Indiana-breds Shine in Indiana Sprint Championships

(Photo by Linscott Photography)
(Photo by Linscott Photography)

Indiana Grand on September 30 hosted the first edition of the Indiana Sprint Championships with six stakes for Indiana-breds. Following is a recap:

Special Talent cruises in City of Anderson Stakes
Special Talent gave Jockey Malcolm Franklin his second stakes win on the day Wednesday, Sept. 30, easily defeating her opponents in the 15th running of the $85,000-added City of Anderson Stakes. The two-year-old daughter of Talent Search covered the six furlong sprint in a time of 1:13.29 over the muddy surface.

Special Talent began her race from post six in the seven-horse lineup. A few steps slower than the rest of the fillies left Franklin with no choice but to follow along as Thunder Pie and Francisco Torres headed to the lead from the center of the track while Shes Into Mischief and Rolando Aragon also showed early speed from the inside. Early fractions of :23.18 and :47.45 were placed on the board and as the field moved around the turn, fillies began to fan out across the track, leaving Special Talent outside five wide heading into the stretch.

In the stretch, Special Talent had great momentum and surged forward past the competition, bringing home the title in the City of Anderson Stakes by three and one-half lengths in only her third career start. Good Guess and T.D. Houghton finished a solid second over Shes Into Mischief who maintained ground inside for third.

“I had no choice but to go wide in the turn,” said Franklin. “I couldn’t’ save any ground in the turn. She has speed, but I didn’t want to use it early. She got a little gritty on the end and that is a good sign. She was more aggressive today.”

Special Talent was the bettor’s choice, paying $5.80, $3.00, $2.60 across the board. Bred by Larry Goodwin and owned by Daniel Bell of the Lafayette, Ind. area, the filly now has two wins in three career starts for Trainer Barb McBride.

“She’ is a very plain jane filly,” said McBride. “She is easy to deal with in the barn and is a really smart filly. She was very green in her first start, but she is obviously getting better and better. We broke her at a farm in Tampa and shipped her here this spring.”

Special Talent caught the eye of Franklin early on. He has been a fan of the filly since her arrival in the spring.

“I told Barb that she was the best two-year-old in the barn this past spring,” said Franklin. “She is still learning and progressing, but I really like her a lot.”

Cactus Joe repeats in Merrillville Stakes
Cactus Joe rallied from off the pace to win her second straight $85,000-added Merrillville Stakes Wednesday, Sept. 30. The race was one of six stakes on the card for Indiana Sprint Championships Day at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino. The win was also the second stakes win on the card for Jockey Francisco Torres, who is now three away from hitting 3,000 career wins.

For Cactus Joe, drawing post one was not a good thing. However, Torres and Trainer Randy Matthews discussed the scenario prior to the race and knew they could overcome being on the inside, a position that Cactus Joe is not comfortable in.

“She (Cactus Joe) will do anything you ask unless she is surrounded by horses,” said Matthews. “She’s too competitive for her own good if she gets in the mix too early. If you can get her outside she will relax and then when you ask her to go, she’s push button.”

Torres was able to do exactly has he had hoped with Cactus Joe. He took his time at the start and was next to last early, trailing the field as Runaway’s Vision and Orlando Mojica opted for the top spot early on, setting fractions of :22.61 and :46.15 in the six furlong sprint. Comforter and Rodney Prescott moved up along the inside in the final turn while Joyous Lady and Tommy Pompell also moved into striking position on the outside. Cactus Joe wasn’t even in the picture yet as the pack neared the top of the stretch.

In the stretch, Torres had Cactus Joe on the outside and had a clear path to the finish. The Cactus Ridge four-year-old filly kicked into gear and showed grit as she chased down the top horses, completing her race as the winner by three-quarters of a length over Joyous Lady. Comforter was a solid third.

“I wanted to let her (Cactus Joe) pick her way out of the race,” said Torres. “I was able to follow along and then eased her to the outside and she really kicked into gear heading home. Last time out she was on the inside and hated that, so this worked out well for her today.”

Cactus Joe was the second favorite in the race, paying $8.60, $5.60, $3.40 across the board. Owned by William Reynolds and Matthews, she now has six career wins and more than $300,000 in career earnings.

“Our job is to try our best to keep her (Cactus Joe) happy,” said Matthews, who will move his horses to Oaklawn for the winter racing season. “She is easy to deal with in the barn, but when she gets around a bunch of horses, she’s very tough. She would like to breeze a mile and a half every day if she could and it frustrates her when she can’t do that.”

The time of the 21st running of the Merrillville Stakes was 1:11.78. The race joins the Grade II Indiana Derby and the Grade II Indiana Oaks as the only stakes races still in existence from the inaugural season of pari-mutuel racing in the state of Indiana, which began in 1995 at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.

This was the third race for Torres aboard Cactus Joe. He now has two wins aboard the Indiana bred filly, who earned several of her wins in 2014 with Jockey Oriana Rossi, who is recovering from injuries sustained in a racing incident in July.

“I am very thankful to get to ride this filly,” said Torres. “Oriana always did well with her and fit her very well. I’m glad that I fit as well with her as Oriana did.”

