Race of the Week 2017

Five years ago, it was Hard Spun

Everyone remembers Animal Kingdom’s rise to fame last spring when he parlayed an impressive win in Turfway Park’s Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes with a glorious run for the roses on the first Saturday in May, but he was not the only superstar to make Turfway’s premier Kentucky Derby prep their very own. With names like Broad Brush, Summer Squall, Hansel, Lil E. Tee, Prairie Bayou, Serena’s Song, Perfect Drift, and Flower Alley on the roll call, the Spiral has an illustrious history of winners going on to bigger and better things. In fact, the very first time I visited the Northern Kentucky oval, I saw Hansel dominate the Spiral field. A few months later he was a Preakness and Belmont winner, and well on his way to an Eclipse Award. As strong a list as the horses I have just mentioned represents, it was a more recent runner that comes to mind first when I think of the Spiral Stakes. Saturday will mark the five-year anniversary of Hard Spun’s victory in Turfway’s richest race.

Saying that Hard Spun won just more than half of his 13 lifetime starts, including six stakes races, and earned more than $2 ½ million, hardly tells the story of what a fantastic horse he was. On March 24, 2007, Hard Spun’s career was at a crossroads. Highly regarded through four romping wins in his first four starts, the son of Danzig had been bet down to 1-2 in Oaklawn Park’s Southwest Stakes a month earlier. Not near the early lead for the first time in his career, Hard Spun never showed the tenacity he would be later known for and finished 4th, beaten 3 lengths, in the Southwest. All of a sudden experts were crossing him off their short list of Kentucky Derby favorites. The Spiral (then known as the Lane’s End) would give the Fox Hills Farm owned sophomore a chance to regain some of his lost stature. Coming off the Oaklwan defeat, he was made the 5-2 second choice behind Twilight Meteor in the field of 12. Anyone who underestimated Hard Spun that day would soon be sorry.

Under his regular rider Mario Pino, Hard Spun charge took right after the early leaders from his outside post position. Not headstrong in the least, the Larry Jones charge sat just off the solid pace on the outside until Pino asked for more. On cue, Hard Spun took command on the far turn and easily drew clear from the field down the stretch. In hand late, he hit the wire a dominant 3 ¼ length winner over Sedgefield, with the third place finisher another 3 ¼ lengths farther back. It was the fifth win in six starts for Hard Spun as he ran the fastest Spiral time of 1:49.41, since the switch to the Polytrack surface. It also sent the striking bay colt to Louisville on a winning note.

You all know the story from there; Hard Spun would set all the pace in the Kentucky Derby and prove tough as nails from there to finish second. He would do the same thing in that fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, and in between he finished 3rd in the Preakness, despite being gunned to the lead in 1:09 and change, and also had impressive wins in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at seven furlongs and the Kentucky Cup Classic. Despite competing against the strongest crop of runners so far in the 21st century, Hard Spun had quite a noteworthy year. By the way, that Kentucky Cup Classic was won at the expense of the champion, Street Sense, and was hosted by Turfway Park. 

Turfway Park is where I will be on Saturday, and millions more will be watching on NBC Sports, as new Kentucky Derby hopefuls try to emulate the long list of topnotch Spiral winners … winners like Hard Spun. Enjoy the show, but please remember for a moment with me the excellent horse that won this race five years ago. 


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Older Comments about Five years ago, it was Hard Spun...

Hard Spun's don't come around very often. I also predict he will be the number one sire in America in less that 3 years.
LOVED Hard Spun..was my guy then and now..all heart all the time.To Vic..HS ran his heart out in The Classic and the Derby and in any other year would have had a great chance to win them both so saying he couldn't run past 9 panels isn't really fair because he did.He was at his best under that but he has nothing to hang his head about.He always showed up and ran his race and ducked no one.Thank you Brian for the walk down memory lane.Hard Sun Baby!!
The first time I went to a race track as just to see him. HIs stakes debut in the Port Penn.
I loved, Loved, LOOOOOOOOVED Hard Spun. Man, I wish he would of had a chance to run on turf!
Front runner never able to win a step past 9 panels
Loved Hard Spun, my favorite King's Bishop was the year he won! Hansen reminds me somewhat of him
I loved Hard Spun! It would have been amazing if he and Street Sense had stayed around for their 4-year-old years.

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