Rigney Racing’s Played Hard narrowly annexed Friday’s $750,000 La Troienne Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs by a neck. Beneath Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, the Phil Bauer-conditioned Played Hard had to survive a claim of foul by runner-up Secret Oath’s rider that was quickly dismissed.
Society opened up on the lead, recording a quarter in :23.53, a half in :47.28 and six furlongs in 1:11.55. She wasn’t able to have things her own way up there, however, as the eventual winner stayed in close attendance throughout. By the time the field got into the stretch, Society slowly gave way as Played Hard attained the lead. As Played Hard got through a mile in 1:36.12, she had a head in front of Secret Oath in the four path, who in turn was a head up on Search Results way toward the rail. Toward the end, Played Hard and Secret Oath bumped each other slightly, which led to jockey Tyler Gaffalione lodging an objection. Played Hard regained some of her advantage afterward.
In the end, Played Hard completed the 1 1/16-mile fast main track event in 1:42.48. Following the top three past the wire were A Mo Reay, Desert Dawn, Pauline’s Pearl, Soul of an Angel, Sixtythreecaliber, Society and Classy Edition.
Bauer was understandably ecstatic afterward.
“I went to bed many nights dreaming of this moment” he said. “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 highs and the lowest of the lows.”
It was quite an accomplishment for the five-year-old Played Hard, since Secret Oath won last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Search Results was a narrowly beaten runner-up to champion Malathaat in the 2021 Oaks.
Bred in Kentucky by Susan Casner, Played Hard sold for $280,000 as a 2019 Keeneland September yearling. The daughter of Into Mischief is the most successful foal out of the Tiznow mare Well Lived, who has a reported 2023 colt by Constitution. Played Hard has had her biggest racing success beneath the Twin Spires, having also captured the 2022 editions of the Falls City Stakes (G3) and Locust Grove Stakes (G3). The mare also owns placings in the Spinster Stakes (G1) at Keeneland and the Comely Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. Her last start prior to Friday was the Falls City, which was way back in November.
Played Hard comes out of her biggest triumph as racing’s newest millionaire, with $1,420,140 in her bankroll to go along with a record of 15-6-5-2.