Hardest Core Unyielding in Mild Million Upset


Hardest Core rallied powerfully to prevail in the 2014 Arlington Million Stakes on Saturday at Arlington Park. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

The connections of Hardest Core cross-entered in the American St. Leger and Arlington Million when entries were drawn earlier in the week, and the 4-year-old gelding proved Saturday that they made a smart decision when they opted for the $1-million Arlington Million.

Running against a tough field, Hardest Core went off at odds of 11.50-to-1 and used his No. 1 post position to secure a spot on the rail a few spots behind the leader, Side Glance, who led the field through easy fractions. Hardest Core moved to the outside around the far turn while Magician started to roll and go for the lead.

By the stretch, Side Glance had yielded to Magician and it looked like last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf victor was poised to win his second race in the U.S., but Hardest Core had other plans. Jockey Eriluis Vaz urged Hardest Core on and the gelding passed Magician in deep stretch before pulling away to win by a length.

Magician finished second and Side Glance, who had been third in 2013, duplicated that effort again.

That Hardest Core was even able to race in the Arlington Million, let alone win it, is somewhat of a miracle. After Hardest Core was bought by his current connections at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale last year, he was gelded. But he suffered major complications and 18 feet of intestine had to be removed in order to save his life. He recovered and so far has won all three of his starts for his new connections, although the Million definitely marked the biggest win of his career.

“Words can’t explain what a great feeling this is,” trainer Edward Graham said. “I looked at the Sword Dancer [Invitational Stakes], looked at the St. Leger, all three races were tough, but [I] thought a shorter field would be better, and the horse was trainer so well. He didn’t know what he was going against, but he showed it today.”  


Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Magician, who went off as the 9-to-5 favorite, was 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Side Glance. Jockey Joseph O’Brien, son of the horse’s trainer, Aidan O’Brien, believes the colt may be better at 1 ½ miles instead of the 1 ¼ miles of the Arlington Million.

“He ran a very good race and we were very happy with the run, he might be better going a mile and a half.” Joseph O’Brien said. “[It will] set up for the [Breeders’ Cup Turf] very well, hopefully.”

Hardest Core’s connections have said that the Breeders’ Cup is very tempting for them as well. If they do decide to send him to the race in November, he will have a free entry as the Arlington Million was a Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the Turf.

Real Solution, winner of the 2013 Arlington Million, finished last of seven. 

On the undercard

Team Valor brought over one of its European racehorses for the Beverly D. Stakes and made history when Euro Charline became the first 3-year-old filly to win the race.

Racing in midpack for the majority of the race, Euro Charline was part of the stampede in the stretch and took the lead in the final furlong to win by three-quarters of a length at odds of 10.80-to-1. The victory was jockey Ryan Moore’s second Grade 1 victory on the card as he also won the Secretariat Stakes in the previous race.


Four Footed Fotos

“She’ll stay here with Todd Pletcher,” said Barry Irwin, principal of winning owner Team Valor International. “The [current] trainer [Marco Botti] talked me into running here. He’s been bugging me a month, and I finally gave in. He thought she’d get the [1 3/16-mile] trip, but I wasn’t sure because 3-year-olds normally don’t do as well in this race, and this filly is nuts. What really convinced me was getting a direct flight here.”

Euro Charline paid $23.60 to win on a $2 bet. Race favorite Stephanie’s Kitten finished second with Just The Judge closing out the trifecta.

Going off as the 11-to-10 favorite, Adelaide looked like a sure thing going into the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes. But unlike other “sure things” that disappoint, Adelaide lived up to the hype and won the race by 1 ½ lengths.

Adelaide raced in third behind front-running Tourist and, while he went extremely wide to catch Tourist in the stretch, he was good enough that his drifting out didn’t affect the result.

“It’s a Grade 1, it’s an important race,” winning jockey Moore said after the race. “He’s raced [in America] before, and he’s quite professional, so [running American style races] is not a problem for him.” 


Four Footed Fotos

Hometown hero The Pizza Man continued his domination of Arlington in the $400,000 American St. Leger to kick off the major Arlington Million day marquee races at odds of 5.30-to-1.

Tracking Big Kick during the first mile of the 1 11/16-mile event, he took command by the 1 3/8-mile mark and it looked like smooth sailing when he had a 3 ½-length lead in midstretch. However, last year’s winner Dandino made an attempt to catch him and The Pizza Man was only a length clear when they crossed the finish line. The Pizza Man paid $12.60 to win on a $2 win bet and extended his win streak to five with the St. Leger victory.

“Yes I was sitting in a stalking position, I wasn’t worried. I saw his past races and was waiting for him to tell me when to go,” jockey Florent Geroux said.

Dandino finished second and Havana Beat finished third with race favorite Eye of the Storm fifth.

For Equibase charts, click here.





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