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Play Harder has a reputation for getting involved in dramatic finishes, and he maintained that reputation in the Star De Naskra Staks Saturday, June 29 at Laurel Park, where he crossed the wire second by a nose, but was elevated to first thanks to a disqualification.

The Star De Naskra marked Play Harder’s stakes debut. He had won four of his previous five starts, with his last three victories coming by less than a length. In his only defeat, he was third beaten three-quarters of a length. He went off as the 9-2 second choice in the eight-horse Star De Naskra field, with undefeated Quint’s Brew sent away as the overwhelming 3-5 favorite.

Play Harder began well from post position four and rated close to the pace in the early stages, while Haileysfirstnotion set a largely uncontested opening quarter in 22.95. As they approached the far turn, Quint’s Brew and Celtic Contender made their moves after the leader, while Play Harder remained in fourth, 5 ¼ lengths off the front.

Quint’s Brew did not go on in the stretch, and Haileysfirstnotion offered little resistance, while Celtic Contender opened up a 2 ½-length lead with a furlong to go. Play Harder found his best stride late and chipped away at the margin under urging from J.G. Torrealba. The two hit the wire together, covering seven furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.93.

After a long photo, the camera revealed that Celtic Contender had crossed the wire first by a nose. However, the inquiry sign went up not long afterward. A steward’s review determined that Celtic Contender caused crowding when crossing over towards the inside after leaving the chute. As such, he was disqualified and placed second, with Play Harder moved up to first.

The victory improved Play Harder’s career record to 5-0-1 in six starts, with earnings of $171,895. He’s owned by Rising Sun Racing Stable and trained by Claudio Gonzalez.

Play Harder was bred by Maria M. Haire, and is by Outwork out of the Smarty Jones mare Miss Manatee. Haire purchased Play Harder’s third dam, graded stakes winner Ms. Mostly, for $80,000 at the 2006 OBS Fall Mixed Sale, and campaigned second dam Ms. Moscow and Miss Manatee. Miss Manatee has produced two winners from as many foals of racing age. In addition to Play Harder, she’s also produced four-time winner Kingdom (Golden Lad). Her most recent foal, a filly by Mystic Guide, was foaled May 5 of this year.

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