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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
The Kentucky Derby Post

Hardest Core Vaults to the Top of the Class


Coming into the 2014 Arlington Million there was little attention given to any horse that had yet to enter a graded stakes race. After it was over, Hardest Core made sure everyone knew who he was, as his first graded stakes attempt became an unforgettable performance.


Breaking from the inside post number 1, Hardest Core made the most of his position and immediately established a potential ground saving trip along the rail. Meanwhile, Side Glance from the far outside post number 7 made a strong move to the front and took over as the pace setter through the first turn.


Without much speed in the seven horse field it wasn’t too much of surprise that the Andrew Balding trainee held the others in check through pedestrian splits of 25.00, 49.45 and 1:13.67.


As they made their way through the final turn, the close stalking and post time favorite Magician (IRE) appeared to be on his way to meeting his expectations. The 4-yr-old trained by Aidan O’Brien had the position he wanted and couldn’t ask for a better shot at winning his first start in North America since scoring the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita last November.


“I had a nice position. I had a good trip, no excuses”, said jockey Joseph O’Brien. “He might have been better at 12 furlongs, but he ran a good race.”


Magician may not have been at the top of his game, but he dug in down the stretch and fought hard all the way to the wire. But it wasn’t enough as an unlikely contender was mounting an unbelievable final furlong of his own.


Staying along the rail through the backstretch, and final turn, provided the ground saving trip they were looking for. As the leader of the second wave of horses, Hardest Core never lost touch with the pacesetters, Slide Glance followed closely by Magician.


Relaxed in behind them was very ideal until they reached the point in the race where rider Eriluis Vaz was forced to ask for more. Once they hit the top of the stretch an important decision was made. Vaz had no hole on the inside as Side Glance wasn’t budging. Instead, Vaz took Hardest Core three wide, drifting to the sixth path, before straightening out, finding his stride, and rallying strongly to track down Magician deep in the stretch.


“He’s a good horse, he’s a nice horse and I knew he was going to make his run”, said Jockey Eriluis Vaz. “I have to thank the owner and trainer, they have so supportive and it’s amazing.”





Hardest Core was good enough to pull away and win by a full length en route to a final time of 2:01.51. His final odds were 11-1, the second longest shot in the field behind Finnegan’s Wake at 13-1. It was the fourth consecutive win for Hardest Core and third since he was switched over to trainer Edward Graham from the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin.


It was the first graded stakes start and victory for the gelding by Hard Spun – Lillybuster. It was also the very first Arlington Million win for all of the connections.


“Words can’t explain what a great feeling this is.” said Hardest Core trainer Edward Graham. That is especially true since the Arlington Million was not the only graded stakes debut race he was considering. “I looked at the Sword Dancer, looked at the Leger, all three races were tough, but thought a shorter field would be better.”


What a bold decision. Seeing that it paid off, it's now without question that it can be called a brilliant one. As a non-graded stakes starter the American St. Leger was obvious but the intuition of a trainer couldn’t have been displayed any better than it was at Arlington Park today by Edward Graham.  


Bred in Kentucky, Hardest Core became the third consecutive North American bred winner of the Arlington Million. For the day, Hardest Core also evened the score at two apiece joining The Pizza Man, winner of the American St. Leger, as the second North American winner of the four major stakes races. 


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About Me

Meet Bryan Brinkmeyer – Chicago, IL


Growing up across the river from the Bluegrass State I was able to spend a lot of summer days at Ellis Park, Henderson, KY. 


In the spring of 2000, I made my inaugural Kentucky Derby appearance and the tradition continues because there is no other city in the racing world like Louisville, KY on Derby Day. 


Although the story of a Kentucky Derby winner is legendary, a champions trail is what The Kentucky Derby Post is all about. The coverage begins when Juvenile season starts and continues until the field is set, the picks are in and the roses are awarded. 



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Racing's 12th Triple Crown Winner

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