With just four days remaining until the most famous horse race in the world, the buzz yesterday was about local hopeful Hard Spun's rapid five-furlong workout at Churchill Downs. The son of top sire Danzig was clocked in 57 3/5 seconds under jockey Mario Pino, dusting off a stakes-winning work mate in the process. If Hard Spun wins the Kentucky Derby, the work will be recalled as terrific. If he loses, it will be attributed to going too fast, too close to the race. Curlin still boasts the most remarkable resume in the 20-horse field, with three wide-margin victories, including a record-setting triumph in the Arkansas Derby. Several prominent horsemen, including Tim Ritchey of Afleet Alex fame, like the chances of last year's Juvenile champ, Street Sense.
No. Horse Trainer Jockey Comments1. Curlin Steve Asmussen Robby Albarado Awesome score in Arkansas Derby. Asmussen likes how he has handled Churchill surface; short on experience, tops in ability.
2. Hard Spun Larry Jones Mario Pino Flew over Churchill track yesterday and has won five of six starts; six weeks' absence prior to Derby.
3. Street Sense Carl Nafzger Calvin Borel Is he the first Juvenile champ to capture Derby since Spectacular Bid in 1978? Ideal final prep in narrow Blue Grass loss.
4. Great Hunter Doug O'Neill Corey Nakatani Chester County-bred bothered in stretch of Blue Grass after bizarre slow early pace; still best of West Coast hopefuls.
5. Nobiz Like Shobiz Barclay Tagg Cornelio Velasquez Aided by blinkers in Wood Memorial victory; Tagg took Derby with Funny Cide in 2003.
6. Circular Quay Todd Pletcher John Velazquez If pace is hot he will likely take advantage; drops far back early so traffic woes a real danger.
7. Scat Daddy Todd Pletcher Edgar Prado Earned honors as top 3-year-old this winter in Florida; Pletcher, with five entrants, seeks first Derby win.
8. Cowtown Cat Todd Pletcher Fernando Jara Wired soft opposition in Illinois Derby after Gotham score; could prove one to catch.
9. Any Given Saturday Todd Pletcher Garrett Gomez Faded late in Wood Memorial but showed ample ability in Tampa Bay Derby against Street Sense.
10. Sam P. Todd Pletcher Ramon Dominguez Used up early when adding blinkers in Santa Anita Derby; Dominguez second last year with Bluegrass Cat.
Others to consider: Tiago (John Shirreffs, Mike Smith), Dominican (Darrin Miller, Rafael Bejarano), Zanjero (Steve Asmussen, Shaun Bridgmohan).
Other possible starters in the race: Stormello, Sedgefield, Xchanger, Cobalt Blue, Liquidity, Bwana Bull, Slew's Tizzy.