Cactus Joe was bred by Mr. and Mrs. Randy Matthews along with Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Farrell, all of which reside in southern Indiana. Matthews has a small farm and raises a few foals each year.

Mister Pollard gains respect in Brickyard Stakes
Mister Pollard is well known for his winning ways in Indiana. The four-year-old Pollard’s Vision colt earned a little more respect Wednesday, Sept. 30, winning the 19th running of the $85,000-added Brickyard Stakes, his fifth stakes win at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino.

Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. was reunited with Mister Pollard for the Brickyard Stakes and the duo began their journey from the outside in post 10 of the 11-horse lineup. The blazed-faced colt was visible early on, getting good positioning behind Grandpa Grumpy and Francisco Torres, the first leader in the race followed by Bourne Free and Tommy Pompell, who advanced up the inside to be the second leader before the turn of the six-furlong race.

Bourne Free and Grandpa Grumpy continued to battle in the turn, giving Mister Pollard, the opportunity to sneak to the outside and go three wide for the stretch drive. In the stretch, Mister Pollard had good momentum and was able to take control of the race. Santana Jr. kept him focused on the wire, winning the race by two and one-half lengths in a time of 1:10.12. Bourne Free was a solid second by four lengths over I Like Beer and Orlando Mojica, who made a late move up to third.

Surprisingly, the five-time stakes winner was overlooked by the betting public, paying $40.00, $18.80, $7.60 across the board. Mister Pollard now has seven career wins, all recorded at Indiana Grand for owners Jim and Scott Farrar, Penny Lauer and Mike Johnson’s Falcon Racing Stable. His bankroll surged to more than $439,000 with the win. Mister Pollard is trained by Mike Lauer, who is also the breeder along with his wife, Penny. The win was his first in eight outings for 2015.

“I can make a story for every race he’s had this year,” said Lauer. “In his last start, he doesn’t like the grass, but he is a consistent horse. He just couldn’t get on track this year. He broke sharp today and got into the race early. Ricardo (Santana Jr.) rode him last year and won a stake on him, so he does well with him. Today, he was able to stalk the two leaders. He made a big move and went a big race today.”

Lauer, who has a stable at both Indiana Grand as well as Churchill Downs, has kept Mister Pollard at both locations this year. He hasn’t decided as to which location he will take the colt until his next start.

“He’s an easy horse to be around and take care of, so I’m not sure yet if I’ll take him back to Churchill or leave him here,” said Lauer. “I guess his next start will be Halloween (in the To Much Coffee Stakes).”

Mister Pollard will be defending his title in the $150,000-added To Much Coffee slated for closing night Saturday, Oct. 31. He was a winner last year, setting a new stakes record in a time of 1:42.52 for the one and one-sixteenth mile stakes race. Rafael Hernandez was aboard for the record setting journey.

Easy Victory lives up to name in Indiana Stallion Stakes
Easy Victory and jockey Fernando De La Cruz kicked off the first of six stakes races on Indiana Sprint Championship day with a win in the 18th running of the $85,000-added Indiana Stallion Stakes at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino. The chestnut filly was making only her second career start, and exploded out of the gate to lead the entire contest in the six-furlong event.

Easy Victory had drawn post eight but with a couple of scratches from the field, she had only five other opponents to beat out of the gate and get to the lead on the muddy track. Once De La Cruz was on the lead, the daughter of Lost Victory settled in comfortably as the pace setter, keeping a few lengths between her and the remainder of the field. Heading into the turn, My Erin and Rolando Aragon made a forward move to get into perfect position for the stretch drive with hopes of overtaking Easy Victory.

When Easy Victory hit the stretch, she shifted into another gear and rallied home for an easy victory, winning by six and one-half lengths. My Erin was a solid second as Express Run and Victor Lebron moved into third. The time of the race was 1:11.50.

“She (Easy Victory) is good in the gate and good in the post parade,” said De La Cruz, 2014 leading rider at Indiana Grand. “I have been on her in the mornings a couple times for works and she has really been professional from the beginning. She is easy to ride. She is just like her name.”

Easy Victory paid $2.40, $2.10, $2.10 across the board as the heavy favorite in the race. She is now two for two for owner Shawn Strain of Terre Haute, Ind. and trainer Steve Fosdick of Oaktown, Ind.

“I bought her (Easy Victory) privately from the breeder, Mari Hulman George (Circle S Ranch),” said Strain. “I’ve always had horses and decided to get a Thoroughbred. This is the first horse I have run and the only one in training. We have about 15 horses total at home and have some Quarter Horses that also run.”

When getting into the Thoroughbred industry, Strain called upon a longtime friend, Fosdick, to serve as the trainer. Strain works for the Teamsters Local 135 in Terre Haute and was able to come to the track to see his filly, Easy Victory, become a stakes winner. Fosdick hopes her progress will continue into her three-year-old season.

“She (Easy Victory) is a really nice filly,” said Fosdick. “I hope she can advance into one of the big stakes races next year. It will just depend if she wants to go long.”

