Every once in a while you'll see a jockey give a ride so dumb it takes your breath away. I saw one of those in last Saturday's Preakness Stakes.
No, it wasn't Calvin Borel on second-place Street Sense. Those blaming Borel for a 12-inch loss are misguided. In the Kentucky Derby, he gave Street Sense the most perfect big-race ride I have ever seen. His Preakness work was nearly as good. Just give credit to the horse who beat him, Curlin.
The ride in question is Mario Pino's on third-place Hard Spun.
Pino was praised during Preakness week because he has won nearly 5,000 races on the Maryland circuit, nearly 6,000 races lifetime. Pino, many experts said, would give Hard Spun a big home-field edge.
Instead, Pino made not one but two premature moves. His decisions were similar to Ronnie Franklin's dense ride that got Spectacular Bid beat in the 1979 Belmont Stakes.
The Preakness began well for Hard Spun. Pino sat coolly behind dueling long shots Xchanger and Flying First Class. The two ran a wicked half-mile in 45 3/5th seconds, while Hard Spun was relaxed in third, five lengths back.
When the two long shots tired, Pino chose to go after them. He angled Hard Spun out five wide to pass them and take the lead. This was his first mistake. Hard Spun used up precious energy. He would have inherited the lead regardless.
The second dumb move came when Edgar Prado on C P West then pressed Hard Spun on the far turn. Pino asked Hard Spun to break away from C P West.
By mid-stretch, Pino had run out of horse by concerning himself with three no-chance long shots in C P West (24-1), Xchanger (23-1) and Flying First Class (16-1) instead of focusing on his real rivals, Curlin and Street Sense.
I hope Hard Spun runs back in the Belmont, because he is good enough to win. He just needs a supportive pilot.
Richard Eng's horse racing column is published Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.