03/24/2007 12:00AM

Hard Spun rebounds in Lane's End

Matt Wooley/Horsephotos
Hard Spun easily leaves the pacesetters behind to take the Grade 2 Lane's End by 3 1/4 lengths.

FLORENCE, Ky. - Hard Spun got back into the Kentucky Derby picture in a big way Saturday when he ran off to a dominating 3 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park.

Rebounding from the only defeat of his career, Hard Spun was always prominent under Mario Pino before gliding to the front midway through the far turn of the 1 1/8-mile Lane's End. Down the stretch, no serious competition materialized, as Sedgefield used a steady run to finish second, another 3 1/4 lengths before Joe Got Even in a field of 12 3-year-olds.

Trained by Larry Jones for Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms, Hard Spun returned $7.20 as the second choice for his fifth win from six starts. A Pennsylvania-bred colt by Danzig, Hard Spun finished in 1:49.41 over Polytrack and erased the sour memory of his fourth-place finish in the Feb. 19 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

Amid terrific spring weather and before an estimated ontrack crowd approaching 20,000, Starbase and Bullara led through the opening six furlongs of the 36th Lane's End, but Hard Spun went past them with ease leaving the three-eighths pole. Pino, the Maryland veteran who has won nearly 6,000 races but has never ridden in the Kentucky Derby, put the colt to a drive leaving the quarter pole, after which the issue was never in doubt.

"That was the real Hard Spun out there today," said Jones. "You could tell coming past the first time, he was just cruising - and he has a very fast cruising speed. This is the way he's always done things. This was him."

Hard Spun had trained for two weeks at Turfway after Jones decided in the Southwest aftermath that the colt simply did not care for the Oaklawn surface.

"Thank goodness we were right about leaving Oaklawn," he said.

Jones said Hard Spun will race next in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 14 at Keeneland, a Grade 1 race for which the defending divisional champion, Street Sense, and several other major Derby contenders are expected. The May 5 Derby would be next, said Jones.

Foremost among the also-rans were Twilight Meteor, the lukewarm 5-2 favorite, who finished sixth for trainer Todd Pletcher, whose other starter, Bullara, faded to 10th. Forefathers, sent away at 8-1 after being the second choice on the Turfway morning line, raced several lengths off the pace before being eased down the stretch.