06/02/2007 11:00PM

Final Belmont drill for Hard Spun


Led by Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun, three confirmed starters and two horses who remain possible for Saturday’s $1 million Belmont Stakes put in their final workouts Sunday morning at Belmont Park.

With a forecast for Elmont, N.Y., calling for showers Sunday night into Monday, trainer Larry Jones moved up his scheduled Monday workout for Hard Spun to Sunday morning. On a track labeled fast but one that yielded slow times all morning, Hard Spun went five furlongs in 1:03.15, according to Daily Racing Form, just after the renovation break.

Also working on Sunday were Tiago, the Santa Anita Derby winner who went six furlongs in 1:14.76, and Imawildandcrazyguy, who went three furlongs in 37 seconds. Both horses went shortly after 6:30 a.m.

Trainer Todd Pletcher worked both the filly Rags to Riches (five furlongs in 1:03.88) and Circular Quay (five furlongs in 1:03.21) but deferred a decision on whether either would run in the Belmont Stakes until at least Monday.

Jones was hoping to get Hard Spun a good gallop over Belmont’s track on Sunday but elected to move the work up for fear of an off-track on Monday.

With his new jockey Garrett Gomez aboard for the first time, Hard Spun went in fractions of 13.10 seconds, 25.81, 38.44, 50.69, and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:17.99. The final quarter of 24.71 seconds was pleasing to Jones, who said he was not looking for anything like the colt’s infamous five-furlong breeze in 57.53 seconds five days before the Kentucky Derby.

``You come home like that with your ears up just loping around, you got to be happy enough,’’ Jones said.

Sunday was Hard Spun’s first day on the track. According to Gomez, the colt was very curious with his new surroundings.

``He was looking around,’’ Gomez said. ``He went to the pole like a true professional, and then when I started working him, he was just looking, just checking stuff out. Larry didn’t want him to go real fast, he didn’t want something like he had before the Derby anyway. He just wanted him go to get across the ground. He did that, got a nice little blow out of it, and all’s good.’’

Trainer Bill Kaplan had planned to work Imawildandcrazyguy when the track opened at 5:30 a.m. But the exercise rider he has been using in New York overslept so Kaplan got jockey Javier Castellano to work the gelding.

Imawildandcrazyguy broke into a strong gallop ¬– or two-minute lick – at the six-furlong pole before getting into his workout at the three-furlong marker. Castellano tapped him on the shoulder at that point, and he went his first eighth in 11.98 seconds before slowing down a bit and getting his final quarter in 24.61 seconds. He galloped out an additional furlong in 12.90 seconds, and Kaplan clocked him another furlong in ``13-and-change.’’

``Believe it or not, this 37 work is an endurance work because of what we did before and after,’’ Kaplan said. ``We just let him get up to speed a little bit, get everything stretched out. He came back, he couldn’t blow out a candle. Javier loved him. He said, ‘Is there anyway I can ride this horse?’ I told Javier if [Mark] Guidry oversleeps, you’re up.’’

While Kaplan’s exercise rider was sleeping, jockey Mike Smith was just arriving in New York after taking a red-eye flight from Southern California. Smith made the cross-country trek to work Tiago, the Santa Anita Derby winner and seventh-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby.

With Smith maintaining a long hold of the reins, Tiago went in fractions of 12.65 seconds, 24.76, 37.21, 49.61, and completed the work in 1:14.76. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:29.05.

Both Smith and trainer John Shirreffs were happy with the work considering the colt went by himself. In California, Tiago usually works him in company.

``There’s been times he gets bored, gets to laying in. He was actually great today, which is good to see,’’ Smith said. ``He really likes the big, sweeping turns.’’

At around 6:45 a.m., Pletcher worked the filly Rags to Riches in 1:03.88 in company with the older graded stakes winner A.P. Arrow, who finished fifth in the 2005 Belmont. Rags to Riches, under exercise rider Lauren Robson, started a half-length behind A.P. Arrow but quickly drew on even terms. The fractions for the breeze were 13.42 seconds, 26.29, 39.19, and Rags to Riches galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.40 while opening up on A.P. Arrow

Pletcher said he was ``looking for maybe just a touch faster than she went, but she was very relaxed and finished up well. I thought she had a very good gallop out so she’s in very good form.’’

After the break, Pletcher worked Circular Quay in company with King of the Roxy. Circular Quay, with Angel Cordero Jr. up, went in fractions of 14.37 seconds, 26.58, 38.41, 50.62 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.40.

Pletcher called it a ``nice, tidy breeze. We weren’t looking for anything fancy. He did what he was supposed to do.’’