04/05/2007 11:00PM

Hard Spun approaches crucial work

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainer Larry Jones said Friday that Hard Spun will train at Churchill Downs on Sunday and Monday morning before having a serious workout there Tuesday with regular rider Mario Pino aboard. Jones said the work will determine whether Hard Spun runs in the Blue Grass Stakes next Saturday at Keeneland or simply trains up to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill on May 5.

Hard Spun has been stabled at Keeneland since shortly after his impressive victory in the March 24 Lane's End Stakes. Jones and the colt's owner, Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm, have been noncommittal in recent days about whether Hard Spun will run in the Blue Grass, which they initially had targeted as his final Derby prep. The Grade 1 Blue Grass is expected to have Street Sense and Great Hunter as favorites.

Jones said he believes the dirt surface at Churchill is somewhat akin to that of Oaklawn Park, where Hard Spun incurred his lone defeat from six career starts when fourth in the Feb. 19 Southwest Stakes. Jones shipped Hard Spun from Oaklawn to Turfway Park, where the colt trained for about two weeks before winning the Lane's End.

Jones stressed that "every option is still available," pending the Tuesday workout. If Jones believes the colt handles the Churchill surface particularly well, Hard Spun might make his next start in the Derby.

If he isn't satisfied with the way the colt handles the track, Jones might opt instead to run in the Blue Grass, skip the Derby, and point for the Preakness.

Besides Street Sense, Great Hunter, and possibly Hard Spun, prospects for the $750,000 Blue Grass include Zanjero, Teuflesberg, and Dominican, "and hopefully a couple more," according to Dan Bork, assistant racing secretary at Keeneland. Entries for the 1 1/16-mile race will be drawn Wednesday.

Leparoux wins rider title by a whisker

It wasn't decided until the final race of the long winter-spring meet, but the title of leading jockey at Turfway Park went to Julien Leparoux, who broke out of a tie with apprentice Alonso Quinonez by riding favored Engineered to a length victory in the ninth of 10 Thursday races at the Florence, Ky., track. Leparoux, who rode four winners Wednesday night, entered the Thursday program tied with Quinonez with 74 victories apiece at a meet that began Jan. 1.

Leparoux won the third race Thursday with Eternal Life, and Quinonez countered by winning the fifth with Tizarika. They remained tied until the ninth, and Quinonez still could have salvaged a tie when he rode favored Brent's Victory in the 10th, but the horse finished fourth.

Paul McGee topped the Turfway trainer standings with 17 wins, followed by Kim Hammond with 15 and Eddie Kenneally with 14.

Longtime trainer Werstler dies at 86

C.R. "Chuck" Werstler, a retired trainer who was a longtime fixture at Keeneland, died Thursday in Hermitage, Tenn., a suburb of Nashville. He was 86.

Werstler trained for the Dixiana Stable of Mary V. Fisher when the stable enjoyed highly productive seasons from the late 1960's to the early 1980's. A native of Ohio, Werstler traveled various circuits, campaigning regularly in Kentucky, Illinois, Florida, and New Jersey. His best horses included Hard Work, winner of the 1969 Breeders' Futurity, and Ironworks, winner of the 1981 Fayette Handicap.

Werstler retired in the early 1990's and lived in the Miami area before moving to Tennessee in recent years. A funeral service will be held Monday evening at Bond Memorial Chapel in Mt. Juliet, Tenn.