A little bit of stern disciplining and clever naming are the amusing yarns behind the winning debut of Shane Baertschiger’s first success with a two-year-old.
The victorious juvenile Harden Up was given his name after the frustrated trainer could not get him to toe the line during his early schooling. With a few harsh words hurled here and there, all in the name of positive reinforcement, the son of Hard Spun soon bucked up and had done everything right since.
A head-second at his latest barrier trial on May 24 was testament to the good work done by all, a telltale sign which punters were also quick to cotton on to.
Jackie Low guides Harden Up to an all-the-way debut win on Sunday.
Sent out as the joint $13 favourite with the other newcomer Notipsnotips (Jose Verenzuela) in Sunday’s $65,000 Restricted Maiden (2&3YO) over 1200m on Polytrack, Harden Up (Jacky Low) led from pillar to post to romp in by just under four lengths from Starlite Shower (Koh Teck Huat) with Notipsnotips third another half-a-length away. The winning time was 1min 12.32secs.
“We knew he had ability from Day-1, but he can be a bit of a softie too,” said Baertschiger.
“One day I just got fed up with him and shouted at him ‘harden up, you softie! That’s how he got his name, as he’s also by Hard Spun.”
If anything, it was his 11 rivals who had a hard time as they were seen strung out over 20 lengths from the backstraight, struggling to keep up with Harden Up who led them a merry dance from the get-go.
In the home straight, Low just urged the two-year-old to the line hands and heels, mindful not to punish such an inexperienced horse at his debut. Harden Up never showed any signs of letting-up to score an easy win that has Baertschiger already mapping out loftier plans.
“I’ll set him for the (Group 3) Magic Millions Juvenile Championship (July 29). That was always his aim from the first day he arrived in our yard,” said Baertschiger who was at win No 11.
“Jacky has done a lot of work with him and that’s why we put him on today. Being by a Zabeel mare (Mother Flame), he should get better over more ground.”
Low, whose last win funnily enough came aboard another Baertschiger charge with a “toughen-up” moniker, Be A Man, on March 18, said Harden Up gave him an armchair ride and never hung out, which was one of his tendencies early doors.
“He used to hang out, but the blinkers have helped correct that,” said Low who rode one kilo over the allotted 49.5kgs. “He jumped very well and was always travelling relaxed today.
“In the straight, he just kept putting in. He’s a very nice horse.”
Harden Up, a A$62,000 purchase as a yearling, races in the pink and red hooped sleeves of Baertschiger’s mother Sally.