Hardest Core Continues To Beat The Odds In Million XXXII
Living up to his name, Andrew Bentley Racing Stable’s Hardest Core has quickly made a career of beating the odds with defiant brilliance. A survivor of a botched castration less than a year ago in which he lost a significant portion of his intestine – and nearly his life as well – the charge stepped up from the minors of a $50,000 stakes to the big leagues of the Grade I Arlington Million with provocative poise on Saturday, running down the reigning Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf champion and 9-5 race favorite Magician to land the summertime turf classic Saturday afternoon at Arlington International Racecourse at odds of 11-1.
After a good break from the rail, the field of seven starters – including five Grade I or Group I winners – the son of Hard Spun saved ground throughout the trip until switching out entering the stretch and running down the aforementioned Irish invader, as well as pace-setting English ship-in Side Glance en route to an impressive one-length score for trainer Edward Graham.
Ridden by Eriluis Vaz, for whom he has now won all three of his 2014 victories since Graham took over training after a $210,000 sale at the 2013 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, the Kentucky-bred traveled the 1 1/4-miles distance in 2:01.51 over firm ground on Arlington's turf course after Side Glance set earlier fractions of :25 flat, :49.45, 1:13.67 and 1:37.72. Hardest Core returned $25, $10.40 and $6 as the public's second-longest price on the board, earning $594,000 to boost his career bankroll to $846,580. The win was his fourth consecutive victory and third of four tries at 1¼ miles or beyond.
“He’s good horse – a nice horse – and I knew he was going to make his run,” Vaz said. “I have to thank the owner and trainer. They have been so supportive and it’s amazing.”
“Words can’t explain what a great feeling this is,” Graham added. “He’s gone through a lot. (Veterinarians) had to cut 18 feet of intestines at one point and didn’t know if he’d make it. I looked at the (Grade I) Sword Dancer and the (Listed American St.) Leger – all three races were tough, but we thought a shorter field would be better and the horse was training so well. He didn’t know what he was going against, but he showed it today.”
Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier's Magician ran well to finish second under Joseph O’Brien for trainer Aidan O’Brien, returning $4.20 and $3. Pearl Bloodstock Limited's Side Glance, ridden by Jamie Spencer for trainer Andrew Balding, made all the running to finish third for the second consecutive year – beaten 2¼ lengths and returning $5 to show. Sam-Son Farm’s reigning Canadian Horse of the Year Up With the Birds completed the top-four under Eurico Rosa Da Silva for trainer Malcolm Pierce – one length ahead of Donegal Stable’s Finnegans Wake under Ryan Moore.
“I had a nice position on the rail,” O’Brien reflected. “I had a good trip, no excuses. He might have been better at 12 furlongs, but he ran a good race.”
Spencer was pleased with the performance of the globetrotting 7-year-old warrior gelding Side Glance.
“He's an older horse but he's showing all the enthusiasm of a young horse. He tried very hard in the straight. He likes to get out striding to take the race to the other horses. We thought Magician would be hard to beat, but (Hardest Core) came and beat both of us.”
Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s reigning champion Real Solution showed little, finishing last as the second choice under Javier Castellano. “I had a beautiful trip; unfortunately he didn’t show up today.”
The Niarchos Family’s French invader and proverbial ‘buzz horse’ Smoking Sun also ran disreputably, checking in sixth.
“He was unsuited by the slow early pace and lost a right front shoe,” reported Alan Cooper, racing manager for the Niarchos Family.
The Arlington Million is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win & You’re In event for the Breeders’ Cup Turf on November 1, 2014 at Santa Anita Park, allotting the victor with automatic entry, a travel stipend and waived entry and pre-entry fees.