08/23/2007 12:00AM

Hard Spun takes road less traveled


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The road to the Breeders' Cup Classic always runs through Saratoga, but rarely, if ever, has it passed through the seven-furlong King's Bishop Stakes. But that's the course trainer Larry Jones has chosen for Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun, who tops a full and very competitive field of 3-year-olds in Saturday's $250,000 King's Bishop.

Hard Spun has kept a steady diet of two-turn races since suffering his first loss in Oaklawn Park's one-mile Southwest Stakes. After winning the Grade 2 Lane's End over the Turfway Park Polytrack, Hard Spun finished second behind Street Sense in the Derby, third in the Preakness, fourth in the Belmont, and most recently second to Any Given Saturday in Monmouth Park's Grade 1 Haskell.

Despite turning Hard Spun back to seven furlongs for the Grade 1 King's Bishop, Jones is still intent on returning to Monmouth for the 1 1/4-mile Classic.

"For this particular horse, shortening up to seven furlongs from a mile and one-eighth is not an issue," said Jones who trains Hard Spun for the Fox Hill Farm. "He's certainly got the speed. There may be more horses going to the front than he's used to seeing, but he can sit off and still do what he has to do to win."

Jones's long-range plan for Hard Spun is to stretch him out to either a mile or 1 1/8 miles for his final start prior to the Classic.

"Monmouth has been playing very speed favoring, and distance wise I want to have him stepping up to a mile and one-quarter going into the Breeders' Cup," Jones said.

Hard Spun, who won his only other start at seven furlongs in his 2-year-old finale at Philadelphia Park, will break from post 3 under Mario Pino.

There figures to be plenty of pace in the King's Bishop, especially with E Z Warrior and Spin Master drawing posts 1 and 2 and First Defence making his graded stakes debut off a pair of wire-to-wire victories.

Teuflesberg, who faces Hard Spun for the first time since finishing far back in the Kentucky Derby, has the speed to force the early running, although trainer Jamie Sanders is hoping jockey Robby Albarado will have him positioned just behind the leaders.

"We'll see how the race sets up, but Robby knows him better than anybody and I'm extremely confident he'll run well as long as he breaks cleanly," Sanders said.

Teuflesberg overcame a bad start and rallied from last to defeat Most Distinguished in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens. In two subsequent starts, Teuflesberg finished second in Calder's Grade 2 Carry Back Stakes and second when sent a mile on the turf in the Glow Stakes here earlier this month.

"I think coming off the turf is an advantage as is shortening up from a mile to seven furlongs," Sanders said.

Most Distinguished has never been better, bouncing back from his second-place finish in the Woody Stephens to capture Saratoga's Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes by a length July 30 while earning a career best 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

"He's hit new levels in his last two starts and he's continued to do great," trainer Nick Zito said. "I never thought this race would come up this competitive - even without Hard Spun it would have been a standout - and I'm just hoping the race sets up like we hope. If there is plenty of pace and he can avoid any traffic jams, we should be okay."

King of the Roxy, like Hard Spun, shortens up off a series of longer races. A son of Littleexpectations, King of the Roxy won Gulfstream Park's 7 1/2-furlong Hutcheson Stakes from off the pace following a slow start, finished second behind Tiago in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and most recently was a game second going 1 1/16 miles in Delaware Park's Barbaro Stakes.

The remainder of the field is Pauillac, Longley, Forty Grams, and Bold Start.