As the old adage goes, ‘there is a story behind every stable door’, and that statement couldn’t have rung any truer when chatting with trainer Joe Cleary after his Braidwood Cup victory on Saturday.
Cleary saddled up his war horse Hard Core, with the six-year-old bringing up his seventh career victory and second Country Cup at start number 43.
The All Too Hard gelding got the job done for the stable and jockey Jake Pracey-Holmes in the $21,000 feature, beating the Maree Hopkins-trained Son Of Spartacus in second and the Mathew Dale-trained Jac The Great in third.
“He was in so well at the weights and he had come on so well after his race at Moruya and I thought he would be hard to beat,” Cleary said.
What makes Hard Core’s win in the Braidwood Cup all the more amazing is that three starts ago he was accidently sent to race in Alice Springs, starting once and finishing last in September before migrating back home to his Moruya stable.
“There is a bit of a story to this one mate,” Cleary laughed when chatting with NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“The short version is that he was picked up to go to Alice Springs, but he was the wrong horse.
“Little Krakatoa was meant to be going, but they were out in a paddock together at Moruya, and they took Hard Core accidently.”
It was a comedy of errors that led Hard Core – presumed to be Little Krakatoa once stabled in the Northern Territory – being prepared to race in Alice Springs by Terry Gillett.
It was only when stewards had worked out that the horse meant to be Little Krakatoa, who was even presented for a race, was in-fact Hard Core.
“After he arrived in Alice Springs, it didn’t come to our attention until he went to the races,” Cleary laughed.
“I got a phone call from the stewards asking me if I knew that I had sent Hard Core to Alice Springs instead of Little Krakatoa as he was presented to race that day.
“I had no idea, and because they were in a paddock in Moruya, I was of the opinion that Hard Core was still just enjoying life in the paddock and here he is getting ready for a race in Alice Springs.”
Hard Core went on to have one start for Gillett, finishing a long last in a 1200m Benchmark 76 Handicap on the sand before arriving back home for another short spell.
“I said after they worked out it was him, ‘is there a race for him’, and Terry raced him, but he didn’t handle the sand,” Cleary said.
“The owners were good about it all and they are good loyal clients; I’ve had them for 20 years, and I just told them the truth and they were really good.
“He is one of the stable favourites, and we brought him back home, and I was about $6000 out of pocket after I got him back and sent Little Krakatoa up there, but I couldn’t pass that cost onto the owners and I had to wear it; it was an honest mistake.”
Now, having won the Braidwood Cup, Hard Core is being set for Saturday’s Tumut Cup – the same race he won for local connections in 2021.
“He will back up in the Tumut Cup all being well,” Cleary said.
“Then we will see what happens and take it one run at a time and see what he tells us, but the goal was to be racing and hopefully winning these races.
“He ticked one box off at Braidwood and hopefully he can tick another one off at Tumut.
“I will wrap him up in cotton wool and make sure he is right, but he is a good old handicap horse; he tries his best and I’m looking forward to watching him go around at Tumut.”