LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Rick Porter, owner of Kentucky Derby contender Hard Spun, shook his head yesterday morning as he stood just outside Hard Spun's stall at Barn 41 at Churchill Downs.
What did Monday's blazing workout take out of his 3-year-old colt?
Not much that Porter could see.
"He wants to go to the track bad," the car dealer from Wilmington said, laughing. "I mean, he ate everything last night, licked the tub. He's raising hell. This morning, he was running around back here, he didn't even want to graze. He wants to go to the track."
The Chester County-bred son of Danzig, foaled at Betty Moran's Brushwood Stable in Malvern, walked the shed row yesterday morning, a day after the horse worked five furlongs in 57.60 seconds, the fastest five-furlong Derby week workout since 1973.
Porter said that during the workout he actually had been nervous his horse was going too slow, since he looked to be galloping so easily. So much for that. Porter heard the time and got nervous the other way.
On Monday, trainer Larry Jones had said that critics would question his sanity for sending his dead-fit horse out for a workout with another horse five days before the Derby.
"They're going to say the Cowboy blew it," said Jones, referring to himself by his nickname.
In fact, it isn't hard to find people who think Hard Spun just left his race on the track Monday morning. Walk down any row in the press center. The flip side: The secret's out about this horse's talent. Even though Hard Spun, winner of five of six career starts, is considered to have maybe the best pedigree in the field, not everybody was convinced Hard Spun had the goods to contend in the Run for the Roses.
That's not an issue too much anymore. Yesterday, when Street Sense trainer Carl Nafzger began mentioning top competitors for his Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Hard Spun was the first name off his tongue.
The workout obviously caused a lot of talk, but not everybody was ready to call it a make-or-break deal.
"The bottom line is that if the horse is good enough, it doesn't matter," veteran Louisville Courier-Journal handicapper and chart-caller Cliff Guilliams told his paper after watching the workout. "And if he's not good enough, it doesn't matter."