Illness interrupted his juvenile season but Hard Landing has put his career back on track and booked a return trip to The Valley with a determined win at his seasonal return.
A Group Three winner on debut, Hard Landing was in the frame for the better two-year-old races in the autumn before he was struck down by sickness.
Co-trainers Tom Dabernig and Ben Hayes nursed him back to health and the superbly bred son of All Too Hard out of Group One winner Snitzerland has repaid them with victory in Saturday’s Jockey Celebration Day Handicap (1000m) at The Valley.
“He’s a lightly raced two-year-old because he got really sick after his last run,” Ben Hayes said.
“He had to have a big dose of antibiotics and we really looked after him.
“But he’s come back fantastic, he’s matured into himself, grown up over the hind. It’s fantastic to see him win like that.”
Ridden by apprentice Thomas Stockdale, Hard Landing ($4.40) sat at the flanks of the leader before getting the upper hand shortly after straightening.
He won by a half-length over Diesel ‘N’ Dust ($4.80) with The Cruiser ($21) doing his best work late to finish the same margin away third.
Hayes said Hard Landing would return to The Valley for the Listed McKenzie Stakes (1200m) on August 22.
“He looked like he handled The Valley pretty well today so that will be his next progression,” Hayes said.
In a blanket finish where little more than a half-length separated the first six horses across the line, Miss Divine Em got her nose down when it mattered.
Payne has no grand plans for the filly and was happy to take a city win.
“She toughed it out but I think she was a bit lucky to win,” Payne said.
“The horses closing were unlucky not to get her.
“I’m not sure what we’ll do next but I won’t be too ambitious.”
Miss Divine Em is raced by Joe O’Neill’s Prime Thoroughbreds which also has exciting filly Rubisaki in the Payne stable.