October 11, 2016. It’s a date Joanne Hardy won’t easily forget!
Lot 22 was passed in at the Magic Millions 2YO’s In Training Sale; the only one of five youngsters (a sixth was withdrawn) she offered and didn’t part company with at that Gold Coast auction.
Having purchased the Toorak Toff colt three months earlier at the same venue at the National Racehorse Sale for a meagre $6000 when no one else wanted him, Hardy decided to keep him when the best bid was $15,000 and a few grand shy of his reserve price.
Five years – and perhaps a long five years at that – elapsed until that same horse provided the Coffs Harbour trainer with her first metropolitan winner at Rosehill Gardens on November 6; and at cricket score odds to boot!
And it brought up a century of winners since taking up training full-time in 2010.
Racing as Real Time Warrior, the now seven-year-old gelding outstayed his rivals in the annual running of the Country Classic (2000m).
With talented Victorian apprentice Laura Lafferty aboard, Real Time Warrior looked anything but a $101 bolter (he paid $150.20 on the Victorian TAB) as he posted the ninth win of his so far 45-start career.
“Under the set weights conditions of the Country Classic, he wasn’t well weighted with 58.5kg topweight, and I wanted an apprentice to claim on him,” Hardy said.
“There weren’t many available, but we tried a few including Tyler Schiller (who ironically rode runner-up Five Kingdom), and eventually booked Laura after noticing she rode a winner for John O’Shea (to whom she is currently on loan) at Kembla Grange on Melbourne Cup day.
“I didn’t know at the time Laura was Victorian Country Apprentice of the Year last season, but her 3kg allowance proved invaluable and she rode him so well.
“Real Time Warrior opened around $41 and I thought that was fair enough, but certainly didn’t consider him a $151 chance as he had won over 1900m at Gosford two runs back and then finished second at Grafton over 2200m.”
Hardy was pleasantly surprised when she was able to buy Real Time Warrior so cheaply at the Gold Coast in 2016.
His sire Toorak Toff was a six-times winner (including two Group 1s) and his dam, the lightly-raced French mare Sidereal Time, who raced only once after coming to Australia, was a daughter of the brilliant racehorse Nureyev (sensationally disqualified after winning the 1980 English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket) and later champion sire.
“I bought Real Time Warrior on type,” Hardy explained. “He was athletic, and felt he could become a nice stayer but needed time.”
Hardy, who has 17 stables on course at Coffs Harbour and a 150-acre property (Clare Park Thoroughbreds) at nearby Coramba which she and her partner David Birch operate, “bushed” the youngster for 12 months when she chose not to sell him before syndicating 30 per cent of him amongst friends.
“One of his part-owners Noel Mackay wanted to call him ‘something warrior” and we took the real and time from his dam’s name to come up with Real Time Warrior,” Hardy explained.
Real Time Warrior didn’t race until well into his three-year-old season, and won a 1225m Maiden at Grafton in May, 2018 at his fifth start.
Vindicating his trainer’s faith, all eight subsequent victories have been between 1900m and 2220m.
To simply say Hardy has earned her racing stripes would not be paying her proper credit.
The daughter of one of country racing’s highly respected trainers, 80-year-old Trevor Hardy (continuing to ply his trade at Coffs Harbour who got his only horse Aheadofhistime into last month’s $1.3m The Kosciuszko at Randwick, and the man who tutored a young Zac Purton, now one of the world’s best jockeys), she has been around horses all her life.
Even when she was completing a science degree in equine studies at University in Wagga, she found time to take out a trainer’s licence to prepare a couple of “rejects”, then became involved in racing administration upon returning home.
Hardy initially started with Coffs Harbour Racing Club, and subsequently worked for Clarence River Jockey Club at Grafton (when that club was also administering Casino Racing Club), Sapphire Coast Turf Club and Ballina Jockey Club; the latter two as general manager.
Yet another side of the industry called, and she got a job working at the then Ingham Brothers-owned Woodlands Stud in the Hunter Valley, which encompassed the Belmont Park side of the operation in the Hawkesbury district.
Hardy’s mother’s sudden death in 2008 was the catalyst for her to eventually take on a full-time role training horses.
“I never really wanted to train as my occupation because it’s tough and the rewards are not always necessarily great, but David and myself moved back to Coffs to help Dad when Mum passed away,” she said.
“About four months later, we both flew to England to meet David’s family. His grandmother trained into her 70s, and the family more or less suggested I should train to keep the tradition going.
“We bought this lovely property at Coramba and race under Clare Park Thoroughbreds, and our racing colours are the same as those used by David’s grandmother.”
Hardy kicked back into training again in 2010, her metropolitan breakthrough with Real Time Warrior aptly culminating with her 100th winner.
“The property is only 20 minutes from the track,” she said. “We can break-in, pre-train and spell the horses here and also give them a break from the stables at the track when necessary.”
With an elusive city success safely tucked away, Hardy is now focusing on Sunday’s $100,000 Taree Cup (2000m) at the Country Showcase meeting with Real Time Warrior.
The dates of October 11, 2016 and November 6, 2021 are already firmly etched in her memory and November 21 this year will no doubt be included should the tough gelding lead them home again at the weekend.
How prospective buyers at that Gold Coast sale must be kicking themselves for letting such a “cheapie” pass through their fingers?