a horse that felt like that," said Deegan. "He's just awesome underneath you. He just gallops along and he's going twelves (12 second furlongs) like nothing, you know? When you ask him, he kicks it in a little bit. I'd say he needed the work today, too. He needed the work. He was sharp, he needed to do something and I would say he got something out of it."
Deegan's previous experience with Rock Hard Ten had come in morning gallops.
"He's a pretty awesome horse to sit on," said Deegan. "It was probably one of the best first impressions I've had from a horse."
When asked of Rock Hard Ten's chances in the Preakness, Deegan said, "He'll probably win it."
Orman was happy with the move and said Rock Hard Ten would work one more time at Churchill Downs before he ships to Pimlico a week from Wednesday for the Preakness at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course.
"If he comes out of the work good tomorrow, we'll definitely aim for that," Orman said.
Orman said that jockey Gary Stevens will travel from France, where he is currently riding for trainer Andre Fabre, to be in the saddle aboard Rock Hard Ten in the Preakness. And Orman continues to say that it may be "a blessing" that his colt did not get the chance to run in the Kentucky Derby, which was won by Someday Farm's Smarty Jones over a track that was left sloppy by a late afternoon rainstorm.
"Especially with the rain and everything," he said. "You just don't know how he's going to handle it and, with three starts and running a mile and a quarter, if he's not getting a hold of the track it would have been very tough on him. It would have been nice to run in the Derby, but you just hope you get another chance."
It was suggested to Orman that he would be portrayed as a spoiler if he were to hand unbeaten Smarty Jones his first loss in the Preakness, butthe trainer said that was not something he would be thinking about in the days before the second jewel of the Visa Triple Crown.
"It was actually nice to see that horse win," said Orman. "That story is a nice story. I wouldn't mind ruining it."
Rock Hard Ten has a career record of 2-0-1 in three races.