Hardest Core launches season in Man o’ War
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.
Hardest Core, shown winning the 2014 Arlington Million, hasn’t run since the Breeders’ Cup.