If Hard Spun runs back in the Belmont Stakes, he might be accompanied by a new partner. His connections are considering replacing Mario Pino. Wonder what took them so long to complain?

The Insider is not endorsing a jockey change for the Derby runnerup and Preakness third. Indeed, when Pino made his move, at once it was the right, and questionable, thing to do. He and his mount were victims of circumstance.

There is no doubt that C P West and Edgar Prado forced Pinos hand. In fact, any time a horse comes outside to press a forward-racing rival--at the same point C P West began breathing on Hard Spun--youd want your jockey to move away from the potential trap and not lose out to a rivals forward momentum.

There was pressure of another kind, too. The fact that Pino is the current king of Maryland was a major pre-race storyline. But what many perceived as an advantage was not. The pressure to win a classic immense, especially on your home grounds. Unlike the Derby, Hard Spun and Pino were supposed to be a major threat this time.

By definition, the move was premature, but it was made while the colt was still in hand. Pino did not want to get stuck behind tiring horses, and he wanted to avoid a head-to-head battle with a longshot rival. His instincts were good but, for Pino, it was either the rock or the hard place.

The Belmont, of course, presents a new set of problems. Few jockeys outside of the top riders in New York and California have experience in mile and a half races. The Elmont oval is so expansive that even local riders sometimes are tricked into moving too soon, not realizing how the fast the pace really is. Horses gallop along on that wide, bucolic backstretch. It makes the Belmont homestretch appear longer than it really is.

Its not like a rider switch would be like going from some 10-pound apprentice to a Hall of Famer. If he made a mistake, it wasnt a horribly conceived one. Pino gets along with Hard Spun really well. He shouldnt lose the mount because Curlin and Street Sense outran him in the final quarter-mile of the Preakness.