- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

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BALTIMORE — Maryland-based jockey Mario Pino won three times yesterday, but his dream of winning the biggest race at the track where he has won more than 1,770 races was dashed when Hard Spun finished third in the Preakness Stakes.

Hard Spun assumed the lead when front-runners Xchanger and Flying First Class tired entering the second turn. But Hard Spun didn’t have enough late speed to hold off Curlin and Street Sense.

Pino was riding in the Preakness for the third time, but this was by far his best shot. He was seventh with Escambia Bay in 1981 and 10th aboard Menacing Dennis in 2002. Hard Spun, off his second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, was the third favorite in the Preakness.

“It was a great experience all day, an awesome day,” Pino said outside the Pimlico Race Course jockey’s room. “The crowd was really with me, and the horse ran well.”

In the Derby, Hard Spun took the lead by default and held on until Street Sense passed him with a furlong remaining. In the Preakness, Pino steered Hard Spun into good position behind the two leaders.

“We got a great trip early, and he relaxed off the leaders and was going well,” Pino said after his best Preakness finish. “All of a sudden, the two horses in front of me started [stopping], so I had to let him float outside.”

Hard Spun was first after six furlongs, but the time of 1:09.80 worried trainer Larry Jones.

“After the second quarter, I thought we were well within ourselves, but I started getting a little more concerned when I saw [1:09.80] after three quarters,” Jones said. “I knew that would be tough.”

And it proved tough. At the top of the stretch, Street Sense and Curlin had passed Hard Spun. He finished about two lengths behind Curlin.

“We would have loved to win it, especially being here at Mario’s home track, but there were other good horses in this race,” Jones said.

Jones said his goal is to run Hard Spun in the Belmont on June 9.

Matz wins Barbaro Stakes

In the renamed Barbaro Stakes, Chelokee — trained by Barbaro conditioner Michael Matz — was the inaugural winner.

Chelokee was under consideration for the Preakness until last week, when Matz opted for the shorter distance.

“I’m glad we didn’t run in [the Preakness] because he hadn’t run in a while,” Matz said. “This should straighten him up a little bit and make him all the better for it.”

Matz said Chelokee might be a candidate for the Belmont Stakes.

Track record tied

Before finishing third in the Preakness, Pino steered Diabolical to a win in the Grade III Maryland Sprint Handicap, tying a track record for six furlongs.

Diabolical, eighth in the Preakness last year, had a winning time yesterday of 1 minute, 9.16 seconds, tying Northern Wolf (1990).

Undercard horse falls

On the lead in the Dixie Stakes, Mending Fences broke down, throwing jockey Eddie Castro, which caused Einstein to unseat Robby Albarado. Albarado later won the Preakness with Curlin.

Mending Fences, who sustained a right front ankle fracture, was euthanized shortly after the race. Both riders were uninjured.

Numbers game

The attendance of 121,263 was a Preakness Day record, breaking the mark of 118,402 set last year.

The handle of $87,202,500 was the fourth highest in Preakness Day history.

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