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The Phil Bauer-trained Played Hard officially won the 2023 La Troienne Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs after surviving a jockey objection following late contact in the stretch with runner-up Secret Oath. Was the no-change decision the correct call? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Rigney Racing’s Played Hard survived a rider’s objection from Tyler Gaffalione on 2022 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath to win the 38th running of the $750,000 La Troienne presented by TwinSpires (GI) for fillies and mares by a neck.
Trained by Phil Bauer and ridden by John Velazquez, Played Hard completed the mile and a sixteenth over a fast track in 1:42.48 in notching her third Churchill Downs stakes victory and first Grade I.
It is the third victory in the race for Velazquez, who won in 2016 on Curalina and in 2013 on Authenticity.
Society led the field of 10 through fractions of :23.53, :47.28 and 1:11.55 with Played Hard tracking just to her outside. On the far turn, the field began to bunch up and Played Hard emerged with the lead at the top of the stretch while in the five path.
With Played Hard in the middle of the track, Search Results dived to the inside while widest of all Secret Oath was launching her bid. At the sixteenth pole, Played Hard and Secret Oath brushed and Gaffalione claimed foul, a claim that was disallowed by the stewards.
Played Hard is a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Into Mischief out of the Tiznow mare Well Lived. Friday’s victory was worth $441,750 and made Played Hard a millionaire with earnings of $1,420,140 with a record of 15-6-5-2.
Played Hard returned $19.86, $7.02 and $4.24. Secret Oath returned $3.90 and $2.64 and finished a half-length in front of Search Results who paid $3.54 to show under Flavien Prat.
It was another 1 ½ lengths back to A Mo Reay, who was followed in order by Desert Dawn, Pauline’s Pearl, Soul of an Angel, Sixtythreecaliber, Society and Classy Edition.
John Velazquez, jockey, Played Hard, winner: “She’s very brave. All the credit goes to Mr. Phil Bauer and his team. She’s been working really good, and I didn’t know if she had enough to beat Secret Oath today. But she put in a couple of good works here. I knew she was going to run well. The whole team did such a great job, to get her ready after a long layoff, and to run with this horse. I’ve got to give it to Phil, great job.”
Phil Bauer, trainer, Played Hard, winner: “I went to bed many nights dreaming of this moment. Horse racing can be like climbing Mount Everest. Today, I feel like we’ve made it to the top. As a Louisville guy, this means everything to me. It’s so hard to put into words what Tammi and Richard Rigney mean to me. They’ve supported me through the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows.
“This was a team effort. My team got this mare ready for this and I’m proud of them. A lot of this game is about opportunity; the owner (Richard Rigney) gave me the opportunity to train this horse and she’s performed. She’s a millionaire now, too ($1.4 million). We were aware of that going into the race. I told Johnny (rider Velazquez) that he wanted to sit the trip, then ride the trip. She’ll give it to you if you wait. He rode her perfect.”
Tyler Gaffalione, jockey, Secret Oath, runner-up: “She shows up every time, she’s as honest as they come, just a tremendous filly. Hats off to the winner today.”
Re: the objection: “Honestly, it felt a lot worse than it looked. My filly must have been getting tired at that point, and we came together. I had pretty good position going into the first turn, then we ran into traffic, and a lot of shuffling, so I didn’t want to get myself in a bad spot, so I got her out of there. She’s got such a tremendous kick, that I wanted to rely on that.”
D. Wayne Lukas, trainer, Secret Oath, runner-up: “She ran her heart out. I think that little brush broke her momentum just enough that her stride changed a little bit. I can see why they left it up but I can see why they’d take it down. It was a tough call by the stewards.”
Chad Brown, trainer, Search Results, third: “She got a good trip there and saved all the ground on the inside. She came up a length short in the end. She hadn’t run since the Breeders’ Cup, and I think she’ll tighten up good from this. I think we’ll probably run next in the Ogden Phipps at Belmont.”
Flavien Prat, jockey, Search Results, third: “She broke sharp and settled perfectly to save ground. She was in good position and began to make her run but after a long layoff fell a touch short.”
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