Monday, August 31, 2009

Tough as Nails

These days you just don't see very many horses that are versatile enough to sprint or carry that speed over a distance at the same time. You also don't see, in this new era of synthetics, many horses that run over synthetics just as effectively as they do on dirt. You also don't see many horses that are tough enough to run in the entire Triple Crown, the come back later in the year and be just as brilliant as they were in the spring. In 2007 we were treated to watching one of the best 3yr old crops in recent years duke it out with each other, over and over again like the old days. They showed up at all the biggest venues, and always showed their talent on the track while coming in first second or third. The two big ones that year were Curlin and Street Sense, but there was one other colt who was as brilliant and tough as they come, yet was always overshadowed by one of the other competitors. His name was Hard Spun.

Many people do not remember this horse because, though very talented, he always played second fiddle. In the Kentucky Derby he ran second to the rail riding Street Sense, while setting the pace the entire way. In the Preakness he made an early move, and was beaten by both Street Sense and Curlin, winding up third. In the Belmont he wound up fourth, showing that though he could carry his speed over a distance, that a 1 1/2 was a bit too much for him. After a grueling Triple Crown he came back in the Haskell Invitational, running second, but beating Curlin by a head. He then dropped back to seven furlongs in the Grade one King's Bishop, and showed not only that he had blazing speed, but the heart and courage of a champion. After setting the pace the whole way, Hard Spun repelled a bid from First Defense in the stretch to win. Then he comes back in the Kentucky Cup Classic, running on synthetics, and beating the Derby winner Street Sense. Then in his last start of the year, the Breeders Cup Classic, he faced not only Street Sense and Curlin, but the champion older horse Lawyer Ron, Europe's George Washington, Haskell winner Any Given Saturday, Diamond Stripes, Awesome Gem, and Tiago. He set the the pace in a sea of slop, only to be passed by Curlin at the top of the stretch.

Hard Spun was always in the shadow of Curlin or Street Sense, yet he was probably had just as much heart as Curlin, was just as fast as either one of them and was more versatile. Had Street Sense not gotten so lucky as to have a rail ride in the Derby it would've been Hard Spun to dominate the field by 5 1/4 lengths. If he had not been forced to make an early move into a very hot pace in the Preakness, he could've been right up with Street Sense and Curlin, making it a three way photo for the win. In the Breeders Cup, had Curlin run into a brick wall in his progression, like many other he was suppose to do, Hard Spun would've taken the Classic by 4 3/4 lengths. He showed, as a two year old, that he had an abundance of speed, going undefeated that year. He showed that he could rate, or run blazing early fractions in distance races and still have enough left in the tank for the win. He could run on dirt, mud, and synthetics. He could go long or sprint, it didn't matter to him, he just did it all.

Other than Curlin, Hard Spun was the only horse that ran in all three Triple Crown races. In 2007 he ran a total of 10 starts, with in 10 months, basically running a race a month. Had Curlin or Street Sense not been around, there is no doubt in my mind that Hard Spun would be called great, or a super horse. He would've probably had two jewels of the Triple Crown, a win in the King's Bishop, the Kentucky Cup Classic, on polytrack, and a win in the Breeders Cup Classic. He would've had a total of three losses, and after the season he had, who could blame him. Not many horses have the versatility to run and win a Grade one sprint, then finish in the top three of many of the biggest Classics. Not many horses have the ability to run on dirt and synthetics. Hard Spun could do all of this, and had Curin or Street Sense come along in different years than Hard Spun, he would be an American hero, a true Iron Horse. He had speed, stamina, and courage, and had he been allowed to race as a four year old, he would've given Curlin a run for his money, and the older horse title.

For these reasons Hard Spun should not be looked at as just a good horse with a nice pedigree. He was a champion, and in any other year would've earned the title great. It is not fair that such a talented and courageous horse, that could do so much, should be forced to live within the shadows of his rivals. Hard Spun deserves more, he gave us his all every time he stepped on the track. We should at least give him the credit and respect he rightfully deserves.


  1. I like the title, 'Tough as Nails', because that was Hard Spun in a nutshell. Only a few years removed, he is remembered fondly, but I think in the end you will be right and many people will forget what a nice horse he was. Nice tribute LDP!

  2. Thank you very much, Brian. I was on a blog on BH, and i can already see he was starting to be forgotten. Someone said he was just a nice horse with a nice pedigree!? He was much more than that. Thanks for the compliment on the title, that was the reason i chose it.

  3. thank you for bringing my favorite of 07 back into the light! he was hard spun..tough as nails yes he was.i loved watching him race..always gave it everything he had..even when strangled by gomez in that far as i am concerned he was the best of that year.wish they had run him as a four year old he was just getting into stride.