Hard­est Core launches sea­son in Man o’ War

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EL­MONT, N.Y. – Hard­est Core, the up­set win­ner of last year’s Grade 1 Ar­ling­ton Mil­lion, will make his sea­sonal de­but in Satur­day’s Grade 1, $400,000 Man o’ War Stakes at Bel­mont Park.

The Man o’ War will be a home­com­ing of sorts for Hard­est Core, who be­gan his ca­reer in the barn of New York-based trainer Kiaran Mclaugh­lin, win­ning two of three starts over the Bel­mont turf, in­clud­ing a maiden score May 31, 2013.

Hard­est Core was pur­chased out of the 2013 Keeneland Novem­ber auc­tion for $210,000 and now races for the An­drew Bent­ley Sta­bles, which in­cludes sev­eral fam­ily mem­bers, and is trained by Ed­die Gra­ham.

Hard­est Core won his first three starts for his new con­nec­tions be­fore run­ning eighth, beaten 4 3/4 lengths by Main Se­quence, in the Breed­ers’ Cup Turf. Hard­est Core was turned out fol­low­ing the Breed­ers’ Cup and went back into light train­ing Jan. 1, Gra­ham said. The Man o’ War was se­lected as his first race with the hope that the geld­ing will im­prove enough from it to take an­other shot at the Ar­ling­ton Mil­lion in Au­gust.

“I just wanted to keep him at a mile and three-eighths, mile and a half,” Gra­ham said from his farm in Unionville, Pa. “I just thought that would be a good spot for him. It’s not a long ship. You don’t have to ship all the way out to Ken­tucky.”

Though Eriluis Vaz rode him in four of his starts last year, Gra­ham said Luis Saez will ride Hard­est Core in the Man o’ War. Saez had three wins and two sec­onds aboard Hard­est Core when the horse was based in New York.

Hard­est Core, who drew post 6, will take on a group that in­cludes Imag­in­ing, the de­fend­ing Man o’ War win­ner who will try to give the Phipps Sta­ble and trainer Shug Mcgaughey their fourth con­sec­u­tive victory in this race. Also en­tered are Twi­light Eclipse, Dy­namic Sky, Hy­per, Comes the Dream, and War Dancer.

The Man o’ War is race 9 of 10 and one of four stakes on the card.

FOUR FOOTED FOTOS

Hard­est Core, shown win­ning the 2014 Ar­ling­ton Mil­lion, hasn’t run since the Breed­ers’ Cup.

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