Derby Express delivers in Crown Ambassador Stakes
Derby Express had all the components to turn in a great performance Wednesday, Sept. 30 at Indiana Grand Racing & Casino. It was just a matter of timing and a patient ride by Malcolm Franklin to move through at just the right time for the win in the 18th running of the $85,000 Crown Ambassador Stakes over a muddy track.

Starting from post two in the seven-horse field, Derby Express generally has quick acceleration out of the gate, but it was I Think I Can and Tommy Pompell who surged out to the lead and set the early fractions of :22.63 and :46.34. Derby Express moved inside behind the pace setter as Express Cash and Victor Lebron got into a good stalking position, setting second along the outside.

In the turn, it looked as if Derby Express might need some racing room. Franklin began to go to work on the two-year-old son of Unbridled Express and found the perfect seam to save ground along the inside and emerge as the leader at the top of the stretch. Once he was clear, Derby Express continued his momentum and rolled to the lead with the only task left to fend off any late challengers.

In the end, Derby Express extended his lead to seven and one-half lengths for the win in a time of 1:11.54. Express Cash maintained ground for second with a four length advantage over third place finisher Big Silver Hoss and Fernando De La Cruz.

“The second jump out of the gate, he (Derby Express) stumbled a little,” said Franklin, who earned the 2013 leading jockey title at Indiana Grand. “He broke so hard he lost a little footing but once he got settled he was good to go. When I went in the turn, he went right up the inside and saved ground. He’s a good horse and I would like to thank Jeff (Greenhill) and the crew for helping with this horse. They have stuck with me the whole meet and I appreciate that.”

Derby Express paid $3.20, $2.40, $2.10 as the favorite of the field. The grey colt is now three for five in his young career for Greenhill and owner Sherri Greenhill, who also bred and raised the Indiana bred colt.

“His mother (Pay The Toll) didn’t establish herself as a racehorse, but she sure has been a good producer,” said Greenhill. “She is a 100% producer and now has three stakes winners.”

Derby Express is a half brother to Aint She a Saint, one of the top five all-time money earners for Indiana breds in the state of Indiana with just under $500,000 in earnings. The colt is also a half brother to Needmore Cash, who won the AJ Foyt Stakes in early September at Indiana Grand. Greenhill has an Awesome Again yearling that is a foal share and will go through the sale.

As far as future plans for Derby Express, Greenhill hopes he will continue to progress just as his older siblings did.

“He (Derby Express) has never been off the board and even finished third in an open stakes at Mountaineer,” said Greenhill. “I hope he continues to improve and can get two turns. His family all went two turns so I hope he does the same.”

Justice for Themob prevails in Hillsdale Stakes
The first time was a charm for jockey Francisco Torres who climbed aboard Justice for Themob in the 15th running of the $85,000-added Hillsdale Stakes Wednesday, Sept. 30 at Indiana Grand. The Lantana Mob gelding meshed well with the veteran jockey, giving him win 2,996 in his career.

Justice for Themob started his journey from the outside post eight in the field of two-year-olds and was not rushed early on as Hayday and Fernando De La Cruz grabbed the early spot on the top. Race favorite Brothers Dryden and Tommy Pompell also got good early positioning, sitting second on the outside through early fractions of :22.91 and :46.55.

In the turn, Pompell got Brothers Dryden into gear and began chasing down the front runner and had taken control of the race by the top of the stretch. As Brothers Dryden took control of the top spot, there was only one horse moving toward him and that was Justice for Themob, who has his sights set on the leader. Midway through the stretch, Justice for Themob caught up to Brothers Dryden and moved on by for the win by one and one-quarter lengths in a final time of 1:12.30. Hayday finished third.

“Trainer Gary (Patrick) told me to ride with confidence, so I did,” said Torres, who is now only four wins away from hitting 3,000 career wins. “He (Justice for Themob) was perfect to ride. He’s a pretty classy horse. He did pretty much everything I asked of him. I just wanted to keep him focused because the six horse (Brothers Dryden) was the horse to beat. He got off to a good start and we were able to sit before we made our move. Once he saw that horse in front of him in the stretch, he went forward pretty quick.”

Justice for Themob paid $14.00, $3.60, $2.80 as the second choice in the field. He is now two for three in his career for owner Cindy Patrick, who is leading the owner standings in 2015 by a wide margin.

“We purchased this horse privately in a package deal in the first part of this meet, so we have had him about four months,” said Gary, who is Indiana’s all-time leading trainer and owner in wins. “He just runs. He’s a really nice horse.”

Patrick is once again leading the trainer standings for 2015, a position he has been in numerous times in the state of Indiana at both Indiana Grand as well as Hoosier Park when Thoroughbred racing was held at that location. The Patricks own a farm in Pendleton, Ind. as well as just outside of Tampa, Fla., their winter base. Their daughter, Cheyanna, is the current leading apprentice jockey and accumulated 26 wins before returning to University of South Florida-Tampa for her sophomore year in mid August.

“She (Cactus Joe) was our first Indiana bred,” said Matthews. “We raise three or four a year. The people connected with this horse sure are great people to be in partnership with.”