'She Never Gave Way': Played Hard Repels Challengers In Gate-To-Wire Falls City Romp - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘She Never Gave Way’: Played Hard Repels Challengers In Gate-To-Wire Falls City Romp

Into Mischief filly Played Hard was never headed en route to winning the G3 Falls City

Rigney Racing's Played Hard broke on top, dictated the pace, and turned back challenges at the top of the stretch from Bellamore and Moon Swag to take the $485,000 Falls City (G3), the traditional Thanksgiving Day fixture for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs.

Trained by Phil Bauer and ridden by Joel Rosario, Played Hard ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:49.39 while defeating Bellamore by one length in gate-to-wire fashion.

Breaking from post four in the field of six fillies and mares, Played Hard maintained about a one-length advantage over Leader of the Band down the backstretch while setting quarter-mile fractions of :23.71, :47.43, and 1:11.43. Leader of the Band gave way leaving the turn as Bellamore, from the outside, and Moon Swag, from the inside, ranged into contention. Played Hard cut the final turn wide and had plenty left as she opened up down the stretch for the one-length victory as the odds-on favorite.

“She keeps getting better,” Rosario said. “She fought hard on the lead and didn't want to give it up. There were a couple horses that got close to her, but she never gave way.”

The victory marked Played Hard's second graded stakes win in her last three starts, both coming at Churchill Downs. In September, she scored a comfortable 5 ¾-length win in the Locust Grove (G3) for her first graded stakes triumph.

“I'm actually pretty speechless right now,” Bauer said. “This is what it's all about. You win a half-million dollar race on your home track with your family and the greatest owner (Richard Rigney) in attendance. It can't get much better on Thanksgiving. I'm so proud of Played Hard. She pinned her ears back and didn't want to let anyone by.”

Prior to Thursday's Falls City, Played Hard finished third behind eventual Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) winner Malathaat and Army Wife in the Spinster (G1) at Keeneland on Oct. 9.

“Things didn't work out last time in the Spinster, but we got her back to Churchill and she loves it here,” Bauer said. “We're excited to keep her in training next year.”

Played Hard paid $2.90. Bellamore, the 10-1 fourth betting choice ridden by Martin Garcia, outfinished She's All Wolfe, who was another five lengths back in third under Joe Rocco Jr.

Moon Swag, Leader of the Band, and Ava's Grace completed the order of finish.

With the Falls City win, Played Hard improved her overall record to five wins, five seconds, and two thirds in 14 starts. Thursday's $305,520 winner's share increased her earnings to near-millionaire status at $978,390.

Bauer said the goal for Played Hard in 2023 is to secure a Grade 1 win.

Played Hard is a 4-year-old bay daughter of Into Mischief out of the Tiznow mare Well Lived. She was bred in Kentucky by Susan Casner and was sold to Rigney Racing for $280,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September yearling sale, where Four Star Sales consigned.

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