An upfront candid admission of a “stuff-up” can often help make amends in racing as trainer Cliff Brown and jockey Michael Rodd found out on Friday night.
Both men graciously put their hands up after the New Zealand-bred Hardcore was an expensive failure at his Kranji debut in a Restricted Maiden race over 1400m on February 22, beating one home.
That night, the blinkered son of All Too Hard was posted in a prominent spot throughout, but was clearly a spent force when Rodd popped the question, ending up beaten more than 15 lengths off the winner Stay The Course.
Brown and Rodd took stock of the tactics behind the dismal run, regrouped and five weeks later, changed tack – and dropped the blinkers - in the S$75,000 Restricted Maiden race over 1600m.
The results were like night and day. Granted, their task was made easier when even-money favourite Lim’s Passion ran off the track shortly after cornering, but with the winning margin on runner-up Sothistheone just a little under five lengths and Lim’s Passion another half-length away, it is fair to say the best horse had won on the night. The winning time was 1min 35.07secs for the mile on the Short Course.
Backed at lukewarm odds of $76, Hardcore is unlikely to carry such odds at his next start after such a rousing victory, even if Brown was his usual guarded self at the winner’s box.
“We rode him badly at his first run. He’s a horse who needs to find his feet and get home, but we made him go forward, just put him in it and it was a disaster,” said the Australian handler.
“He has always shown ability, but he took some time to mature. We put him in, put him out, put him in.
“He was a good chance tonight, but I never expected him to win this way. The field was okay without being outstanding, so we should be guarded.”
Rodd said that the step-up to the mile proved to be right up Hardcore’s alley, but he couldn’t be as certain before barrier rise.
“We stuffed up at his first-up run. We were probably thinking he might be too good,” said Rodd who rode him to an emphatic four-length barrier trial win before his Kranji debut.
“He did a bit of work to get up there, and it was ugly in the end. Tonight, the blinkers were off, he was back in the field and we let him rip home.
“The 1600m was a query but it was a query for all the other horses as well, except maybe for one.
“He was strong to the line, and I think he has a nice future here.”
With that first win, Hardcore has already returned around S$50,000 in prizemoney for his connections, the Hardcore Stable. -STC