Arlington International Barn Notes (5/1/15)
Contact: Michael Adolphson
In today's notes:
MILLION WINNER HARDEST CORE AIMS FOR RETURN BID
It was the most unlikely of stories during the 2014 Arlington International Racecourse season when Andrew Bentley Stables’ Hardest Core outfought multinational Group and Grade I-winning invaders Magician and Side Glance to land the Grade I Arlington Million. If trainer Eddie Graham has his way, there could be an equally thrilling sequel this August for the son of Hard Spun, who is soon to kick off his 5-year-old season.
“He’s doing great. He’s going to run next week in the (Grade I $400,000) Man O’ War (Stakes),” Graham confirmed. “He’s been in training since January, so he’s right where we want him. He had a great winter.” The Man O’ War is contested next Saturday, May 9, at Belmont Park. Won last year by Imagining, it is the likely aim of that Phipps Stable homebred once again.
Off since the Grade I $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 1 – in which the Kentucky-bred dark bay finished a half-length behind Imagining – Hardest Core reeled off four consecutive wins prior to that effort, ending in the Million on Aug. 16. His victories ranged from 1 1/16 miles to 1 1/2 miles on the grass and helped pad a career record of 12-6-2-0 with $842,580 in earnings and two wins from four stakes attempts. After the Breeders’ Cup, he was turned out for the winter in Pennsylvania.
“We jogged him on uphills for six weeks before he started galloping,” Graham explained. “His work was great the other day.” On Sunday, the massive charge put in his final drill for the Man O’ War when traveling five furlongs in 1:02.40 over Fair Hill’s Tapeta surface under Jody Petty. His only other work was exactly a week prior over the same track and distance and in an identical time. Such is by design, as the majority of Hardest Core’s work happens at Graham’s farm over its rolling hills.
“He’s much stronger looking this year than last year and his body looks much more mature,” Graham remarked. “That’s one of the reasons why I gave him a little time off; he’s still growing. Everyone thought he was big last year, but I think he’s even bigger now.”
A mostly steeplechase trainer who hopes to one day guide his star pupil through a career over the jumps, the very patient Graham is in no hurry to map out too much of a plan.
“We would love to go back (to the Million),” he said. “It was a great experience. For right now, I’m playing it race by race. We’d like to go back if at all possible. For now, we’ll wait and see how this race goes.”
VOLUPTUOUS TOPS COMPETITIVE SATURDAY FEATURE
M and M Thoroughbred Partners’ Voluptuous is the morning-line choice in a highly competitive turf allowance event that caps the Kentucky Derby Day card at Arlington International Racecourse on Saturday.
Trained by Mike Stidham, Voluptuous had a productive 2014 Arlington season, breaking her maiden impressively by 10 1/4 lengths on the main Polytrack May 16 before competing in four consecutive first-level allowance races – one on the main track and three on the turf course. Said efforts resulted in two runner-up finishes, a third and a fourth. Saturday’s event, over a mile on the grass, could be a welcome return to familiarity for the gray filly who kicked off her season with a lackluster fifth on Mar. 19 at Fair Grounds in similar first-level allowance company. 2013 meet champion jockey Emmanuel Esquivel picks up the mount from post three.
Second in said New Orleans event was Ragnar Korthase’s Jon Cowan-trained Seeking Luck, who drew two spots outside Voluptuous in post five under Eduardo Perez. The Irish-bred granddaughter of Danehill gave a season-best effort that day when finishing a half-length behind Another Blue, but returned on Apr. 8 to run a badly beaten eighth at Keeneland and will look to reclaim form Saturday afternoon.
An intriguing entrant is Leo Rodriguez, Sr. and David Rodriguez’s Madamoiselle Bond from the barn of the younger Leo Rodriguez. A recent claim out of Gulfstream Park, the daughter of Monsieur Bond was second and third in her only two domestic starts for trainer George Weaver, who starts Tencendur in the Grade I $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. In her previous eight starts – all in European sprints – the bay sophomore filly hit the board four times under the tutelage of William Jarvis. Journeyman Chris Emigh picks up the mount from post six.
Others worth noting in the 11-horse field are Cherrywhood Racing Stables II’s Michele Boyce-trained Penelope Perfect, who has consistently performed well at this level, as well as Pressure Racing’s Tammy Domenosky-trained Dance with Kitten, who has hit the board in her last six starts and makes her seasonal debut under Dick Cardenas from post four. A pedigree play could be RNB Racing’s Terrel Gore-trained 3-year-old filly Scatladybdancing, who makes only her fourth start and her first beyond six furlongs on the dirt. Third last out in the restricted Pretty Jenny Stakes at Hawthorne Race Course, the daughter of turf-friendly sire Scat Daddy from the family of Group I-winning Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up No Nay Never could adapt well to the grass in her first attempt. Santo Sanjur rides from post seven.
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