Hard Way dead-heated for fourth today in a field of 20 runners at Longchamp, beaten only two lengths over a distance of 2,400 meters (a mile and a half). It was a great run considering he has been off for about four months and still hasn’t thought about shedding his winter coat. I hesitated about racing him at all because I was worried he wasn’t quite ready, but I decided to go ahead because he had been working well and I couldn’t find another decent race for him anytime soon. Raphael Marchelli was riding him for the first time, and he did a good job because Hard Way can be a handful. He was calm and steady through all the preparations, and didn’t move a muscle while being saddled (there is a nice video of the saddling here). But once he got into the presentation ring, the switch flipped and it was almost impossible to hang onto him. We put Marchelli straight up and sent him out first; once Hard Way got onto the turf, he settled into a nice warm-up canter. I asked for him to be loaded with the last horses, because while he loads fine, he tends to panic in the gate. He jumped out straight into the air, which cost him a length, but then ran relaxed just behind the leader for three quarters of the race. When they came at him in the stretch, he battled on under a mostly hand ride; Marchelli gave him one crack, but that was all. He came back fine and recovered very quickly. Two hours after the race, he was back home and tucking into a warm mash with apples and carrots. We had a substantial cheering section on hand, and Hard Way didn’t let us down. He will definitely progress from this, and I think we can start looking to hit the winner’s circle again with him soon.
Next up: Blessing Belle on Thursday at Longchamp.