Yesterday morning, Pennsylvania-bred Hard Spun recorded one of the fastest Derby Week workouts in memory, rolling 5 furlongs in 57.53 seconds at Churchill Downs with regular rider Mario Pino on board. Hard Spun worked in company with stablemate Wildcat Bettie B., a Grade I stakes-winning filly. Hard Spun won that "race" by 10 lengths.
"He wasn't supposed to beat her that far," Hard Spun's trainer Larry Jones said. "She isn't chump change, you know. But Mario was happy with the way he did it, so that means I'm happy. The move was faster than I told him to go, but he was within himself.
"And we know he likes this track, that's for sure. That was an issue, but it isn't now. He came off the track blowing just a little bit, but he recovered within 10 or 15 minutes and he's feeling plenty good."
Most of what Jones said was trainer-speak. Only he knows for sure what he really thought of the work. He had wanted the colt to work in around 59 seconds.
In this era, hardly anybody wants to see a horse work really fast a few days before a big race. Funny Cide, for instance, worked very fast the week of the 2003 Belmont Stakes and then was speed crazy in the race, tiring in the stretch as he bid for the Triple Crown.
"The pair came away from the pole full of run," wrote Mike Welsch, who clocks horses Derby Week for the Daily Racing Form. "The clocker's watch was smoking. By the time the pair reached the quarter pole, Hard Spun had already begun to separate himself from his mate, continuing to pour it on . . .
"By the time Hard Spun reached the eighth pole in :44.52, Wildcat Bettie B. had been left in the dust. The early pace took its toll from that point on as Hard Spun needed :13.01 to complete his final furlong while under steady urging and then had little left for a gallop out that saw him pull up 6 furlongs in 1:12.97."
What Hard Spun showed yesterday is what we already know. The colt is very fast. What we don't know is how far he can run fast. Yesterday was 5 furlongs. The Derby is 10.
There will be 20 horses running in Saturday's Kentucky Derby, but, a year after Barbaro won the Derby by the largest margin in 60 years, Roy and Gretchen Jackson's horse will be the overriding theme. To that end, it was announced yesterday that any horse that can win the race by more than Barbaro's 6 1/2-length margin would net his connections a $1 million bonus.
Good luck with that.
The bonus would be split among the winning trainer, jockey, owner and the Barbaro Memorial Fund, each getting 25 percent.
What is being called the "Yumfecta" will be paid by Yum! Brands, the Derby's presenting sponsor for the second consecutive year. Yum is parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver's and A & W Restaurants. The Louisville-based company took out an insurance policy to cover the bonus.