LITTLE ROCK — For good reason, the owner of I Spent It wants another crack at a colt already identified as a contender for the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

LITTLE ROCK — For good reason, the owner of I Spent It wants another crack at a colt already identified as a contender for the 2015 Kentucky Derby.


Alex Lieblong’s 2-year-old was a distant second to Competitive Edge in a recent stakes race at Saratoga, but the colt blew the race in the paddock, he said.


"He came unglued," said Lieblong, an investor who lives with his wife on a farm in Faulkner County. "The jock had to get off him twice. He was just showing his rear."


Not only that, but I Spent It ran much of the race just outside the early pacesetter while the heavily favored Competitive Edge was in the catbird’s seat, tracking them both. Watching the race replay, the winner had the look of a tightly wound sprinter, but I liked the way I Spent It competed to the wire.


Even under perfect circumstances, Lieblong is not sure his colt would have won the $350,000 Grade I Hopeful at seven furlongs. But, he is of the opinion that seven furlongs or a mile might be the optimum distance for the Todd Pletcher-trained Competitive Edge and the $500,000 Champagne on Oct. 4 at Belmont Park is a one-turn mile.


Pletcher has trained the Champagne winner three of the past four years and the winners in 2012 and 2010 went on to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and be named 2-year-old champion.


Ironically, the one-two finishers in the Hopeful are sons of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver. Competitive Edge sold for $750,000 in March in Florida and I Spent It went for $600,000 at the same sale.


Unlike many talented thoroughbreds that progress from maiden races to allowance competition to stakes races, 2-year-olds that win impressively at first asking in New York are on a fast track. I Spent It won a maiden race, then a $200,000 Grade II as the favorite, impressing by squeezing through along the rail. Competitive Edge captured a maiden race, then the Grade I.


Physical ability has never been the question with I Spent It. Before his first race, he more than held his own working against older, proven thoroughbreds.


The colt’s success, Lieblong said, hinges on "If he gets where he behaves and gets his mind right." Some thoroughbreds catch on immediately, others are slow learners, some never learn.


The original plan was to win a maiden race, then prepare for the Champagne, but I Spent It grew an inch or so, put on 100 pounds, and "turned into a man overnight."


"I think the longer distance helps him, but that was hard to pass up although we kept looking for a reason not to go in the Hopeful," he said.


Although Lieblong calls Oaklawn Park’s prep races for 3-year-olds a great steppingstone, he has learned about the vagaries of racing during almost 20 years in the game and knows better than to commit to races months away. He is best described as cautiously optimistic about I Spent It participating at Hot Springs.


Lieblong and wife JoAnn have sold a minority interest in I Spent It to Three Chimneys in Midway, Ky., and have made it clear they welcome input from those folks regarding the colt’s racing schedule. But, Lieblong has the final say and his patience with a 3-year-old sprinter aptly named The Big Beast indicates he will put the horse first.


Unraced at 2, The Big Beast made his debut in late March and closed several lengths in the deep stretch to finish second by a neck at Oaklawn. He won the third race of his career by 4 1-4 lengths, an allowance race by 6 1-4, and then took down a Grade I sprint at Saratoga.


With almost 20 horses in training, the Lieblongs and their royal blue silks with the white sleeves and two black hoops will be well represented at Oaklawn.


Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: hleonk42@gmail.com.