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Hardest Core pulls upset in Arlington Million

Hardest Core an 11-1 long shot surges past Magician 9-5 favorite stretch w 32nd running ArlingtMillion. Hardest Core was ridden

Hardest Core, an 11-1 long shot, surges past Magician, the 9-5 favorite, in the stretch to win the 32nd running of the Arlington Million. Hardest Core was ridden by Eriluis Vaz and trained by Edward Graham. | Four Footed Fotos

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Updated: September 18, 2014 6:47AM

After everything Hardest Core has been through, winning the ­Arlington Million as an 11-1 long shot on Saturday isn’t the biggest upset the gelding has pulled off.

The horse was bought in November at the Keeneland Sales for $210,000 and was sent to be castrated. Following the procedure, Hardest Core was sent out into the field. A day later he was found lying on the ground and with his intestines coming out after having a problem with the surgery.

Trainer Edward Graham was able to get the horse into a trailer and eventually got him treatment. In another procedure, he lost 18 feet of intestine.

After the ordeal, Hardest Core started training in February and returned to action this summer. He won two lower-level races before coming to Arlington, where Graham pre-entered him in the Million and the American St. Leger.

Graham’s choice of the Million paid off, as jockey Eriluis Vaz rode Hardest Core to a 1-length score over Magician in 2:01.51. Side Glance was third and Real Solution finished last in the seven-horse field.

“Nothing bothers him. He’s just pure class,” Graham said. “He just gets the job done. He thinks he’s the boss.”

Few others expected the 4-year-old to be the boss, since others had stronger pedigrees. Magician was the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Real Solution was trying to repeat as Million champion.

But somewhat surprisingly, the defending champ didn’t pose much of a challenge in the 1 1/4-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up.

“I had a beautiful trip,” Real Solution’s rider, Javier Castellano, said. “Unfortunately, he didn’t show up today.”

Hardest Core had never been in a graded-stakes company, but showed up when he had to. He trailed throughout, but surged from third in the stretch, passing Magician in the final strides. That sizzling stretch run made Vaz realize he “had a lot of horse.”

“He’s a good horse. He’s a nice horse,” Vaz said. “I knew he was going to make his run.”

The victory also continued to vindicate a decision made about the horse last year. When he was bought by Andrew Bentley Stables, his connections gave some consideration to turning Hardest Core into a steeplechaser. But Graham saw that Hardest Core’s future didn’t have to be in leaping.

“He’s been brilliant,” Graham said. “Glad we stuck to the flat racing.”

In other stakes on Million Day:

◆ Euro Charline won the $750,000 Beverly D to give jockey Ryan Moore the second of his two wins in featured races. She beat Stephanie’s Kitten by three-quarters of a length in 1:55.52 in the 1 3/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares 3-and-up.

◆ Adelaide, trained by Aidan O’Brien and piloted by Moore, took the $500,000 Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1 1/2 lengths, covering the the 1 1/4-mile distance on the turf in 2:02.31.

◆ Illinois-bred The Pizza Man won the $400,000 American St. Leger (1 11/16-miles on the turf for 3-year-olds and up) by a length in 2:47.44.

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