03/19/2007 11:00PM

Hard Spun carries classic colors

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NEW YORK – Back in the day, Darby Dan Farm was one of racing’s premier nurseries, churning out important stakes winners year after year, including Graustark, His Majesty, and Proud Clarion. Hard Spun, whose pedigree is highlighted by a Darby Dan female family, could rekindle memories of those glory years with a victory in this Saturday’s Lane’s End Stakes at Turfway Park.

A winner of his first four starts, including the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, Hard Spun was fourth in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn behind Teuflesberg, whom he had handily defeated in the Lecomte. Trainer Larry Jones stated that Hard Spun was not handling the Oaklawn Park surface, and after workouts following the Southwest he decided to run Hard Spun in the Lane’s End.

Bred by Michael Moran and Brushwood Stable, Hard Spun is from the next-to-last crop of the late Danzig, who has sired a Preakness winner (Pine Bluff) and Belmont winner (Danzig Connection). While Danzig has never sired a Kentucky Derby winner, his offspring have placed in the Derby, including 2-year-old champion Chief’s Crown. It would only be fitting if Danzig could get his Derby winner either this year or in 2008, which is his last chance. Two other great stallions each got a Derby winner in his last few crops. Bold Ruler was just 17 when he died from cancer in 1971, but Secretariat, from his next-to-last crop, won the Triple Crown in 1973. Mr. Prospector, from the same crop as Secretariat, died at 29 in 1999, but at age 27 sired Fusaichi Pegasus, who in 2000 became his only Derby winner.

Hard Spun has Kentucky Derby written all over his pedigree. It was proven long ago that when the speed of Danzig was matched with mares by strong stamina influences, it can result in classic-type runners. Hard Spun gets a solid dose of stamina from his damsire, Turkoman, a source of staying power by Alydar. But it is the unusual high class of his Darby Dan female family that makes Hard Spun a standout on pedigree.

Hard Spun is out of Turkist Tryst, a minor stakes winner who also finished third in the Matchmaker Stakes. His second dam, Darbyvail, won just 2 of 13 starts but was an outstanding example of the Rasmussen Factor (inbreeding to a superior female within five generations through different individuals), as she was inbred 5x4 to Lavendula, the influential matron whose daughters produced Turn-to and My Babu. Darbyvail was a half-sister to the 1974 Preakness and Belmont winner, Little Current (by Sea-Bird II), a champion at 3. Darbyvail, by the exceptional stamina influence Roberto, was out of Luiana (My Babu), a half-sister to the 1963 Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner and champion 3-year-old, Chateaugay (Swaps), and his full sister Primonetta. Primonetta was the 1962 champion older mare and was the 1978 Broodmare of the Year. Notably, Primonetta died at the venerable age of 35, an unusually old age for a Thoroughbred.

Hard Spun will be part of a full field of 3-year-olds who are still sorting themselves out for a run at the Derby. The Lane’s End has a purse of $500,000, so an in-the-money finish would go a long way in the graded-earnings department, a critical factor if the Derby has more than 20 entries.

Of all the Lane’s End runners, Joe Got Even may be Hard Spun’s main rival. Joe Got Even won the WEBN Stakes over the Turfway Polytrack surface and had a very troubled trip finishing second in the John Battaglia Stakes in his last start. He is an intriguing colt with plenty of upside and a pedigree to go long. By Stephen Got Even (a son of A.P. Indy who won this race when it was called the Galleryfurniture.com Stakes over a dirt surface), Joe Got Even is out of a mare by the obscure Inland Voyager (a son of Roberto), and his female family produced Bienamado. Joe Got Even’s fifth dam, Special, is the dam of champion racehorse and sire Nureyev, as well as Fairy Bridge, the dam of Sadler’s Wells.

Twilight Meteor and Sedgefield, who recently ran one-two in the Hallandale Beach Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream, are sons of Smart Strike who may be best on grass but could, like many turf runners, appreciate the Polytrack surface. Twilight Meteor gets an inordinate amount of quality from his second dam, Primarily, one of Canada’s best broodmares over the past 15 years. Sedgefield is a full brother to the multiple-stakes-winning grass specialist English Channel.

Catman Running, who won the John Battaglia Memorial, is the latest Rasmussen Factor example from this year’s 3-year-old crop. Like Flying First Class, he is inbred to the superior mare Somethingroyal. While Flying First Class is inbred to Somethingroyal through her sons Secretariat (Bold Ruler) and Somethingfabulous (Northern Dancer), Catman Running is inbred to Somethingroyal through Secretariat and another son, Sir Gaylord (Turn-to).

Approval Rating, fourth in the Battaglia, has every right to improve with racing and distance. By Lemon Drop Kid, he is out of a mare by Lasting Approval and descends from a productive Fred W. Hooper female family.

Brainy Benny has an all-turf pedigree, which may be fine for Turfway but not for Churchill Downs. He is by Barathea (Sadler’s Wells) and out of a Darshaan (Shirley Heights) mare.

Chelokee was so game in winning a nine-furlong allowance for trainer Michael Matz on the Fountain of Youth Stakes undercard, but this son of Cherokee Run out of a Silver Ghost mare is unlikely to be as effective beyond that distance.