- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Maryland-based jockey Mario Pino makes his Kentucky Derby debut on Saturday aboard Hard Spun, the Pennsylvania-bred colt who is 5-for-6 lifetime.

Pino has ridden Hard Spun in each of those six races. Recently, he analyzed each start for The Washington Times.

Race 1: Oct. 22, 2006, 51/2-furlong maiden race at Delaware Park. Won by 8 3/4 lengths.

Pino: “When he was working in the morning leading into that race, he would be nonchalant, calm and laid back. But when I would ask him, he would be there and would run. When he came to the paddock before his race, he blew up. It was like he knew he was racing for the first time. I didn’t realize how massive he was. He looked like a 3-year old, not a 2-year old who was getting to race for the first time. After the race, I was stunned. I was like, ‘How much horse do I have?’ I was slowing him down the last furlong and he still won by almost nine lengths.”

Race 2: Nov. 14, 2006, 6-furlong race at Delaware Park. Won by 5 lengths.

Pino: “It was a sloppy track and he started slow from the rail. The track was a sea of water and the other horses had run four, five, six times and were just more experienced. To be on the rail on a sloppy track, I thought he would stay on the rail once we broke. A horse crossed in front of us and, boom, in a sudden move, he just flew into the lead. He went from fifth to first pretty quick. I went right by those horses.”

Race 3: Dec. 18, 2006, 7-furlong race at Philadelphia Park. Won by 7 3/4 lengths.

Pino: “We knew he could be a nice colt so we went to Philadelphia to get him a nice, easy race against the Pennsylvania breds to see if we could rate him a little bit. The competition was very strong but he was too good to rate so he just went and ran away just like the first day he raced. After this race, I was like, ‘This horse is unreal.’”

Race 4: Jan. 13, 2007, 1-mile Grade III LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds (New Orleans). Won by 6 1/2 lengths.

Pino: “It was his first time going two turns and first time going a mile. It wasn’t an easy, easy race but he was facing horses that might have been better for the first time and he just galloped that day. After that race, I started thinking, ‘OK, he’s won by eight, five, seven and six lengths and nobody’s been near him. He can be really good.’”

Race 5: Feb. 19, 2007, 1-mile Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park (Arkansas). Fourth place.

Pino: “He drew the outside post for this race and all along, [trainer Larry Jones] had been saying the horse didn’t like the track. And in the race, I knew that wasn’t the same horse. It was just seemed like he didn’t get running. He moved up to second but then he faded. I was a little worried because I knew he was better than that. It wasn’t his best race and he still only lost by a few lengths. But I thought he would be able to rebound.”

Race 6: March 24, 2007, 11/8-mile Grade II Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway Park (suburban Cincinnati). Won by 3 1/4 lengths.

Pino: “I breezed him over the PolyTrack at Turfway Park and he worked awesome. In the race, the way he broke ? that’s the Hard Spun I had gotten to know. It was a completely different horse than in the Southwest. He was third and he actually relaxed. He didn’t get a lot of dirt kicked in his face because I was in the 10 hole and was running outside a couple of horses. He sat there and then he just pulled me right by him.”

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