- Hard Spun is slated to go in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on Monday, and Gary West, writing in the Dallas-Ft Worth Star Telegram, notes that he'll have to do better than the final quarter of 26.77 seconds in which he completed the LaComte Stakes.
A big, long-striding colt, Hard Spun just lowers his head and runs, like a fullback at the goal line, and he has been dominant in all four of his races, winning by a total of 28 lengths. If he learns to distribute his energy effectively, learns to control his speed and to recognize that the goal line lies far ahead, he could become one of the major players on the road to the Triple Crown.West also wants us to keep an eye on Fine Flyer, a $900,000 yearling who finished with a rush to be fourth in his debut and who makes the second start of his career Saturday at Santa Anita. Fine Flyer, by the thus far disappointing sire Fusaichi Pegasus, is a half-brother to Keeper Hill, winner of the 1998 Kentucky Oaks; her second dam, Jedina, is a half-sister to Fappiano, and this is the distaff family of Belmont winner Commendable.
If not, he could become this year's Lawyer Ron. A headstrong colt, Lawyer Ron didn't learn to distribute his energy last year. When he won the Southwest, for example, he ran the opening quarter-mile in 23.29 seconds and the final quarter in 26.22.
- Any Given Sunday, my personal preference amongst Pletcher's Derby prospects, runs in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa on Saturday, prepping for the Tampa Bay Derby there on March 17. This is a route that has not proven to be too successful the last couple of years, specifically for Sun King and Bluegrass Cat, though the latter did finish a distant second to Barbaro last year. We hear that the surface there is a bit quirky (at least from the trainers whose horses don't fare well there, or from Steve Haskin as he makes a case for every three-year old in the country), and with Pletcher intending to use the Polytrack Blue Grass as Any Given Saturday's final prep, he would be coming into the Derby having prepped over disparate surfaces. Pletcher explains:
"The two races at Tampa should be a perfect setup for him for the Blue Grass," he said. "He's already run well over the Polytrack at Keeneland, and I thought it made the most sense to give him his final prep there for the Derby." [Daily Racing Form]Like Circular Quay, this is a colt who will be at the mercy of pace and racing luck, particularly in the 20 horse Derby field (seems as if we can just assume these days that the field will max out).